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Bills' list of worries mounting up

The problem with the NFL -- other than all those stupid, dinky four-yard passes -- is that there's only one game a week. Every game is a monumental event, a perceived turning point, a cause for excessive joy or lamentation. It is difficult to maintain perspective.

"It always is," general manager Tom Donahoe said Sunday after the Bills' 19-3 loss at Tampa Bay. "People get excited when you win and too upset when you lose. There's never any middle ground."

He has a point. Two years ago, if you'll recall, the Bills started out 2-0. They blew out the Patriots at home and won convincingly at Jacksonville. Reputable voices in the national media had them ticketed for the Super Bowl. They went 4-10 the rest of the way and got Gregg Williams fired.

Last season, they got off to a 0-4 start. They were toast, a joke. Even I couldn't rip them enough. Donahoe was running slightly behind Joel Giambra in the popularity ratings. Then the Bills finished 9-3 and nearly squeaked into the playoffs.

So you never know in the hot tub of mediocrity that is the NFL. A team is never as bad as it looks on its worst day, nor as dazzling as it seems at its best. Take a breath, folks. The Bills aren't as good as they looked against Houston, and they're not as inept as they seemed to be Sunday in Tampa Bay.

They're in a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East, one of 18 teams at .500 after two weeks. Still, nothing I've seen in the first two games has altered my belief that the Bills are an average team, a team with too many fundamental flaws to be included among the league's elite. Here are five main reasons for concern:

1. J.P. Losman: The kid quarterback has talent and guts, but the Buccaneers proved he's not ready for the more talented and sophisticated NFL defenses. Losman was 13 for 18 and 143 yards in the first half of the opener. In his next four quarters of work, he went 6 for 19 for 40 yards. His longest completion in that 60-minute span was 11 yards.

The NFL is a league of imitators. Coaches watch films until their brains turn to oatmeal. Then they sleep for an hour and watch more. Word will get around. Teams will borrow from Monte Kiffin's game plan and try to confuse Losman with a variety of looks. The amazing thing is, he hasn't thrown an interception yet. They're coming.

2. Eric Moulds: He had one catch for eight yards in Tampa. That's only the second time in 111 games that he's been held under 10 yards. Yes, Losman is hurting him. But Moulds shows no signs of returning to his dynamic form of the past. He had a minor injury in the opener, which isn't a good sign. He's gone 15 games without a 100-yard performance. If this keeps up, it's only a matter of time before he complains about the offense.

3. The run defense: It was comforting to assume Ron Edwards would step in for Pat Williams at tackle and they wouldn't miss a beat. But Tampa Bay bullied Edwards and the rest of the defensive front. Williams didn't always bring his A game, but his B game was better than the guys replacing him. Sam Adams is facing constant double-teams, as expected.

4. The schedule: The Bills had a very easy schedule last year. They caught teams in decline, teams in slumps, teams with injuries. The NFC West crossover was a breeze. Eight of the QBs who started against them aren't starting anywhere this year. This year, things even out. The NFC South, starting with Tampa Bay, is a much tougher crossover. Miami is better. So are Cincinnati, Oakland and New Orleans.

5. The running game: It's a bad sign when the head coach takes shots at his running back. Mike Mularkey wasn't happy with Willis McGahee's tentative style against the Bucs. McGahee can't be darting outside every time a hole doesn't instantly appear. In his defense, the offensive line wasn't doing him many favors Sunday. When Mike Williams went down, it showed just how thin the O-line is.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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