Joe Pinzone, who heads up the Buffalo Bills and Sabres blog Buffalo Wins, has joined us for this week’s question and answer exchange. My answers to Joe's questions are on his site here. Following are Joe’s answers to my questions.
Total Titans: How is this Bills team different from the one the Titans played last year? In what areas are they improved? Where have they declined?
Buffalo Wins: I think they have improved in the defensive line department with the addition of Mario Williams. The Bills have 15 sacks on the season, which is a number they didn't get to last year until week 10. However, they have been very inconsistent. In their three wins, the team had only given up 5 touchdowns and sacked the QB 14 times. In their three losses, they have given up 16 touchdowns and sacked the QB once. If you want an improved player from last year, I'd go with CJ Spiller. He played nicely last year against you guys, but now he's really taken it to another level. He's averaging 7.6 yards a carry and his vision has improved immensely. He looks like Chris Johnson did a few years back. As far as decline goes, I have to say secondary. The Bills decided to go younger at cornerback position this year (Cutting Drayton Florence and starting two corners with 6 starts to their credit) and you can see the growing pains on the field. 2nd year man Aaron Williams has been a disaster. He's been picked on constantly by opposing defenses to the point they took him out on certain key passing down situations. 1st round pick Stephon Gilmore has been the better of the two with his aggressive coverage skills, but he's still inconsistent. Now, the CBs aren't the worst unit on the team, as the LBs have always sucked.
TT: The Bills are in a four-way tie for the AFC East lead. Are you surprised? Optimistic? Where do you see this season headed?
BW: I'm all over the place. They are tied for the lead, mainly due to other teams in the division struggling. From The Buffalo News, The Bills are ranked 21st on offense, 31st on defense, a combined total (52) that’s last in the AFC East. Only three teams in the NFL are worse in combined yardage rankings — Tennessee (60), Cleveland (55) and Jacksonville (55). Buffalo is tied with Tampa Bay, which had a plus-19 point differential while the Bills were minus-55. In a nutshell, the Bills have beaten average teams and have been crushed by great teams. I do believe though the defense is much better than this. They have talent there and I just think Dave Wannstedt (Defensive coordinator) hasn't produced a decent enough scheme. Offensively, they can run the football with Spiller/Jackson, but can't pass worth a damn. I still think the division is New England's and they are only a bad bounce or two from being 6-0.
TT: What's up with Ryan Fitzpatrick? Was re-signing him to a seven-year contract a mistake?
BW: Um, yeah! It was buyer's remorse. I don't blame them for re-signing him. Before he got his deal, Fitz had started 21 games and passed for 38 touchdowns. I was saying they needed to extend him. It has been so long since the Bills have had a competent QB, fans (Myself included) were just so desperate for one that if you showed any progress, we'd give you the key to the city. However, since the deal, it has been all down hill. In his last 15 starts, he has 24 interceptions. His completion percentage this year is around 57% and it has just become so nerve racking when he attempts a pass. If you want to defend Fitzpatrick, you take away his underneath routes and make him beat you deep. He can't throw the football more than 15-yards. He is just inaccurate. He'll miss throws that a college kid could make and frankly, I think it has gone to his head. He's lost his confidence.
TT: Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller – over or under 200 yards combined rushing against the Titans?
BW: Hmm. I'd say no. 200 yards are a lot of yards. I will say this, there's been some controversy about the way the Bills have used their running backs this year. The Bills still haven't figured out how to split the carries effectively. When CJ Spiller came on at the start of this year, it was due in large part cause Jackson was out of the lineup. Before he got hurt last year, Jackson was a possible MVP candidate and on pace for 2,000 yards from scrimmage, and he did it all when Spiller was riding the bench. A lot of fans want Spiller to play more over Jackson because he's a breakaway threat and been more impressive this year, but, I still think Jackson is nursing his injury from earlier this season and would like to see what he can do when he's 100%. Last week, the backs combined for 151 yards, which was the most the duo has had when they both carried the ball more than 10 times in a game. Again, they are still working it out.
TT: It doesn't have anything to do with this game, but what do you anticipate for the Bills post Ralph Wilson? Will they remain in Buffalo or move to Los Angeles/London/Toronto?
BW: I have no clue. I'd say I'm worried. Ralph has refused to sell the team while he is still alive and by law, when he dies, the team goes up for public auction. That worries me because we all know LA has a hard on for the NFL. The thing about the Buffalo market is that we don't have a lot of corporations to buy up luxury boxes like in LA. We will never get a new stadium because costs for those boxes would skyrocket and there's no way an owner would make their money back off a 1 billion dollar stadium. Plus, New York State is so in debt, it is not even funny. You also have to take into account that we have the cheapest tickets in the NFL. I don't think the NFL likes that. They are greedy. On the other hand, there's a number of rumors about people who want to keep the club here. We will see what happens. I'm skeptical more than I am positive.
TT: If there's anything else you'd like for Titans fans to know about the Bills, what is it? Any predictions for the game?
BW: I like the Bills in this one. I just think playing at home and you guys being last in a number of important categories will help us. Plus, I think we have a talent for beating average teams. 26-17.
Thanks again to Joe for doing this with us. For more Bills content and opinion, you can read what Joe and his colleagues write on Buffalo Wins.