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Abacus to The Drawing Board

I–as a fan of the Buffalo Bills, in the year 2023–am glad… I am glad I waited for the Sunday games to run their course, before reflecting on this point in the season. I am glad because waiting for the dust to settle gave me perspective, and a shred of hope. 

On the heels of our embarrassing loss to the divisonally-challenged, 1-4 Bengals (that lone win being a sorry one, against the whipping-boys of the AFC: The Buffalo Bills), I was just about ready to throw in the towel, and start researching where our 2024 draft selections would be, as a near-500 team. Our 2-in-the-5th / 4-in-the-6th / 10-pick haul had visions of multiple Taron Johnson’s, Gabe Davis’, and Christian Benford’s dancing in my head, like some Johnny-come-lately Santa Claus, wandering into Easter dinner with a bag full of Beane’s characteristic late-round steals.

But something odd happened on Sunday night: The JESTs were jousted off their high horse by a Boilermaker QB and the sharp edge of Mark Davis’ Bowl-Cut; Devin Singletary did his best to help his former team, running for 150 yards and a tuddy (Gee… Where were those stats, when he donned the red, white, and blue?); And New England… Well…. That game was just embarrassing. 

So I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel, just yet. This morning, I heard on The Jeremy White Show–shoutout WGR 500 AM–that a JESTs fan had tabulated that–prior to their loss to the Raiders–the Rogerless Jersey team had a playoff-making percentage chance somewhere in the 30’s. Since last night’s loss, it dropped to 7%. And if we can somehow figure out how NOT to run James Cook out of shotgun, into the teeth of the DT’s, with 7+ yards to go on every 2nd down attempt, we can ground the JESTs playoff chances down to 3-4%.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: 17+ years of Christmas seasons, where we Buffalo Bills fans would dust off the old abacus, read every tea-leaf we could get our hands on, and puzzle through the ESPN Playoff Predictor until we–as a fanbase–well-nigh crashed their website. These ratio-parsing rituals were our annual Charlie Brown NFL Christmas, full of tiny, wonky trees and half-hearted hopes.

Sometimes, I wonder why we so viscerally react to a dip back into this territory. It’s no foreign land to us Bills fans: Aching and hoping against steep odds. Do we not know this turf? Have we not grown our lives on it for decades? What is Buffalo built on? What is Upstate New York? Have we ever been anything BUT underdogs? 

It’s times and seasons and situations like these where we’re going to see what McDermott & Co. are really made of. We thought we may have seen a shift away from the head-scratchingly poor offensive play-calling that has typified the 2023 campaign, during the first half of the Tampa Bay game. Will McD allow Josh to Josh? Will Dorsey be told that his attempts to out-chess-match his opponents–who all happen to be roasting us, while playing Fortnight–need to be curtailed? 

Who’s going to cook tonight: Russ or Josh? I am praying it’s the latter. Go Bills!

–Tim Avery, 11/13/2023

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