Could The Bills Be Contenders?
By Jo E. Prout
Are the Bills a contender for the playoffs? Do they have what it takes to win their division?
Early signs show that they are, and that they do. With an early-season win over the Carolina Panthers, the Bills may have sparked a new energy that will help them buckle down and work harder to eliminate the turnovers that have given opponents advantages on the field.
The Bills dramatically pulled from behind to beat the Panthers for Buffalo’s first win of the season, but struggled against and fell to the Patriots only days before.
“I think we fought hard but we still have a lot of areas where we can improve, including myself,” said Bills rookie linebacker Kristian “Kiko” Alonso. “So we just have to get better, starting at practice, and keep getting better.”
The new Bills team seems well matched with the young New England Patriots, whose veteran quarterback Tom Brady cannot win games by reputation alone. Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel made the winning play against the Panthers with a concentrated 80-yard drive for a touchdown. In the same week, the Patriots, who have dominated the division in recent years, were unable to complete any passes to New England’s tight ends.
When the Bills and the Patriots met early on, turnovers and penalties for Buffalo pushed New England to a victory.
“I think it goes down to third down and keeping things manageable,” Bills head coach Doug Marrone said. “Give New England credit; they had a lot of manageable third down situations. They took advantage of it…. It’s not a standpoint of the execution. It’s a standpoint of putting yourself in those situations that are very difficult to overcome for not just us, but for anyone.”
The New York Jets are abysmal, as they face their own personnel woes full of injuries and inexperience. They join the Bills in taking the field with rookie quarterbacks. Unlike the Bills’ Manuel against the Panthers, Jets quarterback Geno Smith threw three interceptions in the final 11 minutes against the Patriots. If the Bills can sustain their energy, their first meeting with the Jets this week could mean a second, and more masterful, win for Buffalo.
The Bills will have to improve their ball handling before they face the Miami Dolphins, whose efforts on the field this season have been more than average. The Dolphins have two wins on the road, wresting the lead in the AFC East from the Patriots early this season.
If Marrone and his coaching staff can coordinate their players well enough to let the team’s talents shine through, the Bills could be headed for the playoffs.
“Any win is important,” Alonso said after beating Carolina. “We’re out here to win games and all we want to do is just keep working hard. We’re out here to win games.”