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Sully's Mailbag: A promising Bills start, but history says to be wary

This might have been the busiest week ever for the Mailbag.  Too much to cram in. Some of that had to do with the NFL players responding to the President's insults. But it also had to do with the Bills' encouraging start and the fact that the baseball playoffs and NHL and NBA seasons are just over the horizon.

October is right up there with April as my favorite sports month. It's even better now that the NBA is starting earlier, on Oct. 17, so within a few weeks, all four major sports will be in full swing. Oh, and it's a great month for what we like to call "bonus golf" in Western New York.

Imagine if the Bills pull off the big upset on the first day of the month on Sunday. It would be their biggest road win in many years, and a marvelous way for Buffalo fans to kick off October. On to the Mailbag:

Buffalo Party Zone asks: We've gotten irrationally excited over 3-game stretches with Jauron/St Doug/Gailey/Rex. Do you see a reason why McD's run is any different?

Sully: History does give us pause, BP Zone. They were 2-1 in 2014 and '15, and got to 4-2 a year ago. Then reality and lack of talent set in, particularly at quarterback. So I do think this group will find its level and finish somewhere south of .500 when it's all said and done.

But there are promising signs of more competent leadership, including Sean McDermott and the new general manager, Brandon Beane. It's too early to say whether this front office has a gift for identifying college talent, but the purge of the old, entrentched scouts was long overdue.

Again, it's early, but McDermott has made a difference in the defense thus far. It helps to have a veteran defensive mind and former head coach like Leslie Frazier on his side. They've been creative in their pass rush and have done wonders with a secondary that had four new starters this season. That's coaching.

It comes down to players, though, as McDermott found out last year in Carolina. They need a quarterback. The one thing all those failed Bills head coaches had in common was inferior play at the most important position.

Jeff Landers asks: Am I wrong to think a loss at Atlanta would be okay if we beat Cincinnati to move to 3-0 in AFC? Isn't that more important?

Sully: Very insightful. The Bills' conference record has killed them at times in the past. In 2014, they went 4-0 against the NFC North, but went 5-7 in the AFC and missed the playoffs at 9-7. Flip around a couple of gut-wrenching losses to Kansas City and Oakland, and they would have made the playoffs.

They did the same thing in 2004, running the table vs. the NFC West but winding up 9-7. An 0-4 start, all in the conference, was their undoing. Last year, they beat three NFC West teams in their early four-game winnings streak. Then they lost two in row to AFC teams, falling into a 1-4 conference hole from which they never recovered.

All wins matter, of course, but it's conference record -- often against teams that are competing for the same postseason berth -- that often decides playoffs in event of a tie.

Doug Pagano asks: With the events of the past weekend, do you think one of the 32 owners will take a chance on signing Colin Kaepernick now?

@TonyPBuffalo asks: With the equality/patriotism activities, I can't see why Kaep isn't employed. Are salary demands too high? Or strictly owners' fear?

Sully: My guess is that Kaepernick's chances of being signed are worse after last week's events. Sure, owners backed their players and even locked arms, but that doesn't mean they're any more likely of signing Kaepernick. He has said it's not about salary demands.

President Trump's comments inflamed the situation. Kaepernick's original points about police brutality and racial injustice are being lost in a debate over patriotism and respect for the flag and the military.

NFL owners want things to die down. Signing Kaepernick now would reignite the issue in their city and locker room. The "fallout" would be worse than it would have been a month ago. One former league GM told the Chicago Tribute that signing Kaep now would be "your worst nightmare as a GM."

Ed Jacobs asks: Your feelings about Kelly on Bills game day sideline?

Sully: I hadn't given it any thought until Jerry Hughes's passionate reaction to Jim's comments about the protest and LeSean McCoy. It makes me suspect the players aren't wild about Kelly hanging around the sideline. It was cute 15 years ago, when he was out there during a big snow game, but maybe it's time he stopped acting like he's one of the boys.

Kevin Lawrence asks: What would you think of sending CC Sabathia to the hill in Tuesday's Wild Card game, and holding Luis Severino back for Game One, ALDS?

Sully: I love the idea, though I'd be shocked if Joe Girardi had the guts to do it. Granted, the Yankees would have to win the one-game wild card, and conventional thinking says you do everything you can to advance and take your chances from there. That means using your best starter in a one-game format.

But if the idea is to win it all, there's an argument to be made for holding Severino back and trying to win one game against the Twins with Sabathia. That would allow them to pitch Severino twice in the five-game ALDS, giving them a much better chance to knock off the powerful Indians or Astros.

Severino is 9-2 with a 2.28 ERA since the All-Star break. I'd rather see him go twice in the ALDS, where he would have five days' rest between the first and fifth games. Let Sabathia face the Twins. He's 19-9 lifetime against Minnesota. Much of that came during his prime, but he's the sort of crafty vet who can be tough on overhyped young hitters in their first postseason.

Sabathia would only have to give them five good innings, then hand it over to their deep bullpen. The Yanks are a hot hitting team. They averaged 6.4 runs in their last 25 games entering Friday night. Girardi is a mediocrity, but if he took a shot and it worked, he'd look like a genius.

@manseeknee asks: What does Rick Pitino have to do to actually get fired?

Sully: Evidently, turn his head while his underlings channel $100,000 to the family of a recruit. It's one thing to cheat on his wife by having sex with a woman in a restaurant, or to have his managers at Louisville arrange parties with hookers for his players. This is the sort of corruption that gets the FBI's attention.

Pitino has been placed on administrative leave for his role in a corruption scandal that is rocking college basketball. It's a formality. He's basically been fired. This comes as no surprise, since major college sports is one big den of corruption. The only surprise is that a coach from the state of Kentucky was involved and it wasn't John Calipari.

Don Hall: Sully, give us your prediction. Do the Sabres make the playoffs?

Sully: I'm on record that they'll finish in the 88- to 90-point range, which won't be good enough to make the playoffs. It took 95 points to get in last season, 93 the year before, 98 in 2014-15.


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