A column by Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock
Back in the early days of Saturday Night Live, the late Gilda Radner, as Roseanne Roseannadanna, would muse to Jane Curtin, “… It’s always something … if it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
That’s become the story of the Bills this season, be it a turnover-fest against the Jets, a rash of critical defensive injuries or a near season-destroying loss to the undermanned Giants at Orchard Park.
And this week it’s, well, Josh Allen’s throwing shoulder.
If that’s a surprise to you, it is to a lot of the team’s faithful.
In the second half of last Sunday’s embarrassingly-difficult win over New York, NFL observers called down to the field and had Allen report to the medical “blue tent.”
The assumption was that the Bills quarterback might have suffered a concussion when he hit his head on the turf the previous play but, as it turns out, he had also hurt his right shoulder a play earlier.
In the post-game press conference, Allen said he’d just had an x-ray which was supposedly negative.
Still, during the week he was “limited” at practice but emphasized the injury was more “pain management (than risk management)” and pointed out “It’s feeling pretty good.”
Coach Sean McDermott was a bit more cautious saying, “Right now it’s more of a one-day-at-a-time approach.”
WHAT’S certain is this.
With Josh at quarterback, the Bills are 8½-point favorites, the longest odds on the board this week. He practiced fully Thursday and Friday, but watch what happens to that line if Buffalo’s QB suddenly becomes KYLE Allen.
Still, this the Patriots’ worst season, 1-5, in coach Bill Belichick’s illustrious 24-year career with New England, highlighted by nine trips to the Super Bowl including six wins.
Currently the Pats are on a three-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 93-20. They rank second-to-last in the league in offensive yardage and 24th in yards surrendered. The Patriots are averaging an AFC-low 12 points a game.
But as McDermott pointed out last week, playing a supposedly inferior opponent, “our concern isn’t them … it’s us.”
Ditto this week.
ALL THAT 14-9 loss to the Giants did was re-expose the Bills’ vulnerabilities.
It starts on defense where the loss for the season of cornerback Tre’Davious White (Achilles), outside linebacker Matt Milano (broken leg) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (pectoral muscle) , in consecutive weeks, have been particularly punitive.
Dane Jackson (foot), who replaced White, missed last Sunday’s game due to the injury and this week he’s practiced fully while the corner who replaced him against New York, 2022 first-round draft choice Kaiir Elam, has been limited due to an ankle problem.
Buffalo’s depth at defensive tackle has mitigated Jones’ loss except that this week Ed Oliver hasn’t practiced with a toe injury.
Meanwhile, neither veteran Tyrel Dodson nor rookie third-round draft choice Dorian Williams has done an impressive imitation of Milano’s skills.
BUFFALO’S issues on offense are predicated on receiving.
In six games, Allen has thrown 177 completions, 49 (28 percent) of them to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, six for touchdowns. Twenty-one have gone to Gabriel Davis for four scores. Buffalo’s other three wideouts — Deonte Harty, Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield — have a combined 21 catches for two TDs. That hardly gives Allen three dependable targets.
And the tight ends have provided little help. No. 1 draft choice, Dalton Kincaid, who was supposed to open up opposing defenses with his speed and size via mismatch has 17 receptions and no scores in five games while starter Dawson Knox has 14 in six starts with one touchdown.
In short, the Bills’ hopes for a dominant two-tight-end attack haven’t come close to materializing
Thanks to injuries on defense, and some questionable play-calling and dubious coaching offensively, even at 4-2, this isn’t the Buffalo team most observers expected to see this season.
In six games, the Bills have mustered three solid performances — versus the Raiders, Commanders and Dolphins in consecutive weeks — and three lousy ones, losses to the Jets at the Meadowlands and Jaguars in London and last Sunday’s “phew” last-play win against the Giants.
SO WHAT do we expect Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium (1 o’clock, CBS-TV)?
It’s not a stretch to suggest the Pats are the AFC’s worst team.
But Belichick hasn’t won 299 NFL games because he doesn’t know how to respond to adversity. And he won’t be outcoached.
He recognizes this is a flawed team with areas that can be exploited and last week against New York proved the NFL axiom about “any given Sunday.”
But the reality is, Buffalo is the more talented team, even with an injured Josh Allen at quarterback.
If Josh plays,
Bills 24, Patriots 20
If Kyle Allen is QB
New England 16, Buffalo 13
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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