Buffalo Bills

Four Downs with David: Buffalo Bills Panic Meter

Welcome back to “Four Downs with David.” In this week’s article, I will describe varying levels of panic that many fans are experiencing after the Bills' recent home loss to the Eagles. In the context of “panic,” we assessing concern based on the Bills' potential to make the playoffs this year, and the team’s ability to push for more beyond 2019.

To bring back an early-season tradition, each level of panic will be accompanied by various wing sauce flavors. As always, please feel free to comment on your own level of panic. Are you staying cool, calm, and mild, or are you extra hot, hair on fire, panicking? For full transparency, I find myself feeling somewhere in between a low level of panic and inwardly having major concerns about this team.

1st Down: Mild – No Panic Whatsoever

I believe the eternal optimist in all of us would love to fall into this category. Ultimately, the Bills are 5-2, with a very winnable stretch of upcoming games. The Bills have only lost two games this season, and both losses came at the hands of the last two Super Bowl winners. Most fans would have agreed that at the beginning of the season, the Bills were likely to lose to the Eagles.

Almost halfway through the season, I think it’s fair to say that the Patriots ARE an elite team, and possibly the best team in the NFL. It’s also fair to say that although they entered week eight with a 3-4 record, the Eagles have plenty of talent to push for a playoff berth and potentially do damage in the playoffs should they get there.

Through week eight, the combined record of the Bills next four opponents (Redskins, Browns, Dolphins, and Broncos) is 5-24. The average point differential of these four teams is -79.5, with the Dolphins on pace to have greater than a 300 point negative differential for the season. If someone told me the Bills would be 5-2 after seven games into the 2019 season, I would have gladly signed up for that record.

Perhaps expectations have changed now that we have seen how the early stages of the season have transpired. However, the Bills still have a golden opportunity in front of them over the next four weeks. Given the fact they have taken care of business against subpar competition to date, the loss to the Eagles could provide the coaching staff and players the wakeup call they need to focus on rebounding during this week’s game and beyond.

2nd Down: Medium – Creeping Doubts

Even though the Bills beat the Dolphins in week seven, many fans likely fell into this category after that game. I was one of the people in this group. On our Bills/Dolphins reaction show (@TheBillsGuys), Steve Mathes and I discussed how even after a win, issues with this roster and coaching staff were slightly exposed. As we spoke about at length, the Bills were able to beat an inferior opponent while playing a very average game by the organization’s and the fans’ standards alike.

The Eagles game represented a chance for the Bills to prove to the rest of the NFL that they were indeed an elite contender in the AFC and a force to be reckoned with across the entire NFL. Instead, the Bills played another poor game on both sides of the ball. The naysayers who were waiting for the Bills to flop in a big game got their wish. The Eagles loss has led to some division across the Bills reporting and social media community, and it’s clear that there are more “doubters” now than there were a short week ago.

I also admit that I find myself having doubts, but I am not quite ready to consider myself in “panic mode” quite yet. The optimists will point to the fact that the Bills went through a similar defensive lull in 2017 where they lost three games in a row from week 9 to week 11. Ultimately, they righted the ship in a Week 12 road game against the Chiefs that no one expected them to win.

Could this year’s version of the Bills see a similar correction? The opponents ahead certainly lend themselves to positive regression, but the doubters will need to see a convincing win against the Redskins (and possibly more) to change their tune.

3rd Down: Hot – Increasing Levels of Panic

As with most things in life, the middle ground tends to be where most people find themselves. Perhaps you have more than just some minor creeping doubts about this Bills team in 2019. I can’t make a really strong argument to dispute your panic levels if you fall into this category. Through seven games, the Bills have largely been below average on offense when it comes to scoring points, and over the past two weeks, the defense has been showing cracks.

Outside of an outstanding individual performance from Tre White, the Bills very well could be losers of two in a row. Vanilla defensive schemes and questionable sequencing on offensive play-calling have certainly raised my concern for what lies ahead the rest of the year. I will leave it for others to debate Josh Allen’s play, so I’ll keep it brief on Allen…

Yes, I am concerned, but I am not ready to venture into full-blown panic mode yet. Analysts and social media content will point out that he has limited the turnovers recently, and his statistics have compared favorably to the other quarterbacks from his draft class. While he didn’t throw any interceptions, Allen committed a costly turnover near the end of the first half against the Eagles which was a turning point in the game.

I suppose my “increased levels of panic” for this category primarily rest with the coaching staff. Brian Daboll is another polarizing figure within the Bills social media community. Many people seem to believe he is an excellent coordinator, with reporters going as far as stating he could be in line for head coaching interviews this upcoming offseason. I am sure some of this affection is due to the fact that Daboll is a “Western New York guy.” Personally, I am not at all enamored with Daboll. He has coordinated below-average offenses in the NFL throughout his career, so I’m finding it hard to believe why all of a sudden he is such a special and genius offensive mind.

With the Browns, Daboll’s offenses ranked 32nd and 29th overall in 2009 and 2010 respectively. He coordinated the 20th ranked offense in the NFL during 2011 with the Dolphins. With the Chiefs in 2012, Daboll’s offense scored the fewest points in the NFL. So yes, I have an increasing level of panic when it comes to the Buffalo Bills offense in 2019 and beyond. What we have seen through seven games could very well be what we see the rest of the season.

4th Down: Extra Hot – Hair on Fire Panic Mode

I don’t think too many fans fall into this category, but I know there are at least a handful of them out there. Statistics are often used to create a narrative, and there are certainly more than a few red flags on this front when dissecting the Bills 5-2 start. For starters, the Bills are averaging less than 20 points per game on offense, and they are the only team in the NFL with a winning record that has scored fewer than 150 total points this season.

Over the last two games, the Bills run defense has been gashed, notably allowing a remarkable 218 yards on the ground to the Eagles on 41 attempts. The Eagles averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored three rushing touchdowns on their way to a 31-13 victory. The Bills have really been struggling to generate any kind of pass rush of consequence over the past two games, only recording four combined sacks against the Dolphins and Eagles.

On the season, the Bills 16 sacks ranks them 23rd in the NFL. Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy appear to be taking incredibly wide angles in their rushes lately, allowing for quarterbacks to easily step up in the pocket and run for first downs.

On offense, the Bills have now been outgained 752 to 558 in the two games since their bye. For me, the most concerning takeaway regarding the offensive output is based on the opponents the Bills have faced. The Dolphins are a bottom three defense in the NFL, and the Eagles passing defense was a bottom ten unit before playing the Bills (they are now ranked 20th).

Another major issue I have with the offense is the lack of touches we are seeing from Devin Singletary. While I understand he battled through a recent hamstring injury, Singletary was not even listed on the injury report this past week. Singletary flashed his skills on a nifty receiving touchdown against the Eagles, where he notably high stepped and made his way through several defenders on his way to the end zone.

Why are we not seeing Singletary get more touches? These touches do not have to be up the gut runs better suited for Frank Gore…get this man in space and manufacture some touches for him. He is too talented to only be touching the ball seven times in a game where the Bills could have made a statement win.

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