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Bills Thursday Night Football Recap: When in doubt, punt. November 13, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Football, Sports.
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Let’s not mince words – the Bills did not put on a great performance last night. Teams don’t usually punt 8 times in a winning effort, nor do they usually give up 26 yards in sacks or fail to convert a single time on fourth down. In fact, the Jets outdid the Bills in just about every category: more first downs, more yards passing, more total yards, and fewer penalties. Still, when it came down to scoring, the Bills got it done; although the Jets’ Randy Bullock scored first with an anemic 29-yard field goal, and the Bills’ Dan Carpenter missed his first extra point, the Bills controlled the middle of the game with 22 straight points from 5:47 of the second to the Jets’ first touchdown at 4:39 of the third.

Rex Ryan’s questionable use of a challenge flag early in the game to try (and fail) to get a ball re-spotted didn’t hurt as much as one would have expected, nor did the fact that he had used his third timeout by 10:46 of the fourth.

Ryan’s use of punter Colton Schmidt was also head-scratching at times. I’m well aware that Ryan is a defensive-minded coach, and a strengths-based leadership model demands that he continue doing what he does well. However, five of Colton’s nine punt attempts came with three or fewer yards to go; in fact, the Bills didn’t go for it at all on fourth down, with the only credited attempt being Schmidt’s bobble of the long snap and subsequent fumble recovery. Schmidt has never thrown or rushed, but I was dying for one of those 4th and short punt calls to be a fake and just send Schmidt scrambling for the first down. In a 22-17 game with 0:35 left in regulation, bringing Schmidt out to punt from the Buffalo 42 with 3 to go was a confusing decision that I was sure would result in a fake for the first down. Instead, a Garrett Sanderson holding penalty gave the Jets great field position anyway, and it was only Bacarri Rambo‘s interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave the Bills the chance to kneel down.

This was a different Jets team – rather than relying on their kicking game, the Bills were able to keep the Jets deep in their own zone and prevent them from kicking the ball. By the time the Jets were able to get into field goal position again, they were behind 22-3 and needed to go for it at every opportunity.

The Bills won’t gain any momentum from this win – their next game will be on the 23rd for Monday Night Football at New England. The Patriots enter this weekend 8-0 and will take on a 5-4 Giants team in New Jersey. The Bills lost to the Patriots 40-32 at home in week 2, and this will be a tough game for them.

The Jets will head to Houston on the 22nd to face a Texans team that enters this weekend 3-5 against the 8-0 Bengals. Since the Bills’ wild card hopes are dependent on overtaking the Jets, week 11 will be a challenge: hopefully the Texans can rise up and the Bills can tighten that margin against the Patriots, but I’ll settle for 1 of 2.

Thursday Night Bills Preview for November 12, 2015 November 12, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Football, Sports.
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Randy Bullock, during happier times

Randy Bullock, during happier times

Tonight, the Bills take the field on CBS in a crucial division game. The Jets (5-3) are currently the #1 wildcard in the AFC, while the Bills (4-4) are one slot behind them, leading the also-rans behind the #2 wildcard Steelers. It’s …. not inconceivable that the Bills could take the AFC East, but it would require them to overtake the 8-0 Patriots; much easier to just knock out the Jets.

In 8 games, the Jets have an overall score of 200-162 for a point differential of 38 and an average margin of victory of 4.8 points. (Pro Football Reference uses ‘margin of victory’ as differential/games, so toting up just the victories would give a larger number.) The Bills, meanwhile, have outscored their opponents 209-190, for a point differential of 19 and a margin of victory of 2.4 points. The Bills are 10th in the NFL for points scored, but as far as the AFC, no team with a record above .500 has allowed more points. (Only the Giants have allowed more points and have a winning record; the Falcons are 6-3 and match the Bills’ 190 points exactly. Each of those teams has played one more game than the Bills.)

One recent development that leans strongly in favor of the Bills is the loss of kicker Nick Folk. 25-year-old punter Ryan Quigley kicked four extra points, but he’s never so much as attempted a field goal. The Jets signed freely available talent Randy Bullock, who was waived by Houston after missing 2 of 5 extra point attempts and missing a key field goal in the second quarter against Tampa Bay. Though the Texans won the game, he missed that kick when they were down 9-7 with 1:35 left in the half; that had to be demoralizing.

Folk wasn’t exactly lights out either – he’d missed field goals of 40, 48, and 49 yards this season. The Jets have been quite reliant on their kicking game, though – 48 of their 200 points have come from field goals, and 19 from extra point tries. The Bills, in contrast, have made 22 of 23 extra point attempts and 9 of 11 field goals, having scored fewer points off kicker Dan Carpenter and more points overall than the Jets. The Bills have 11 rushing touchdowns and 13 receiving, as opposed to the Jets’ 8 rushing TDs and 15 receiving.

If the Bills’ defense can take advantage of the loss of a reliable kicker and force the Jets to keep the ball on the ground, this game is very winnable.