Buffalo Bills - How Will the Defense Respond?
by Trevor Whenham - 09/14/2007
If you live in or near Buffalo, and you are even a little bit athletic, you might want to keep your Sunday afternoons clear for the next few weeks. The team is so lacking in depth, and so decimated by injuries already -- especially on the defense -- that they may soon be forced to hold open tryouts to fill the roster spots. It could be a long and ugly year in upstate New York. Of course, it was likely already headed that way before everything went screwy on Sunday afternoon.
Before we get into looking at what the injuries mean to the betting prospects of this team, lets first do a quick recap of what happened for those who missed the bloodbath. The most serious and sad injury is to TE Kevin Everett. He fell motionless to the ground after a bad tackle on special teams, and the game was halted for 15 minutes as they treated him. That the special teams player's career is over is a given. It seemed as certain that his walking days were gone, too, but now a bit of a miracle makes it likely that he will walk again. On top of that, starting CB Jason Webster is gone for the year after being placed on injured reserve with a broken arm. He joins starting free safety Ko Simpson, who broke his ankle, on the IR. Safety Coy Wire isn't on the IR, but he is out indefinitely with a strained MCL. Wire had already been converted from safety to linebacker to fill in for the injured Keith Ellison. Add in some injuries from the preseason and a substance abuse suspension, and you have a defense that is as ravaged by injuries after just one week of the season as any team has ever been.
This much is certain - the Bills will struggle on defense. Any unit that loses three starters, including two in the secondary, is going to be in some trouble. That's especially true when the starters weren't exactly Pro Bowl-caliber in most cases to begin with. The team would have had a hard time on defense even if everyone stayed healthy, and they don't have the depth to weather this situation without feeling it. They will likely be especially susceptible to sound passing attacks. With the departure of Nate Clements to San Francisco in the offseason teams were likely going to be looking to pick on the defensive backs anyway, and that will be even truer now.
As sure as the Bills will struggle defensively, you can be equally sure that the public will overcompensate for it. The public loves nothing more than an injured quarterback, but injuries to any starter will do. When you have three inured starters, and when those injuries are mentioned in every article about Everett, and those articles are everywhere, then the public is going to assume that the Bills won't be able to stop anything, and they will bet the opponents with abandon. That doesn't do you much good if you tend to agree with the general opinion of the public. If you think that they are overstating the case, though, then there could be value on the Bills, and you could profit. Let's see, then, if we can make a case that the defense isn't going to be as bad as the public will assume they will be.
To start, you could take a look at how the game played out. Despite losing everyone that they did, they were able to hold the Broncos, a legitimate AFC contender, to 12 points in the first 59 1/2 minutes of the game. It was a strange defensive performance too - they gave up over 300 passing yards, and the Broncos had a 100+ yard rusher, yet the Bills found a way t tighten up when they needed to. Just looking at the offensive stats, this should have been a runaway, but it wasn't. That has to give fans of the Bills some hope, and it also has to make you think that they at least have the potential to stay inside of some of the huge spreads that they will likely face.
There's also the impact that the injuries could have on the team. The scope of the injuries is so ridiculous, and the Everett injury so severe, that they could actually act as a bit of a boost for the team. If the defensive unit feels that they have been dealt near impossible odds, and they are well coached (which they should be), then they could use their situation as a rallying point. They could play for their fallen teammates, or to prove that they aren't as bad as people say that they are. That may not be enough to win, but you could argue that that could be enough to keep a game or two closer than people might think.
There's a third element to consider - no one ever thought that this team was going to be any good anyway. Even before these injuries everyone knew that the team was going to struggle on defense, and the oddsmakers were ready to adjust their lines accordingly. By compensating for these injuries like they will, the public is potentially correcting for something that had already been corrected for in the initial lines. If the public is determined enough in their opinion then there could be value on the Bills.
So what does this all mean? In the end, it probably makes as much sense to pass on the Bills as anything else. It is certainly important to remember, though, that it might make as much sense to move towards the team as it does to move away from them.