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Bills Face Tough Test in New York

October 15, 2011

In what has to be one of the games of the week this week in the NFL, the 4-1 Buffalo Bills head to New Jersey to face the 3-2 New York Giants.  The Bills are coming off a wild win against the Eagles, and will be looking to go into their bye on a strong note.  The Giants will be looking to rebound after a tough loss at home against Seattle and will surely be a very focused bunch.  A win would send the Bills to 5-1, and one very important game closer to the playoffs.

Both teams have their fair share of injury issues.  The Bills will be without Donald Jones, Shawne Merriman, Chris Kelsay and possibly Kyle Williams.  In addition, Nick Barnett is dealing with an injury but should play.  The Giants are without bruising HB Brandon Jacobs, DE Justin Tuck and starting RG Chris Snee.

Buffalo will need to continue to rely on a quick passing game to help counter the Giants prolific pass rush.  The team currently leads the NFL with 18 sacks.  Due in part to the offensive scheme as well as a much improved offensive line, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked only twice.  It will be interesting to see how much pressure Jason Pierre-Paul and company can put on the Bills.  Look for Steve Johnson to bounce back from a tough week last week and have a great game.   Fred Jackson has been consistantly great for Buffalo as well, and should find running room tomorrow as well.

The biggest statline tomorrow will be turnover margin.  The Bills have allowed over 400 yards of offense each of the last 4 weeks.  Winning the turnover battle has allowed the team to go 3-1 in that span.  The Giants are going to get their yards and points tomorrow, and the Bills will need to force turnovers and rattle Eli Manning early.  Manning was playing great over the first 4 weeks of the year, but was bit by the interception bug last week.  If the Bills can continue to force Manning mistakes, they should end up winning convincingly.

This has been the most entertaining season of Bills football in a long time, and I see no reason why that will change any time soon.  Chan Gailey has the players  to match the scheme he runs, and this is only the beginning of the teams success.  My prediction for tomorrow; Bills 31, Giants 21

 

Mike Vick contract could be one of the worst ever.

August 29, 2011
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Michael Vick’s career has now come full circle, as the NFL’s most controversial star has agreed to a 6 year, 100 million dollar contract extention with the Philadelphia Eagles.  The deal will include 40 million dollars in guaranteed money.   It was first reported by Andrew Brandt on twitter around 6:45 this evening:

Vick was the story of the year last year, and absolutely deserved an extension.   However, I don’t see him playing 6 years wth the Eagles, or living up to his hefty salary while he’s there.   Perhaps the Eagles should have learned from Atlanta how well giving the quarterback 100+ million works.

In 2010, Vick started the season as the backup to Kevin Kolb, but quickly entered the lineup after a week 1 Kolb injury.  Kolb never won his job back, though he did fill in for an injured Vick midway through the season.  The 31 year old lefty finished the season with 3,018 yards passing, 21 TD and just 6 interceptions.  Furthermore, he ran for over 600 yards and scored 9 times on the ground.  He single-handedly carried my fantasy team over multiple weeks.  The one knock on his overall game was the fact that he fumbled 6 times last season.

Looking at his game log from 2010, it’s easy to see that teams were beginning to figure him out.  Once teams forced him to roll right, Vick went from a flawless QB to a good QB.  Over his first 6 games in 2010, Vick had a QB rating over 100 four times, and threw 11 touchdowns with 0 interceptions.  To close out his year, the Newport News native had a rating over 100 just once, and had a TD/INT of 10/6.

I see this trend continuing into 2011, even with the amazing amount of talent that has filtered off to Philly this offseason.  Vick battled injuries last year, and his style of play makes him very susceptible to more.   While I have no doubt that he is one of the toughest players on the football field, you can only do so much when you’re hurt.  If Vick has to play hurt, the Eagles will struggle.  He’s already 31 years old, and even with his time off in prison, he’s taken more than his fair share of big hits.  One has to wonder how his body will react 2, 3, 4 years down the road.

Maybe I’m just jealous that the Bills don’t have any players on their team worthy of a 50 million dollar contract, let alone 100.  Maybe (probably) the Eagles have the deal set up so they can cut him in 4 years if he’s reached the end without losing much money.  It’s still a lot of money to pay a quarterback who’s nearing the end of his peak and closing in on his contract with ESPN.   Best of luck to you Michael, you’ll need it when you don’t live up to this contact in 3 years.

 

Bills @ Bears Impressions

August 13, 2011
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Football is back finally, I think…After sitting through a major snoozer – even for the preseason – there were things to be excited about after tonight’s game.  Yet, it is easy to see how far behind teams (at least the Bears and Bills) are in terms of efficiency; especially on the offensive side.  Nevertheless, here are some things I liked, and didn’t like from the game:

The Good

1.) Shawne Merriman – That’s a given.  Merriman recorded 2.5 sacks in just 2 series.  He was explosive, and showed a lot of power by beating the lineman on the inside for one of his sacks.

2.) Marcel Dareus – Everyone knows how big and strong Dareus is, but the greatest thing I saw out of him tonight are his speed and agility in getting to the quarterback.  He can knife through tiny holes in the line very easily for someone his size, and his future looks very bright.

3.) Chris White and Danny Batten – Both players made some big plays tonight.  Batten finished the game with 2 sacks, while White seems to have a good knack for being around the ball.  White even broke up a deep pass about 35 yards down the seam, something Paul Pozluszny has yet to do as a pro.

4.) Brad Smith – Smith could well be the Bills best free agent pickup this year.  He isn’t a great passer, but he’s enough of a threat in that area to keep teams on their toes.  He is a great wildcat QB, who recorded a first down on all of his runs.  I can’t wait to see what the Bills have drawn up for him once the regular season starts.

The Bad

1.) The offense – It was nice to see the Bills trying to use a tight end for a change, but Buffalo was pretty bad offensively all night.  Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t really test anything deep, and finished 7/9 for just 44 yards. The right side of the line, had their issues, and CJ Spiller got blown up in the backfield after a missed block by Kraig Urbik.  I thought the pass protection was decent, with Fitzpatrick having a good amount of time to pass.  Still, the unit has a lot of work to do if they want to be a top 20 offense this season.

2.) Aaron Maybin – Maybin was supposed to get extended time tonight.  I noticed him once, on a punt….running down the field, watching the return man run by him, and then running the other way.   It’s expected at this point, and it’s time for him to get cut.  He’s had plenty of chances to make a play, and we’ll never see any out of him.

3. ) Backup quarterbacks – Tyler Thigpen and Levi Brown were both awful.  Thigpen is athletic and shows some good ability in escaping pressure in the pocket, but he was off on his throws all night.  I’m not sure how he ever threw 19 touchdowns in a season with the Chiefs.  I’m really hoping Fitzpatrick stays healthy all year, because there isn’t anything below him worth being on this team.  Brad Smith isn’t an every-down QB, and if he had to become one, I wouldn’t expect good things to come from it.

It was nice to see the Bills play against a different team, but it’s not really enough to get a feel for how good the team will be.  Hopefully the starters get a good amount of time in their next game, and they show a bit more polish in their game.

Bills vs. Bears kick off the Preseason tonight

August 13, 2011
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Football is back!  It is just the preseason, a game in which both teams starters will be lucky to make it 8 minutes into the game, but football is football.  This game still has me interested in quite a few different aspects of the team.  It will be nice to see how the teams offense and defense fare against a different unit.  So far in training camp, the Bills defense has been the superior group.  Tonight, we begin to figure out whether this retooled defense is actually good, or if our offense is just offensive.

It's your chance to shine, Don

One of the main things I will be watching early on tonight, is Shawne Merriman.  He will not get many reps tonight, but this will be our first real chance to see how much explosiveness he has regained after his injury issues.  Will he help the Bills become a team with a respectable pass rush?  Or is he just another player who’s play-making days are behind him and will only be a mediocre starter at best (Takeo Spikes).

Another big story tonight will be the state of Buffalo’s wide receiving corps.  With Lee Evans now gone, someone new has a prime opportunity to become a star receiver in the NFL.  Donald Jones has been named the #2 receiver tonight, while David Nelson will line up in the slot.  This is the lineup I feel will last throughout the preseason and into the regular season.  I feel Jones will surprise a lot of people this year and put up some big numbers this year.  In his rookie campaign last year, Jones caught 18 passes for 213 yards and scored a touchdown in 15 games.  Jones was a secondary option last year, and didn’t get much of a chance at all until the injury that shelved Roscoe Parrish midway through 2010.  If Jones gets put in a position where he gets 5+ throws his way every game, he could be a fantasy steal.

Parrish is another solid option for Gailey, once he returns from his injury.  I’d rather see him roam around in the slot myself.  He seems to fit Gailey’s system very well, and was one 0f Ryan Fitzpatricks go-to guys last year.   With more depth around him (even with Evans gone), he should be able to find space more easily and could have a solid year.  Naaman Roosevelt is probably the player who benefits most from the Evans trade.  He played well last year as a late season step-in, but might have had trouble making the team had Evans remained a Bill.  Roosevelt is a player who runs good routes and has great hands, which is always something I love to see on the Bills.

Will the offensive line hold its ground?  The one place on the team that arguably needed upgrading the most, didn’t see any improvement.  While the left side of the line (Bell, Levitre, Wood) should be ok, I am concerned about what Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears may allow by them.   With a weakness spanning more than one position on the line, I would expect teams to bring a lot of pressure from the right side, creating havoc in the pocket.

Finally, assuming he gets some extended playing time from the rest of the starters, I will keep an eye on CJ Spiller.  Spiller had a rough rookie campaign, and is looking to show to Bills fans that he was worth a top 10 pick.  I would like to see Spiller have some patience on outside runs tonight and not just look to outrace people to the corners.  Hopefully the Bills have given him all the Chris Johnson tape he can handle, and the Clemson man shows what he can do tonight.

While it is just the first preseason game, I can’t wait for it to start.   It’s a fresh start for 32 teams, and even in years where things don’t look promising…..anything can happen in the NFL.  It is the league of parody, and there should always be room for hope.  A good game tonight would do wonders for the psyche of the fan base, and it might even get me a little excited for the season forthcoming.

So Long, Donte

August 1, 2011
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When the news came across twitter late last night that Donte Whitner would be taking his talents to Cincinnati, I found myself grinning like I’d just won the lottery.  Goodbye, good luck…..never come back.  There isn’t a player I’ve despised more over the past couple years, and a change of scenery for Donte is long overdue.

Whitner, who the 8th overall pick in 2006, was just one of many bad decisions made by former Bills GM Marv Levy.  In his tenure with the Bills, Whitner compiled 451 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 5 interceptions.  Hardly worth the 8th overall pick.  Whitner was touted as a playmaker when he came to town, but made the papers more for his mouth than his abilities on the field.  Back in 2008, Whitner guaranteed a playoff berth for the Bills:

When asked if he expects the Bills to make the playoffs, Whitner makes it clear how serious he is. “Do I expect us to make the playoffs?” he says. “I’m guaranteeing it.”

We all know how that worked out.  Having confidence is one thing, but guaranteeing a playoff berth when you haven’t made it there in that century is a bit much.  Whitner is a player who thinks he’s one of the best in the league, and certainly talks like he’s one.  In reality, he is nothing more than an average player who has ridden his 8th overall pick into the media spotlight.

In 2009, Whitner was arrested (and tased) in Cleveland for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest:

Police in Cleveland say they were outside the House of Blues attempting to quell a near riot.  Whitner allegedly attempted enter an area where numerous fights were occurring.  Officers say that he began swinging his arms in a violent manner when police tried to restrain him then broke free and took a fighting stance.  Officials say an officer had to deploy  his taser so that officers could put Whitner in handcuffs.

You won't be missed.

Regardless of the reason for jumping into the brawl, as a professional football player, he should have known better.  There were no positive outcomes from an action like the one he took.  He told the Bills he wanted to be paid like a top safety this past season.  Whether that was his way of saying he did not want to return, or him actually believing  he was a top safety I have no idea.

Of all the moves that the Bills have made this offseason, not retaining Whitner may have been their best one.  Sadly, Buffalo probably tried to resign him, and it took the player himself leaving to actually make the Bills a better team.  Too many times over the past 5 years, I’ve seen plays where Whitner arrives to the play a step late, or drop an easy interception.  He never carried his playmaking ability over to the NFL.  George Wilson, who figures to start in his place, is a much bigger playmaker.  Since 2007, Wilson has 8 interceptions, 4 fumbles recovered, 3.5 sacks and 2 touchdowns, which was mostly done in a backup role.  Whitner had just 18 pass breakups for the Bills, compared to Wilson’s 14.

To Whitner’s credit, he has never said anything bad about the city of Buffalo, and has always played very hard.  He hated losing, and I have never doubted the commitment and effort he has given while on the team.  That is a rare trait in the NFL today, and he deserves to be saluted for it.  He could also lay a lick on a player, something Chad Ochocinco could definitely talk about.

In the end, Whitner was just an average NFL play who never lived up to the massive expectations put upon him.  While he should have never been drafted 8th, his lack of maturity as an NFL player is ultimately what caused many Bills fans to lose their support of him.  Have fun on the Ohio, Donte…I’ll enjoy my Bills much more without you.

Paul Posluszny a Jaguar

July 26, 2011

I was really hoping my first NFL post after the lockout would be a positive one, but who am I kidding, we’re the Bills.  Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and Jason La Canfora of NFL Network are reporting that the Bills middleman will be heading off to Jacksonville on a 6 year deal:


I am not particularly thrilled with this.  While Poz is by no means a star, he was a solid starter on the backbone of the Bills defense.  Perhaps Paul lied about wanting to come back to Buffalo, and only said so in case he never found a solid offer.  Maybe the Bills low-balled him with a terrible offer, though I find that hard to believe when the team has so much cap space and the reports that they really tried to keep him.  Add another need onto the pile, a pile that is already far too high.  What makes this even worse, is the Bills general attitude towards spending in free agency.

“We’ve said from Day One we’re never going to be huge spenders in free agency”

Who will replace him?  Poz wasn’t great, but he’s sure as hell better than Kelvin Sheppard, Reggie Torbor, Chris White, Danny Batten..etc.  If you want to improve your defense, using Reggie Torbor or a untested draft pick as a starter in the middle isn’t exactly an A+.  I’d give that plan an F.  Buffalo needs to spend 99% of the cap, why not overpay?  They aren’t going after top players, so who will they spend the money on?  Who is their free agent “splash” to bring in the fans?  Todd Heap?  Marion Barber?  Maybe they could bring back Willis.  There aren’t any big names who will come to Buffalo, so again…why not overpay?

Now, I’m sure that wasn’t the Bills plan, but they better have a plan B ready.  Otherwise, we can watch Torbor make 15 tackles a game 15 yards down the field as the Bills give up 30 points a game.  Sadly, we may have to deal with this until a change of philosophy comes from a change all the way up top. 

Sekera Signed to Extension

July 19, 2011
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The Buffalo Sabres continued their busy summer today, agreeing on contracts with both Andrej Sekera and 4th liner Matt Ellis.  Sekera – who is just 24 – is now locked up through June of 2015.  His contract will pay him 11 million dollars over that span, making him the 4th highest paid defensemen on the team (Regehr, Ehrhoff, Leopold).  Ellis was signed to a two year deal, which will be a 2 way deal this year, followed by a 1 way deal in 2012-13.

Here is the breakdown of the Sekera deal:
2011-12 $4.25 Million
2012-13 $3.25 Million
2013-14 $1.75 Million
2014-15 $1.75 Million

Ellis is a great 4th line signing for the Sabres.  He will most likely split time between Portland and Buffalo this year, filling in as depth whenever injuries begin to mount.  He doesn’t have much, if any flair, but works hard and the Sabres seem to do very well with him in the lineup:

The Sabres had a staggering record when the veteran Ellis played in 2010-11. Although he did not score a goal, the Sabres went 11-1-and-2 with Ellis playing.

Sekera played in 76 games for the Sabres this year, and had some very good stretches.  If he becomes more consistent, this will turn out to be a great signing for Buffalo.  The Slovak was one of 3 Buffalo defensemen to average over 20:00 of ice time per game.   He shouldn’t see that amount of ice time in 2011 though, with Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regier both joining the blue-line ranks.  While he only scored 3 goals this year, he seems to make the Sabres much better offensively.  If Sekera can continue to be a threat on the rush, and improve his defensive game, Buffalo could have the best defense corps in the league.

It’s still surreal to look back on the events that have occurred in the past month.  Terry Pegula and Ted Black have transformed Buffalo into “hockey heaven,” the only thing left to do is start winning.  The team looks stocked and ready to go for 2011-2012, with a Stanley Cup in view.  I know I’m enjoying the ride immensely so far, and can’t wait for games to start up again.

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