Great article today on the Bills on MSN FOX Sports
http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/7559 ... >1=10734
Young Bills defying the odds
FOXSports.com, Updated 7 hours ago Updated: December 14, 2007, 1:25 AM EST comments
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OK, so who predicted the Buffalo Bills would be in the thick of the chase for the final playoff spot in the AFC?
One of the magnificent coaching jobs in the NFL this year is what Dick Jauron is doing in lovely Western New York.
In a season headlined by a flurry of major injuries starting with a near death on the field, a quarterback carousel and the possibility of playing regular-season games in Canada, Buffalo is playing meaningful games in December.
Is Buffalo one of the six most talented teams in the AFC? Absolutely not. Most scouts tell you the Bills' talent is toward the bottom of the conference, especially when you tally the injured players and the subsequent lack of depth. There are critics who question how good the Bills actually are, as their seven wins are all against teams with sub-.500 records. Buffalo has beaten the Jets twice, Miami twice, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Washington. And with the exception of Miami, the Bills don't beat up anyone.
Dick Jauron's Buffalo Bills were outscored by 79-24 in an 0-3 start but have won seven of 10 since. ( / Getty Images)
I respond to those critics by asking you to look at every single game Buffalo has won. Who did you pick to win? Did you pick the Ravens? Did you ever pick the Jets? How about the Bengals? I know you picked Washington. Everyone did.
The savvy, universally respected and always-honest Jauron is a brilliant leader of men. He gets players to play hard. As a former great player, he understands their needs. As a Yale graduate, Jauron uses his knowledge to put his players in a position to succeed. Calling a season total overachievement is the best thing you can ever say about a coach. His demeanor and his quest for his players to work hard and respect the game doesn't change. Jauron's consistency is a strength.
Consider what has transpired during the campaign.
In a nip-and-tuck affair which resulted in a last-second loss to Denver on opening day, tight end Kevin Everett suffered a severe spinal cord injury. The injury was life- threatening. Doctors feared he would never walk again. Thankfully, he is making a recovery at a rehabilitation center in Houston.
And that was just the start. The injury list has grown all year.
Starting cornerback Jason Webster went down in September. Tackling machine Paul Posluszny, my preseason pick for defensive rookie of the year, broke his left forearm in the third week of the season in a loss to New England. Posluszny had nine tackles against Denver in Week 1 and 12 vs. the Steelers in the second week. Young safety Ko Simpson is on injured reserve. Back-up running back Anthony Thomas is done for the season; same with versatile lineman Jason Whittle and receiver Peerless Price. Al Wallace was supposed to help at defensive end. You guessed it, injured reserve.
And this doesn't even take into account the weekly injuries. Marshawn Lynch was having a highly productive rookie season, showing off his speed, power and versatility while living up to the hype of being the 12th overall pick. A severely sprained left ankle forced him to miss three straight games before returning to run over the Dolphins last weekend. Lynch was absent for the Bills' ugly Sunday Night Football loss to the Patriots. Plus, sturdy defensive end Chris Kelsay has been hobbled with a left ankle injury.
Then, there are the injuries and issues at quarterback.
J.P. Losman finished last year with a bang, throwing the deep ball to Lee Evans while minimizing turnovers. He, and the Bills players, believed that the former first-round pick from a prior regime was about to maximize his upside.
After poor play and indecision plagued Losman early, he got hurt when a Patriots player rolled up on him early in Week 3.
Trent Edwards, a big, strong-armed, smart rookie who looks and acts the part took over. Edwards is a Stanford graduate who was personally recommended to Jauron and general manager Marv Levy by the late Bill Walsh. They seized the moment and nabbed him in the third round of the draft. You could see instantly in practice Edwards had the 'it' factor.
Edwards started in Week 4 and beat the Jets for Buffalo's first win. The rookie played well and held onto the job until Week 8, when he got hurt late in the Jets rematch. Losman took over, hit Lee Evans on a late bomb to seal the game, and reclaimed the job for four weeks while Edwards healed. Buffalo went 2-2, beating Cincy and Miami, then getting blown out by New England. Jauron opted to start Losman in Jacksonville for continuity, even when it appeared Edwards was pretty close to being ready. It was the right move as you couldn't overreact to the New England drubbing. But Losman reverted to his careless ways against the Jags, and Jauron named Edwards the starter for the rest of the way.
Usually, a team divides when you have situations at your most important position. Jauron, though, handled the juggling with aplomb as he dealt with the quarterbacks, their teammates and the media. You never heard a peep from anyone, including Losman and the speedster Evans, a budding star whose numbers have dropped this season as a result of the situation.
The week of the senseless tragedy of Sean Taylor's murder, Buffalo played in Washington with a rookie quarterback and a third-string running back named Fred Jackson out of somewhere named Coe College.
And the Bills won.
At the end of the game, Joe Gibbs committed the ultimate gaffe, calling back-to-back timeouts to freeze outstanding kicker Rian Lindell. That's a no-no and a 15-yard penalty, bringing Lindell to a 36-yard chip shot. In talking to Jauron, he made sure to mention how Lindell's first kick would've been good from 56 yards. It was his classy way of attempting to absolve Gibbs of blame.
Jauron constantly credits his players and assistants when he wins. He shoulders all blame when they lose. In the wild MNF loss to the Cowboys, in a game Buffalo should've upset Dallas, Jauron and the Bills got very aggressive instead of kicking a late field goal to go up two scores. Edwards got picked on an ill-fated third-down pass and it was returned for a touchdown. It was a terrible call. Jauron took full responsibility and explained his thinking.
Will the Bills finish 7-9, 10-6, or somewhere in between? I have no idea. Frankly, you don't either. Can they beat the Browns in Cleveland? Will they drop the Giants at home? Can they close the season winning in Philadelphia? Who knows?
I think Buffalo is ready for this huge spot in Cleveland.
Edwards is coming off of his best and most explosive game of the season. Evans can burn the Browns deep. Jason Peters is playing at a Pro Bowl level at tackle and deserves to go across the water to Hawaii. Lynch and Jackson should run well behind Jim McNally's offensive line. Everyone moves the ball on Cleveland.
Cleveland's offense is simply explosive. But Buffalo does boast a star end in Aaron Schobel, a lock-down corner in Terrence McGee and a budding star at safety in Donte Whitner (yes, I was one of those who killed Jauron and company for taking the former Ohio State star with the eighth overall pick in 2006).
The Bills might win. They might not.
But they will never be ill-prepared. Dick Jauron won't let that happen.
It's playoff time in Mike Florio's profootballtalk.com media challenge, where I am thrilled to report I finished higher than my guy Adam Schefter from the NFL Network.
In my SNY league last week, NFL executive producer Will OToole and I drubbed SNY president Steve Raab in the first round of the playoffs. That's what he gets for calling us out in a mandatory staff meeting (one of these days I'll show up).
Updated: December 14, 2007, 1:25 AM EST comments
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But the controversy in the league stems from esteemed commish Brett Ehrlich, who out of nowhere says teams can only pick up one player per week during the playoffs and higher seed gets "home-field advantage" for being better in the regular season. So we were down 4-0 before a game was played last week. We are down 6-0 this week! Have you ever heard of anything like this?
Plus, Marc Bulger is our QB. Last week we picked up and started the Bills D over the Steelers in New England. Brilliant move. Except that on Friday, Bulger backed out. It's a 14-team league. A.J. Feeley was our back-up. So we took a zero at QB and still won! (Raab started Vince Young).
This week we start Trent Edwards vs. Cleveland. We just picked him up. Oh, yeah, we play the No. 1 seed owned by Greg Stangel who has Tom Brady against the Jets. It was a good ride.