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Bills Mafia Poll: Identity Check

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The Buffalo Bills showed great character in their victory against the hobbled Nawlinz Saints. Following a couple of downright disappointing weeks, they needed a curb-stomping-esque victory to make themselves and the fanbase a little calmer.

Throughout the season, lenses on the Bills have shifted. Coming out of the preseason, the Bills were expected to compete for the top overall seed in the AFC. A couple weeks later, they were Super Bowl favorites following a thrashing of Kansas City. Then, after losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and an absolute blasphemous performance against the Colts, the doubt began to creep in. After a win against New Orleans (and a horrible injury to Tre White) the Bills sit at 7-4, with the Patriots on the horizon.

I went to Twitter to ask the fan base how they view this team and its future, let’s take a look.

Rigs Willis on Twitter: “Following a 31-6 victory against the New Orleans Saints, how would you describe the Buffalo Bills’ identity?#BillsMafia #GoBills @BfloFanatics / Twitter”

Following a 31-6 victory against the New Orleans Saints, how would you describe the Buffalo Bills’ identity?#BillsMafia #GoBills @BfloFanatics

Results ranked from highest to lowest

Contenders (63.5%)

This large percentage surprised me a little. Roughly 600 people out of the 955 that voted believe, to this day, that Buffalo can contend for a Super Bowl. It’s not all grim. When looking at the positives, there are tons.

I want to first start with the coaching staff. They had a horrible game-script against the Colts, and made no in-game adjustments against the Jaguars. However, I was extremely impressed with how they approached the Saints game. The game script they came out with was impeccable. Run, run, run, pass over the middle, run, run, deep shot. It was awesome, and the boom-or-bust play of Matt Breida compliments this team very well. Aside from coaching and gameplan, the players stepped up big time as well.

Even with the turnovers, Allen played a great game. He was composed, and knew when to trust his ability. He did have one mess-up. In the middle of the second quarter, Dawson Knox was butt-naked, private island-owning wide-open, and Josh opted for a three yard scramble. But other than that, he was nearly perfect, and his connection with Diggs has come alive again.

Offensive Line wise, I’m actually pretty happy with the situation. They played pretty damn well against an average pass rush in New Orleans, and were borderline dominant in the run-game. Obviously, looking back at the film, Dion Dawkins had a rough game, especially the blatant hold. Mitch Morse, Darryl Williams and even Ike Boettger had stellar performances. The best part of the O-Line situation is that the group is getting healthy. Spencer “Bad News” Brown and Mongo Feliciano should both be back next week against New England, and with Brown coming back, that moves Williams back inside.

The O-Line will be complete and give the Bills a much better chance down the road for the rest of the season. So, in totality, the offense should only get better as the season progresses, and it should now become the strength of the team for the last six games of the season, and the postseason.

Defensively, there’s some concern. Obviously, Tre White’s injury is a thorn in the side. Brandon Beane & Co. should and will be looking for replacement options throughout the week, with street names such as Damarious Randall, EJ Gaines, and Dre Kirkpatrick available in free agency. If not, we’ll get to see Dane Jackson, Cam Lewis, and Nick McCloud do their best on the perimeter. Levi Wallace is now Corner #1 and I’m extremely excited for his opportunity. In his time in Buffalo, he’s always been in the shadow of Tre, Poyer, Hyde, and even Taron Johnson.

This is Levi Wallace’s time. He now has to play coverage on the side of WR1s across the league. In other words, rather than playing the weak side and shelling over Byron Pringle, he will now have to keep up with the Tyreek Hills, the AJ Browns, etc. and I think he has a great shot of putting his name out there in front of the NFL landscape. In conclusion, it’s time to fully lean on Hype & Pick-6 Po. With this in mind, expect a ton of mixed coverages and a bunch of deep-shell contains. Does this secondary still allow for a deep playoff run? I think so, it’s for damn sure not the #1 strength of the team, but we’ll see if the hobbled unit can get the job done soon enough. 

I was very impressed with the linebackers. Matt Milano is quietly turning into a superstar in this league. He plays sideline-to-sideline and has an unlimited motor. He has the ability to drop back in coverage and hang with top-tier TEs while also being able to bowl inside and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. I seriously think at this point, with Tre’s injury, that Milano is the best and most impactful player on the defense, and Frazier will more than likely lean on his play down the season.

Edmunds… Edmunds, Edmunds, Edmunds. There was a lot left to be desired from Pro-Bowler Tremaine Edmunds in the New Orleans game. Even with coming off an injury, he was extremely slow, both mentally and physically. Good teams with good players will pick on him in future games, New Orleans just didn’t have the weapons to do so. If Kamara played, the game could’ve been totally different. Not worried about the linebacking corps though, as Edmunds should be more productive in the coming weeks. If that unit can stay healthy and efficient, it can help the cornerback woes and boost this team far into February. 

Defensive Line time. This is the unit that must step up with Tre out. This season, Frazier hasn’t blitzed much due to the strength of his unit being the secondary. Going forward, expect way more complex blitz strategies, since Buffalo will have to get to the QB more often. Personally, I want to see more Efe Obada and Boogie Basham mixed in with pass rushers, such as Epenesa, Hughes and Rousseau. Mario Addison deserves more snaps as well. The Bills scheme might change, and for good reason. Against New England, expect a lot of 5-man fronts. Maybe Frazier throws out a Epenesa-Obada-Star-Oliver-Addison pass attack, and I think that, along with variations of it, will work.

All-in-all, the linebackers and defensive line have to step up in order for the Bills to be considered contenders. Will it work? Maybe not. At that point, we’ll need the offense to put up 35+ in games. Expect a ton of shoot-outs.

Undisciplined, Unready (15.9%)

Sean McDermott’s defense and O-Line have struggled mightily with penalties this year, and this is a huge cause for concern. Teams that shoot themselves in the foot typically get upset early in the playoffs, typically in the wild card round. This 2021 Buffalo Bills team reminds me a lot of the 2018 Seattle Seahawks. Both had super-powered offenses with banged up defenses. Both had sub-par O-Lines, and both teams struggled with penalties all year. That Seahawks team ended up losing in the wild card round to the Cowboys, and they famously screwed themselves with dumb penalties down the stretch. The moral of this story is that superstar talent isn’t everything.

My cousin made a good point the other day, you could have all “99s” on offense, but poor coaching and penalties could lead to only scoring 10 points, and this is the truth. Buffalo has to fix this, and it all falls on McDermott. Next week, the Bills face the best coached team in the league, and it will be easy to notice the difference between the squads. McDermott coaches like he’s playing Battleship, while Belichick plays chess, never crossing the median. Essentially, the Pats don’t screw themselves, and rely on teams beating themselves to win.

It’s a great aim at football, as the Bills, under Marrone, relied on this to win games in the mid-2010s. A little over 150 people see the Bills as the kind of team to be their own worst enemy, and in all honesty, I feel the same way. With the Tre injury, the Bills have to change their identity, and start playing true, winning-brand football, or else we’ll be picking in the high 20s come draft-day.

Pretenders (12.9%)

120ish people see the Bills as fakers this year, and for good reasons previously covered in this article. Buffalo is banged up, and screws themselves way too much. How can this be fixed? There may not be a solution. This swings back to the team’s identity, their makeup. Players often take dumb risks on this team that rarely pay off. Allen’s first interception, Dawkins’ jersey hold, Rousseau’s deep outside rushes, etc. These little things can’t just be fixed within the week. Oftentimes, it takes a drastic change, or weeks and months of coaching during the off-season. However, luck does exist and anything can happen come playoff time.

The season isn’t a wash, but our previous 20% chance to win the Super Bowl has definitely dwindled down to under 5%. I think next season could be huge for the Bills, as the cap will clear up and Beane & Co. could spend some serious mullah in attempts to bolster the presumed Super Bowl roster. This offseason, go get an elite guard, go trade for Christian McCaffrey, make a huge move, and more importantly, control your own destiny. However, all isn’t grim, as the Bills should still make the playoffs, as long as they split with New England. While it is apparent that this is not a Super Bowl winning team, crazier things have happened before.

Other (7.7%)

There was a ton of great feedback over my recent poll, so for the “other” section, I’m going to highlight some of the best subtweets and see what fans truly think.

@JakeButkowski: “When healthy, we are 100% contenders. Our O-Line had some struggles but we didn’t let it derail our game. Even after two picks, we didn’t fall apart. We stuck it out and kept our heads high. We can’t be beating ourselves up over bad plays.”

@ColeMcGarvy: “I think next week will decide a lot more. Saints were a wounded animal we should have taken advantage the way we did.”

@Justin838990881: “Until they beat a few more contenders, they’re just a pretender. I love this team, but they need to knock off NE twice & beat TB for me to consider them real contenders right now. Apart from KC, they’ve really got no other statement wins. They need to rack up a few more.

@DavidBBell1: “I would call the Bills undecided. We’re not really sure which team we will see as of late. Will they run the ball? Hope the O-Line plays well? Will the opponent be more physical? Etc. We have been asking ourselves the same question since the bye: Who is this team?”

@zvaughn2712: “Idk”

Thanks so much for the support both on Twitter and on the poll in the recent week. It’s great to be back in the game and putting out content! We at Buffalo Fanatics love our supporters, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you all. To be a part of future polling processes make sure to follow me on twitter @SemiAverageRigs. See y’all next week, Go Bills.

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