NFL Handicapping: Buffalo Bills Betting Value
by Trevor Whenham - 11/25/2011
It’s almost as if the Buffalo Bills have played two distinct seasons this year. In their first five games they were 4-1, they were playing very well, Ryan Fitzpatrick was establishing himself as a top-level QB, and the team looked like it could be on a path to stealing the AFC East if they kept it up.
In their next five games, though, they were an entirely different team. They limped to a 1-4 record, Fitzpatrick was inconsistent at best and often just plain lousy, and they weren’t playing with anywhere near the intensity or focus that they were early on.
It’s been a Jekyll-and-Hyde season. Something changed, and it changed quickly and dramatically. But what was it, and what does it means for the rest of the season?
Let’s take a look at four very big contributing factors that will impact how the team does the rest of the way:
Gailey almost sucked me in. Another win or two and he might have.
When Gailey was hired by the Bills I was very unenthusiastic. It seemed like a lousy pick — it has been a long time since he enjoyed a lot of success, and he’s not nearly progressive or innovative enough for a team that really needed to shake things up.
After his first season with the Bills he had done nothing to change my mind, and heading into this season I was again very negative about him and his impact on this team.
When they got out to such a strong start, though, and especially because they were playing so well, I almost had to re-evaluate and ask whether I was being fair to Gailey. Before I had to have a personal crisis of faith, though, Gailey remembered who he was, and the team started playing that trademarked Gailey brand of football that has bored and frustrated fans for years.
I still find it very hard to believe that this team will be a significant factor — this year or in the future — as long as Gailey is the guy in charge.
This seems too obvious to worry about, but when you look at what has happened it’s too compelling to ignore — Fitzpatrick signed a massive new six-year, $59 million contract on Oct. 28, and he hasn’t played very well since.
In the first three games of the year he was fantastic — nine touchdowns to three interceptions, nice yardage stats, and impressive poise when things got tough. On the bye week he signed his deal. Two days later he played well in a blowout of the Redskins — perhaps it was too soon for the magnitude of the deal to sink in.
In the three games since, though, he has been lousy. He has two touchdowns and seven interceptions, His completion percentage has been too low, and his yards per attempt has been abysmal.
It is by far the worst he has played this year. Most significantly, the team has not only lost all three, but they have been blown out.
It’s too simplistic to say that this is all about that contract and the effect it is having on Fitzpatrick. Given the timing, though, it certainly has to be looked at as a factor.
The bigger issue is that the guy just has to get out of his head. He’s a very cerebral player, but he’s at his best when he doesn’t try to over think things and force situations that aren’t going to happen.
He has looked tentative and unsure lately, and it’s going to continue to be a problem until he can rediscover the game that was so impressive early in efforts against Kansas City and Oakland — the games that earned him a huge contract. His ability to do that will have a big impact on the way this team finishes their season.
Jackson has been a revelation, and he is unquestionably among the very best running backs in the league this year. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry and is a game-changer.
The problem, though, is that he’s now injured. He went down in the team’s last game. He’s out at least one game, but the strong rumors persist that he could be done for the year.
The team isn’t totally lost because they have C.J. Spiller in reserve, but when a player who has been as important as Jackson has is lost it can really hurt an already fragile team. This couldn’t come at a worse time.
Buffalo Bills Schedule
This is the lone bit of good news here — the team has a schedule that could certainly be tougher down the stretch.
The only game that isn’t likely winnable is a trip to New England to close the season, but even that could be manageable if the Patriots have clinched a playoff spot and are resting players by then. Other than that there is no game I am willing to write off entirely.
They travel to play the Jets this week. Given the QB issues that team is having they are certainly vulnerable. They host Tennessee and then travel to San Diego — two teams that are struggling to play with any consistency or spark. Two home games against Miami and Denver feature opponents that are certainly not complete squads.
I’m not saying the Bills are going to run the table or anything, but it could certainly be a whole lot worse for them than it is. The schedule is not an excuse for them.
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