Friday, September 14, 2012

Bills, Syracuse need to take advantage of winnable games this weekend

                In my column for WROC-TV’s web site ( before the regular season kicked off last Sunday, I listed six things that needed to go right in order for Buffalo to end its playoff famine.

                Amazingly, the Bills wound up seeing things go wrong in five of the categories during their opener against the Jets, which explains why they were squashed and why many Buffalo fans are ready to jump off the third deck of the Ralph without a parachute or bunge cord.

                One game does not a season make, but there is major cause for concern.

                The Meadowlands Meltdown raised once more legitimate concerns about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s arm strength and decision-making. Those three interceptions were abominations, and a painful reminder of what we witnessed during last year’s second-half swoon. Fitz need not be a Pro Bowler for this team to win, but neither can he be the interception machine who led the Bills to just one victory in their final nine games in 2011. Consistency still eludes him despite all the off-season work on his mechanics, and you begin to wonder if what we see is what we’re going to continue to get – mediocrity.

                Of greater concern was the play of the supposedly revamped defense – specifically Not-So-Super Mario Williams, who managed just one tackle. If this guy doesn’t live up to the hype that comes with being the most handsomely rewarded defensive player in NFL history, Buffalo is in serious trouble.

                The injury bug already has taken its toll and a unit that appeared to be a strength going into the season – special teams – was burned for a long touchdown return vs. the Jets.

                And, boom, just like that, all the optimism that had been building for six months was gone.

                Fortunately, the Bills have two upcoming games that give them a chance to get well soon. I really believe they will give a more spirited effort in their home opener Sunday against a Kansas City Chiefs team that also was spanked in its opener. I expect better performances from Fitz and Williams. And I would hope that the Bills corners tighten their coverage and stop treating every receiver as if he were Usain Bolt sprinting for the gold.

                I foresee a win over the Chiefs, followed by a win in Cleveland against the Browns next Sunday.

                At least, that’s what better happen, or you can kiss this season goodbye because a home game against New England and road contests at San Francisco and Arizona follow, and the Bills could be looking at a start reminiscent of two years ago.

                 Speaking of teams that need a win . . . Syracuse returns home to play Stony Brook in the Carrier Dome tomorrow. You might figure that a team that went toe-to-toe with the nation’s second-ranked team last week should have an easy time against an FCS (1AA) school. But there’s not a huge difference between a mediocre Division I football program and a good FCS football program. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Colorado, which lost to Sacramento State, or Colorado State, which fell to North Dakota State. The moral of this story is that the Orange better come to play or it could be looking at an 0-3 record.              

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