Feeling good Bills fans?
Of course you are. Why wouldn’t you? Your team is off to its best start since 2011, and in the first four weeks of the season has turned the “tank” chatter into talk of a legitimate playoff run.
But don’t expect head coach Sean McDermott to publicly partake in your merriment. In fact, I can almost promise you that he’ll be the ultimate buzzkill this afternoon. To be anything but would be counter to – you guessed it! – “The Process.” And in McDermott’s world, trusting the process is the key to victory and maintaining the momentum the Bills appear to be building.
His mission is to keep his players even-keeled and levelheaded. So even while his underdog team reveled in proving the doubters wrong again (Hi, Shady!), locker room leader Lorenzo Alexander cautioned against “drinking the Kool-Aid.”
The organization’s offseason moves seemed to signal the dawn of a new day at One Bills Drive, along with a painfully slow and frustrating rebuild. But here we are, on Oct. 2, with no Sammy Watkins, no meaningful contributions from Marcell Dareus (at least not yet), and no discernible issues behind closed doors.
Sound coaching, committed players and a new culture have made all the difference for the Bills and the proof is in their record: 3-1. (And if you think about it, they should be 4-0. That Week 2 game in Carolina was theirs for the taking, and had their offense generated something, anything, the final score wouldn’t have been 9-3 in the Panthers’ favor.)
But four games does not a season make and being atop the AFC East for the time being isn’t enough. Not even close.
Here’s what McDermott had to say last week as his team was preparing for the then-undefeated Falcons: “It was a test for us last week (vs. Denver). It’ll be another test for us this week and one that we have to continue to respect the process so that we’re ready to go come Sunday.”
And I expect him to regurgitate that same coach-speak with the Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) on deck.
There are plenty of reasons for Bills fans to be psyched this morning: The defense is finally getting some respect around the league; the Bills are playing with Hausch-Money (Seriously, guys, kicker Stephen Hauschka is the real deal Holyfield); and when Tyrod Taylor is on the run, he’s like a magician.
With that said, the Bills have plenty to prove, particularly on offense, before they can be viewed as serious playoff contenders in the AFC.
While Taylor’s escapability is one of his best attributes, he demonstrated a few times on Sunday that he can be trusted to go deep. But he has to show he can stretch the field and, more importantly, be accurate more consistently. In order to do that, though, Taylor needs help from his wide receivers.
Here's the problem: There’s a good chance he’ll be without one of his offensive weapons for a significant period of time. Jordan Matthews will reportedly be sidelined for a month due to the thumb injury he suffered in their win over the Falcons.
That means more responsibility for rookie Zay Jones – who rebounded after a bad second-quarter drop on Sunday, but only has four catches (on 17 targets) for 57 yards in four games – and even more opportunities for tight end Charles Clay (five catches, 112 yards vs. the Falcons).