We’re already at the midway point of the 2013 Buffalo Bills season, and it hasn’t been so colossally disappointing that fans gave up weeks ago. What were the odds on that?
Coming into the season, I had zero hopes and expectations, and even less than that for first-round pick E.J. Manuel, who has made me eat lots of crow so far. The guy can play and as he grows as a pro, he should be even better — as long as he stays healthy, because nothing else matters if he can’t suit up.
The defense is still statistically pretty poor, but you can see by just watching them that they’re improved. Part of the improved play of the defense is that Mario Williams has finally activated “Beast Mode” and thrown the remote out the window. His 9.5 sacks are good for fifth in the NFL and he looks like the force the Bills paid all of the money to.
Not only that, but the Bills appear to have gotten a star in the second round in Kiko Alonso. He flies all over the field, has had several huge interceptions and just looks fantastic. If he’s not the undisputed Defensive Rookie of the Year, he’s certainly the front-runner.
All that said, with the first eight games out of the way, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and think about the road ahead.
To call C.J. Spiller a king of frustration seems kind of redundant consider he’s already driven half of the fantasy football world insane, no? Still, Spiller hasn’t been a total bust. Flashing that big-play potential from time to time, he’s been hampered by an ankle injury since Week 4 and it’s obvious that it’s one of the biggest reasons why Fred Jackson has been getting the bulk of the carries.
Spiller sat against the Saints and could sit in Week 9 to prepare for the stretch run. I know that the team would like to use him and let him take the Week 12 bye to fully rest up, but that might not be possible if he’s this hampered. Expect Spiller to miss at least two weeks, if not more, because of this injury and give fans another offseason wondering what the Bills can do with a healthy Spiller in the lineup.
Speaking of injuries, one of the key issues the defense has been facing this year is health. The secondary has looked like a post-apocalyptic horror show in particular. Top corner Stephon Gilmore missed the first five weeks with a broken wrist and has been wearing a giant club to protect himself since returning two weeks ago. Getting him back to 100 percent health will be a huge boost for an already somewhat-overachieving defense.
Not only that, but Jairus Byrd has returned as well. The Pro Bowl safety spent the entire year battling a foot injury and should help the Bills keep down the big play as well as patch up some of their issues stopping the run.
But perhaps the biggest thing going for the secondary is the emergence of Aaron Williams as a top member of this group. He was thrust into the top corner spot this year thanks to injuries and has mostly thrived in the role, looking like a shutdown corner. He’ll be at safety for now, but he’s looking far better.
The Bill can have their best record since ’04, and they still won’t make the playoffs, which should tell you how sad it is to be a Bills fan in the last 15 years. Still, the Bills were 9-7 in 2004 and haven’t topped seven wins since.
That changes this year. At 3-5, it might be a lot to ask of them to go 5-3 down the stretch, but the schedule is ripe with winnable games. Showdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem like borderline gimmes. The team has been playing everyone tight and arguably should have two more wins than they currently have. They’ll steal a pair of games somewhere.
If they manage to do this without Manuel, that would be a huge boost for this team heading into the offseason. Big expectations for next year could be in the cards.
It might seem a bit unrealistic for Bills fans to be excited. But watching the games, this team isn’t an easy out. The defense hangs tough, the offense goes as the running game goes, and Lewis emerges from his slumber to make one or two exciting plays per game. Record aside, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and for once, there’s hope.