Wasn’t mediocrity fun?

…or at least more fun than this?

We’re now a quarter of the way through the 2010 NFL season and the Buffalo Bills have yet to notch a win. Given the opponents, it’s not surprising (3 AFC East foes and Super Bowl favorite Green Bay), but it would be nice to see a number before the hyphen besides zero. The worst part of this drought is that it’s pretty clear that the team isn’t improving going forward. Plenty of changes have occurred since our last pow-wow and the only progress has come in the head-scratching department. We hated on it at the time, but I liked the way we used to hang in games ’til the bitter end then throw it all away in the process of winning seven games per year during Skeletor’s reign. I’d take it over this mess any day of the week. Now, it’s a foregone conclusion that before the opening coinflip has taken place, we’ve already lost the game.

Spells like this happen from time to time. They bring the team’s fans and players down – make them wonder if their emotional and physical dedications to the team are all for naught. Some will jump ship, say they can’t take it any more. Some, after a multitude of years of this dedication have simply had enough and, though it pains them to do so, will move on to greener pastures. Hockey season starts tomorrow – baseball’s playoff series’ are in full effect… the NBA’s pre-season just began…

Let’s be honest – baseball is boring, pre-season anything stinks, and nothing — not even hockey — can hold a candle to the intensity of professional football.

The NCAA comes close, but even that has been lacking this fall and still can’t compare to the NFL – cheering for a team that you love, that you grew up loving, and that you loved growing up with. It’s hard to let go. That’s why a vast majority of us don’t, won’t, and never will. Buffalo football is something that is embedded into your soul the moment you set foot inside Ralph Wilson Stadium, enjoy a meal in the parking lot, or even turn on the radio to hear a thrilling call by the great Van Miller. I, and hundreds of thousands like me, will never get this malfunction cured. It’s with us forever, and we will pass it through our bloodlines and across friendships. We take pride in the fact that we are a part of the greatest team of fans in all of sports – if only we had a team of football players to cheer for, maybe we wouldn’t all seem so hopeless.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a decent team – but we’ll keep cheering anyways. In four games, we’ve been outscored 125-61. You may be just as shocked as me to realize that we’ve scored over sixty points so far – just remember to note that this number is inflated by the thirty points that we hung up on New England’s terrible defense and special teams. Of the three games that we haven’t yet discussed, that New England showdown was the only one in which we looked like a real football team. The Packers and Jets exposed us for the cupcake squad that we truly are. The special teams play in all of these games, save a miracle 95-yard kick return by CJ Spiller in game three, has been absolutely terrible. You’ve heard me rant about this point before – I just wish we had Bobby back.

We’ve made a few moves in recent weeks to try and right this ship – most notably trading starting tailback Marshawn Lynch to Seattle for a 2011 4th and 2012 6th round draft choice (the latter can become a 2012 5th with playing time). In addition to that deal, we’ve granted ILB Kawika Mitchell and TE Joe Klopfenstein’s conditional releases from the injured reserve (will take a settlement payment from us, become free agents who can sign with any team BESIDES Buffalo in 2010), cut TE Rob Myers from the practice squad, and waived would-be starters in OT Jamon Meredith (claimed by Detroit) and QB Trent Edwards (claimed by Jacksonville, our week ten opponent). You’ve seen and read my thoughts on Meredith and Edwards over the past few months – I don’t agree with either’s release and I truly hope Edwards’ wasn’t a justification of fan angst. His statline read poorly to reflect the sloppy play around him and, though he wasn’t commanding the respect that is necessary of a starting quarterback, I would have liked to see him stay to hold the clipboard. At the same time, I like that this new regime is so willing to cut their losses with guys who don’t fit their mold, who they don’t want around.

We’ve also made additions – runningback Andre Anderson and offensive guard Mansfield Wrotto were both promoted to the active roster this week. Rookie quarterback Levi Brown has been brought back, and the team has added defensive end Ra’Shon Harris to the practice squad.

Some position changes, that truly make little sense : career OG Kraig Urbik is now the team’s primary backup at OT, and Ed Wang – the rookie whom we drafted to play tackle for us – has worked out exclusively at guard since returning to practice. Two changes that do make sense? Arthur Moats to outside linebacker, Reggie Torbor back inside. Both are better fits at those spots and have already made slight contributions since the switch last week. Just a reminder – you can always find an updated roster right here (http://wp.me/PSjvt-2o).

We have been granted a one-week roster exemption for tight end Shawn Nelson to return to practice for week five. If the team wants to activate him after that point (and they will), someone else has to be released or traded so that we don’t go over roster limits. Hopefully Nelson’s return can spark some life into a dull passing game for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick – who had receivers open so few times this past week against New York that he ran for 74 yards on escapes that even Houdini would find outstanding.

Speaking of Nelsons – WR David Nelson has seen his role increase lately. With former #2 receiver Steve Johnson causing coaches to regret making him a starter, the recent depth chart shuffle now has kept Lee Evans at the top of the chart, followed now by Roscoe Parrish, who is spelled by Johnson. Nelson steps into the slot after the change-up and he’s taking the promotion well, totaling 75 receiving yards in last Sunday’s contest. It’ll be fun watching him develop, as I really think we found a good player here. He has looked a little lost on the field at times early on, but that can be expected of an undrafted rookie who is just now starting to get the playing time he’s earned.

A thought for another article’s expansion – but through these first games we haven’t seen much out of our 2010 draft picks. Fun fact, also concerning a recent draft : ILB Paul Posluszny is the only player remaining on the roster from Buffalo’s 2007 draft class (2nd round, 34th overall).

If we don’t win this week at home against Jacksonville, when do we? In that scenario, we go into the bye week 0-5, and come out for a rough stretch where we visit the Ravens and Chiefs, host the Bears in Toronto (which may as well be neutral ground with how dead the crowd is), come home to play Detroit, visit Cincinnati, welcome Pittsburgh into our house, and head back out to Minneapolis all before we play Cleveland at the Ralph in week fourteen. That game looks, legitimately, like our only true shot at a win if we can’t topple the Jaguars. After the Browns, we’ve got our last three AFC East matchups, which could easily go either way but difficultly and frustratingly, likely will end in losses for us. I had said back in March when this schedule was released that it was going to be rough – having a terrible team with no clear strategy to try and traverse it makes it an even rockier road.

Looking at the here and now, however, we can be positive. Jacksonville hasn’t exactly been up to snuff as of late – winning miraculously in close games against Denver and Indianapolis yet getting trounced by San Diego and Philadelphia. With a divisional game looming, they may be looking past us, making this a trap game. (Note: The fact that I was able to call a matchup between two of the league’s worst teams a trap game for either party just shows you how bad they both are this year. Especially Buffalo.) David Garrard should get the call at quarterback after the Indianapolis victory, though I’m sure Bills fans and Trent Edwards alike would prefer to see #5 under center come Sunday afternoon. No matter what happens, Edwards will be a busy man come gametime – holding the clipboard for Garrard and making reads on his former offense for his new defense. He may have a defining impact on the game without ever putting on his helmet – a legitimate threat we have to look forward to. Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick start in the backfield – let’s hope they are both more productive this week than they were against New York.

That’s all for this week – stay tuned for trade watch, as Evans’ name has begun floating in deadline rumors and it’s not that far-fetched. Hope you enjoyed the lengthy read after the long break – as always, thanks for checking it out and subscribing, and continue helping me out by spreading the word. Take care and enjoy this week’s game, I’ll see you again during the bye.

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