Sully's Mailbag: Thursday night NFL games have to go - The Buffalo News

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Sully's Mailbag: Thursday night NFL games have to go

Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams called it "terrible" before the game and said there was a "whole laundry list of negatives" working against it. After the loss, Richie Incognito called it "ridiculous, unfair and "BS."

That was two 34-year-old veterans who fight the weekly battle in the interior, and who don't appreciate the NFL's ill-advised program of Thursday night games. They're right. It's an ongoing travesty for the NFL to make guys perform on three days' rest in the name of profit.

Commissioner Roger Goodell insists the Thursday games are good and don't pose a greater injury risk to players. I imagine his nose grows when he says it. The games are worse on the whole. Bills-Jets was typical of the product, where road teams often dissolve when they fall behind.

The players' union should take a stand against Thursday games when it's time to bargain a new contract in 2020. The league should go to an 18-week schedule with each team getting two bye weeks. Every team would have a bye before a Thursday game. They could knock off a preseason game, too.

On to this week's Mailbag.

Jugi K asks: Are the Jets actually good, and/or are the teams we have beaten actually bad?

falsone5@juno.com asks: Bad showing, bad odds in Thursday night game, or bad team?

Thomas Pullano asks: Think they got full of themselves after the OAK win? Did they underestimate NYJ? Short rest? Combo of all 3?

Sully: I'll make those three an entry. Bills fans responded with varying degrees of worry and chagrin after the 34-21 pasting in the Meadowlands, which wasn't as close as the final score would suggest.

The Jets and Bills aren't as bad as people thought before the season, when they were both presumed to be tanking. The NFL has few really good or bad teams in a year of uncommon parity. All teams have flaws, and it wasn't a total surprise to see the Bills exposed on Thursday.

I don't think they were overconfident. They're not that kind of team. They were due for a clunker. The Bills hadn't trailed by more than seven points in the first seven games. They were playing a little over their heads. Thursdays can be tough for any team, especially the road team, so it was a perfect storm of negative circumstances against the Jets.

They're still 5-3, but there's cause for concern. They were bad on both lines of scrimmage. The pass protection has been an issue all season, and they'll continue to see eight-man fronts if Tyrod Taylor can't make teams pay down the field. They need Kelvin Benjamin to be a huge factor.

The pass rush has been soft lately. Quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball and challenging them in the middle of the field. All those turnovers tended to cover up problems in the secondary. The law of averages was bound to catch up to them in the takeaway area.

They haven't been beating bad teams, but the first half of the schedule turned out to be softer than expected. The Falcons, Broncos, Bucs and Raiders are all having issues. The Bills next four games -- Saints, at Chargers, at Chiefs, Patriots -- will be telling.

* * *

@BeauFleuveBills asks: Tyrod is the scapegoat, but did Dennison not adjust to his team's play? Where was plan B?

Sully: Most fans aren't blaming Taylor for that loss. His pass protection was poor and he was effective when he had time to throw. He missed some throws, as usual, but you can't expect much more from him on the road.

The Jets got a big push from their interior line, but also had their linebackers containing out wide against Taylor's bootleg runs. After he got stopped early, they seemed reluctant to try moving him in the pocket.

Dennis might have tried some more quick throws or mixed in a screen or two (which is becoming obsolete). Maybe a couple more deep shots early. But Tyrod barely had time to set up on a lot of his dropbacks.

The Bengals used a similar scheme to hold down the passing attack. The Bills will likely see more of it in the future. You can't pin it all on Taylor, but he's being judged by his road performance and has to be better.

* * *

Chris McLaren asks: Should draft focus now be on O-Line and D-Line?

Sully: They have a bushel of needs in the draft. I still think a franchise quarterback and receiver should be high on the list. But they have issues on the right side of the offensive line. They'll also be moving on from Incognito soon and Cordy Glenn is overpaid at left tackle.

With Marcell Dareus gone and Kyle Williams soon to be 35 years old, they also need to address defensive tackle. That's a lot of issues for a team that was looking to be 6-2 for the first time in a quarter century.

* * *

@wert716 asks: Is there any reason I shouldn't jump in a barrel and go over the Falls?

Sully: How about the fact that they're 5-3, which as good as they've been through eight games since the Super Bowl years, and still leading for a wild card? They were expected to lose 10 games. I had them at 4-12. Keep your expectations low and enjoy watching them evolve.

Of course, the sight of you floating in a barrel would be an interesting look on those cliched shots of Niagara Falls on pre-game shows.

* * *

Gerald Beamish asks: Why do they keep on playing ducasse and mills when they are terrible? Put Groy at right guard and Dawkins at right tackle!

Sully: It's an ongoing mystery why they don't play Groy at guard. I know they like him backing up Eric Wood at center, but John Miller is in the doghouse and Vlad Ducasse was bad on Thursday. When will Sean McDermott relent and give Groy, who got a two-year extension last summer, a try at guard?

* * *

Holiroller asks: When will both these franchises get better? This city and fan base deserve so much more than this.

Sully: The Bills are a surprising 5-3, but there are no guarantees that they'll be a consistent winner any time soon. Remember, they Jets won 10 games in Todd Bowles' first year as head coach two years ago and they quickly went into a downward spiral.

Hey, at least the Sabres held on for a heroic 5-4 win against a 1-11 Coyotes team on Thursday night.

* * *

Jim Nuwer asks: With college basketball around the corner, any local team have a chance to win their conference this year?

Sully: Same as in recent years, both St. Bonaventure and UB should be contenders in their conferences. The Bonnies have an elite backcourt in Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, who made All-Atlantic 10 first team and are the top-scoring returning duo in the country.

The Bonnies should be top four in the A-10 and a contender for an at-large NCAA berth. UB, which is looking for its third MAC tourney title in four years, should be an 18-20 win team and be a threat in March again under head coach Nate Oats.

Niagara is a chic choice to finish in the top half of the MAAC under Chris Casey, who finally has some continuity in his program and a star in Matt Scott. Canisius will be young and on the rise under Reggie Witherspoon, and hopefully peaking for the MAAC Tournament.

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