2015 Lessons Through Week 4: Buffalo Bills

With only one of its teams taking the field on this continent in week 4, the Buffalo Bills had the perfect opportunity to continue their  defensive success. After a big 41-14 win over Miami, they welcomed the Giants with the league’s 21st ranked offense. Eli Manning and the Giants hadn’t sustained offensive continuity the first 3 weeks. However with 17 penalties committed, the Bills played undisciplined allowing the Giants to sustain drives in a 24-10 loss.

bills v giantsIn the NFL there are games where a team can just come out flat. The Bills and QB Tyrod Taylor fell prey to that yesterday. This is a young team that needs to learn to bring it all four quarters no matter the competition. Also what has happened to the defense?? Last year the Bills were the NFL’s 4th best unit yet currently ranked 22nd and giving up 23 points per game. Sure the figures are distorted thanks to the 40 points and 507 yards the Patriots put up in week 2. Yet what did the Giants score in Sunday’s tilt? Twenty four points so the Bills have to shore up their defense and CB Leodis McKelvin will be available in 3 weeks to help.

The upside is the Bills have yet to hit their stride offensively. LeSean McCoy hasn’t been healthy enough to play a full game at any point in this season. He missed Sunday’s game along with WR Sammy Watkins. Once established they can sneak Percy Harvin in the mix better where now defenses know to key on him when he’s in the game.

Bills v Giants

One issue of concern is the propensity of Tyrod Taylor to scramble back and then brake containment rather than climb the pocket. That added 10 yards increases the recovery time of the defense to react to his throws and minimizes his running effectiveness. When the rush is coming and he steps up in the pocket, he’s able to dash for a quick 5 to 7 yard gain if the play breaks down. He did so Sunday on a 32 yard TD scramble that was called back but that is where he can add to the structure of the offense. Buffalo just has some growing up to do.

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2015 Lessons Through Week 3: AFC North

Every NFL season takes on its own unique shape. With so many moving parts between player movement, player maturation & coaching changes, the landscape doesn’t change every year..it changes every week. By the time we sprinkle injuries in this cauldron it’s nearly impossible to forecast. This is what makes NFL football great.

Bell and Williams will power the Steelers in 2015.

Bell and Williams will power the Steelers in 2015.

Take the Pittsburgh Steelers for instance. Coming into the season they had to figure how to get through the first few games while LeVeon Bell served a 2 game suspension. With a defense being rebuilt they would have to lean on one of the NFL’s best offenses for success in 2015. Insurance policies were signed in former Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams and former Falcon / Eagle QB in Michael Vick. Williams paid off handsomely with 206 yards rushing and 3 TDs, which is good enough for 6th in the league going into week 4. Now they have a 1-2 punch that is second to none with Bell’s return.

Yet Bell’s first game back against the Rams in week 3 saw Ben Roethlisberger go down with a knee sprain. Vick is the next man up and has to produce in the 4 weeks Big Ben is expected to be gone. Vick can’t just hold the fort down in Ben’s absence. The Steelers, with all their offensive weaponry, rank 5th offensively and 14th defensively. If this insurance policy doesn’t pay off and the Steelers find themselves punting more and come back to the pack, they will  expose their defense. Tomlin’s defense needs to grow up in a hurry. Michael Vick your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Time to play Manziel.

Time to play Manziel.

In Cleveland its as if Head Coach Mike Pettine is trying hard to look for work next year. The upside to Josh McCown is he is a journeyman quarterback that will minimize mistakes. The downside is he is not a playmaker that can win you games. Just as he did with his game ending interception to Charles Woodson in their 27-20 loss to Oakland last week.

However a closer look at the numbers and Johnny Manziel has a 99.7 passer rating to MCown’s 83.2. Did you know through 3 games of this season Manziel has 3 touchdown passes of 50 yards where the rest of the NFL has 6?? That is called playmaking and is the difference between the Browns being 1-2 v. 0-3. To bookend Manziel’s week 2 heroics you have the Woodson interception and before that, the fumble at the goal line when McCown got himself knocked out against the Jets. Come on son…

It’s time to play Manziel and see what you have. If the Browns can’t turn it around they could be looking for a new Head Coach and quarterback next season. Like it or not Mike Pettine, your job’s future lies in the success of this 2015 campaign. Especially in a down year for the division, better to tie it to a playmaker like Manziel than a losing game manager like McCown.

bengals tComing in with the NFL’s 2nd best offense and 12th ranked defense is the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals. The conversation for the Bengals is the same as the last few years. They beat the teams they should beat and come up empty against the best the AFC has to offer. The combined record of the Raiders, Chargers, and Ravens was 3-6 before Thursday Night’s game. We’ll talk about this team in 3 weeks when they host Seattle then go on the road to Buffalo. They come through that 2-0 we have something to talk about.

The Baltimore Ravens won last night to earn their first win of the season. However it isn’t a season saving victory as many of the t.v. pundits would have you believe. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost that game last night due to terrible kicking with Josh Scobee and even worse play calling late in the 4th quarter. Justin Forsett broke out with 150 yards rushing but the Steelers have given up 373 yards on the ground in the last 3 weeks. This team has middle of the road rankings offensively and defensively and new playmakers have to emerge on the defensive side of the ball.

Thanks goodness they get to play against Cleveland next week, especially if Pettine stays the course to get fired starting McCown. After that they go on the road to San Francisco and Arizona. The 49ers aren’t as strong as they once were for certain.  However neither were the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos as the Ravens started 0-2 on the road traveling west. These next few weeks will definitely tell the tale.

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