The good people of Buffalo thought they would be able to enjoy their Bills dominating the AFC East for the next decade. Instead, they got one COVID season.
There is panic around Orchard Park heading into Monday night’s showdown against the Patriots, spreading from Twitter feeds to newspaper columns. What a beautiful sight.
It’s easy to understand Bills fans’ angst. While the Jets may be the most popular punching bag around these parts, the Bills are the division’s true bottom dwellers. They only recorded two winning seasons from 2000-17, flying through eight head coaches and 15 starting quarterbacks. Tom Brady went 32-3 as a starter against the Bills from 2001-19.
So imagine the excitement in Buffalo last season when Josh Allen emerged as an MVP candidate and the Patriots ran out a starting QB who could barely throw the ball 10 yards in the air. At 25 years old, Allen took an incredible leap in his third season, and seemingly established himself as one of the game’s top weapons under center. The Bills paid him accordingly, too: $258 million over six years.
After two decades of football despair, the Bills were back. Then they opened their season with a weird loss to the Steelers, and outside of a win against Kansas City, haven’t beaten a single team with a winning record. They’re No. 2 in the NFL in points scored and points allowed, but something isn’t quite right.
The Buffalo News’ Erik Brady encapsulates the distress in his aptly titled column, “‘Hate’ is such a strong word. But when it comes to the Patriots, it fits.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way after Tom Brady vamoosed for Tampa Bay,” he writes. “Visions of a decade of dominance danced in our heads.”
“We should have known better. The Patriots are like the movie monster that keeps coming back to life in all the sequels.”
The Bills aren’t in panic mode yet, at least according to the raw numbers. They still stand at 7-4, and have blown out six opponents by 18 or more points. On paper, they have a better roster than the Patriots, though losing star cornerback Tre’Davious White is a blow. Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll have led Buffalo to three playoff appearances in four years.
But the past leaves scars. Over at WGR, the Bills’ sports radio station, hosts and callers are lamenting the Patriots’ seemingly inevitable December surge.
“We just got out of the old world, where every decision [the Patriots] made was brilliant,” writes host Jeremy White. “We just got out of a dark time, in which every single draft miss and free agent flop was quickly swept under the rug because they had some sort of mythical “#WAY” about them. We just finally watched a narrative die off, never to be seen again. And yet, here it is rearing its ugly head.”
You can almost taste the tears through your laptop or smart phone screen. Howard Simon, who co-hosts the morning show alongside White, puts his feelings succinctly: "The fact that they had just one bad season isn’t fair.”
Bill Belichick’s renaissance is in full swing, and all it took were six midseason wins to restore the Patriots’ mystique and aura. Last season, there was predictably a rush to bury Belichick. But now even his former foes are fawning over his greatness.
Rex Ryan has twice proclaimed this is Belichick’s greatest coaching job yet.
Taking the temperature of Bills Mafia is a great way to regain perspective. We experienced how the other side lives for about 1.5 years: dreadful quarterback play, inopportune penalties, game-losing turnovers. Now just imagine the pain if that was the reality for two decades, and the euphoria that would accompany any sort of resurgence … only to see it all potentially apart after just one year.
The founder of Bills Mafia, Del Reid, lamented on Twitter he “let his guard down” after the “Bills absolutely owned [the Patriots] last season.” But he says his passion is back.
And so are the Patriots. They’re already causing panic, and they haven’t even arrived in Buffalo yet.
Red Sox revolt: The palpable anger among Red Sox fans isn’t just about the team’s relative inactivity or underwhelming one-year signings. More than anything, the frustration is based around the overall direction of the game, and what each move symbolizes.
The modern starting rotation doesn’t feature five actual starters, but rather seven or eight guys who can go multiple innings. For instance, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill probably won’t be expected to take the ball every fifth day and pitch five or six frames. Instead, they might pitch in-tandem with Garrett Whitlock or Tanner Houck. The “opener” is the new way of life, along with overvaluing prospects. Hunter Renfroe hit 31 home runs with a .816 OPS last season, and yet, the Red Sox shipped him to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects.
The smart baseball people say the trade was about the prospects, not JBJ. Corner infielder Alex Binelas is a promising switch-hitting slugger in Single-A. But that means he’s probably years away from the big leagues, and right now, he isn’t even one of the Red Sox’ top 10 prospects, anyway.
Red Sox coverage these days doesn’t strictly view acquisitions in baseball terms. Part of the analysis includes what it means about where the Red Sox are going under Chaim Bloom, one of the poster boys of the modern analytics movement.
The game is going in a direction many people don’t like. The coverage reflects that.
Booth bucks: In my next life, bring me back as a national NFL analyst. The money those guys get for working maybe 20 Sundays per year is astronomical.
Tony Romo set the new standard with an insane 10-year, $180 million deal. Now Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman want those dollars, according to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand. Collinsworth and NBC are negotiating a deal that could be worth $12.5 million annually.
While all three broadcasters possess big game gravitas, we delve through their litanies of errors on a weekly basis. And let’s be honest: would FOX’ NFL ratings decline if Greg Olson, who’s garnered strong reviews, took over for Aikman alongside Joe Buck?
Media companies look to cut costs everywhere, except when it comes to overpaying ex-jocks to call games.
Who’s ready for the ManningCast?: The Patriots will receive the ManningCast treatment on Monday Night Football this week, and it promises to be spectacular. Peyton breaking down Mac Jones? Stories about facing off against Belichick? That’s what we call NFL porn.