You’d be foolish to think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are deeply convinced that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s recent struggles aren’t anything to worry about, despite what the Bills coach and general manager say to the media. But you’d be even more foolish to say that offense is the reason the Bills have fallen to 5-9 after a 4-1 start to the 2011 campaign.
The Bills defense is very bad. How bad? On the AAToB, I’d place them at “garbage”.
FACT: Buffalo has kept a team under 23 points in a game just twice this season. Those opponents are the Nos. 27th and 31st ranked offenses in the NFL. The average offense in the National Football League — the average — is scoring 22.08 points-per-game. That’s not good.
FACT: The Bills offense, for that matter, isn’t a ton above average in point-per-game either. Buffalo has put up 22.2 PPG.
FACT: The Bills sack total is an NFL-low 21.0 through 14 games.
FACT: More than 1/4 of those sacks have come from 3-4 end or tackle — and rookie — Marcel Dareus.
Now for some more work (ppg= points-per-game // papg = points-allowed-per-game):
2011*- 22.2 ppg, 26.5 papg
2010- 17.7 ppg, 26.6 papg
2009- 16.1 ppg, 20.4 papg (Jauron’s last year)
For those of you wondering, the Bills have one more defensive touchdown this season than last, good for .375 ppg.
Let’s say the Bills only manage a combined 20 points against Denver and New England (poor showings indeed!). Buffalo would finish the year with a 20.7 points-per-game, three full points higher than 2008.
What if Buffalo was to finish by scoring the average points their opposition has let up per game (Denver- 24.5, New England- 21.2). Buffalo would finish the year with a 22.3 points-per-game mark, its highest since 2004. That year, by the way, is the Bills last year above .500 (woo-hoo, Buffalo football).
Let’s think about major turn-around teams in the last 10 years, clubs that in a few years went from continuous pratfalls to bonafide playoffs contenders.
San Francisco 49ers
2011*- 23.4 ppg, 13.2 papg
2010- 19.1 ppg, 21.6papg
2009- 20.6 ppg, 17.6 papg
2011*- 21.8 ppg, 20.2 papg
2010- 20.1 ppg, 24.7 papg
2009- 19.1 ppg, 18.2 papg
Kansas City Chiefs
2010- 22.9 ppg, 20.4 papg
2009- 18.4 ppg, 26.5 papg
2008- 18.2 ppg, 27.5 papg
*- through 14 games
It also helps that San Francisco and KC were playing in trash-heap divisions, but I digress.
ZERO of those teams experienced as significant an offensive increase as the Bills, while all of them saw massive gains on defense. Under George Edwards, the Bills not only lost any momentum from defensive coach Dick Jauron, they got significantly worse (no, I don’t think the man deserves the job next year).
Look, the goal is winning the Super Bowl as quickly as possible, as it should always be regardless of predicament. Another goal is also to find a quarterback better than Ryan Fitzpatrick for the long haul. If the Bills end up selecting sixth and Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III is there, by all means Buffalo should take the one in which they believe.
But if Buffalo is sitting anywhere and there is no elite quarterback on the table (despite the massive depth of this year’s class), then the shouldn’t just eschew their knowledge of Landry Jones’ penchant for interceptions. They shouldn’t gamble on Case Keenum or whomever else leaps after the combine. They should get a difference maker on defense (though we could talk about planning a way for USC OT Matt Kalil to suddenly drop to Buffalo!).
Now for some fun, false excuses!!!!
1) Oct. 24 — Shawne Merriman goes to IR
— The Bills were allowing 24.5 points-per-game before Merriman went down. They have actually been better with a mish-mosh of OLBs who probably shouldn’t be near an NFL starting lineup anywhere in the league.
2) Kyle Williams only played in three games
— Those are three games in which the Bills allowed 35, 31 and 23 points.
You can never dismiss an entire game from the books, but if we were to dismiss Buffalo’s 9-sack, 2-INT performance in Washington — which most people are already doing in saying Fitz hasn’t performed since signing his new deal the previous Thursday — the Bills have 12 sacks in 13 games. Twelve. If the Bills don’t manage four sacks over the next two weeks, they’ll beat their worst mark in nearly 30 years (25.0 sacks in 1985 & ’95). I’d go back further, but the Bills only had 12 sacks in 1982, apparently because they let my pregnant mother play DE.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field and the Bills would be wise to address an improvement for the long-term if they can… but quarterback is not more important than nearly an entire defense. LB Nick Barnett, FS Jairus Byrd and DT Marcel Dareus are having strong seasons, while it appears LB Kelvin Sheppard as well as CBs Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers may be able to play football. With multiple strong edge rushers/OLBs and more than one potential franchise corner come April, can the Bills afford to speculate on offense?