The Washington Redskins face AFC East teams on a four-year cycle. We last saw the Buffalo Bills in a memorable 2007 game after the tragic death of Sean Taylor in a contest noted for the missing man kick-off and the NFL's earliest look at running back Fred Jackson who has blown up under Coach Chan Gauley's guidance. Redskins Hog Heaven turns to Bloguin colleague Joey Pinzone, the talent behind the Buffalo Wins blog to tell us everything about the 2011 Bills.
Redskins Hog Heaven: Two words: Chan Gailey. Your reaction?
Buffalo Wins: Gailey has really surprised me since he was hired as coach last year. I wasn't happy about the hiring because the guy was fired from 3 of his last 4 jobs and we had a month long coaching search, in which a number of candidates said "no" to us. However, he's turned around an offense that didn't have a 3,000 yard passer or a QB throw for over 20 touchdowns since 2002 (Which were surpassed last year). He's taken two former 7th round picks in Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick and made them into key components for the offense. Besides Andy Levitre and a Eric Wood (offensive linemen), the rest of the personnel on offense are either 7th round choices or undrafted players. Yes, he has turned chicken s#it into chicken salad.
RHH: Be honest, did you expect this start by the Bills? Give me two reasons why they are off to such a strong start.
BW: Of course not! I thought this team would win 5 or 6 games this year. The defense gave up a ton of yards, but has forced a lot of turnovers. They have already surpassed their interception total from last year (12) and have forced 16 turnovers over all. They also have 3 defensive touchdowns. They also have the distinction of forcing Tom Brady and Mike Vick to throw 4 interceptions each. Try finding a team that accomplished that. The other reason is that the offense has been able to move the ball on opposing teams by either rushing or passing. Fred Jackson has been the catalyst for the team as he's accounted for almost 33% of the team's total yards.
RHH: My impression of Buffalo is small market team in economically stressed area that hampers Ralph Wilson's ability to keep good players like London Fletcher and Lee Evans. Is that a correct assessment? How does Wilson sustain the Bills' current success?
BW: Yeah, we constantly hear about how the Bills are pretty careful when it comes to spending money. There were a ton of rumors that surrounded the reason why the team traded Evans. Some thought it was about economics. Some thought it had to do with his performance (IMO, he's very overrated). Some thought Lee asked to get traded. Money will always be a factor for the Bills. At times, Wilson has seemed to be a little envious of the large market teams. He use to always complain how teams like Washington/Dallas could charge anything they wanted for luxury boxes. I'm hoping since the new CBA was signed, which Wilson applauded in public, will help the team out. Right now, the Bills have three players that they need to get under contract. Fitz and Stevie Johnson are free agents after this season and from what I heard, they are still negotiating with Fitz, but haven't started with Stevie Johnson. Fred Jackson has another year left on his deal, but he's underpaid (2-million annually) and has complained about wanting a raise.
RHH: Why are we playing this game in Toronto? Is that a neutral site or Bill-friendly site?
BW: A lot of Bills fans are asking the same question. The main reason has to do with the Bills making 78-million dollars for hording out 8 games (5 regular season and 3 preseason) to the Toronto people. It is nothing but a cash grab for the team. As I wrote earlier, the Bills are a small market and want to do everything they can to compete, even though I think they can do that with all the money the NFL makes. The Bills have claimed that the reason why they are doing this game in Canada has to do with trying to expand the fan base. The Bills have always been a team that loves regionalism, from Rochester (45 minutes from Buffalo) to Toronto (75 minutes from Buffalo). Now, I don't want it to sound too awful when it comes to the interest in Canada. I know that 15,000 season ticket holders are from Ontario, at least that's what the Bills say. So, there are fans in Canada. However, when the deal was first announced, Rogers Communication (The company that is giving the Bills 78-million) announced that tickets were going to run between 100-250 bucks. That didn't go all that well in Toronto.
As for Buffalo, no one likes the deal here. On paper, it is suppose to be a Bills home game, but it is not even close. It is a neutral site game. For the most part, the crowd of 50,000, who mostly got their tickets for half price because they aren't selling, keeps their hands on their knees and don't really cheer. I assure you, John Beck won't have to go into a silent count. Maybe the crowd will be different this year, as the Bills are much better than in years past. The Bills combined record when entering the Toronto game has been 10-20. Oh, and they haven't won a regular season game there yet.
RHH: What do travelling Redskins fans need to know about crossing the Canadian border and reentering the United States?
BW: Bring your Birth certificate or passport. Also, don't get drunk and try and cross the border. Oh, and be sure to drink Canadian beer. Labatt Blue or Molson Canadian are the sh#t. Lastly, check out the strip clubs. A+++
RHH: Buffalo's offense is well-ahead of the defense. How have teams attacked your D?
BW: Pick your poison when it comes to attacking the defense. Offenses have done whatever they wanted against us. We have given up 400 yards or more in total offense for five straight games. For the most part, teams have been attacking us through the air, as the pass defense is giving up 284 yards a game. The biggest reason for the pass defense stinking has to do with a lack of a pass rush. The Bills only have four sacks this year. Yes, FOUR SACKS! We can't get pressure to save our lives. Also, a lot of teams have picked on Leodis McKelvin, a former 1st round pick, who has not lived up to expectations. As for the run defense, they are a little better than last year's unit, which was ranked last, but they have still given up 5 yards a carry. However, teams don't really attempt to rush the ball against the Bills, as opposing teams have only attempted to rush the ball 26 times a game (Which ranks 15th). I guess what I'm trying to say is that teams have options against our defense.
RHH: Surely Fred Jackson has some sort of Kryptonite weakness. What is it?
BW: Nothing. Fred is running angry right now. He's on pace for over 2,200 yards in total offense. Going back to last year, Jackson has over 100-yards in total offense in 10 of his last 14 games. He's been the key cog for the Bills offense. He's as versatile as they come. He can catch the ball well, he can pound it inside, he can block and he's a team leader. His vision is what really makes him such a great back. He always seems to find the right hole to punch through.
RHH: Your prediction for the game and the rest of the Bills' season?
BW: I think the Bills win, 20-7. The Skins are battling the injury bug and I just can't see John Beck making the Bills pay defensively. As for the rest of the season, it's interesting because this is very new to Bills fans. There still seems to be some skepticism in the air because the team has gone 11 years without the playoffs and the 5-1 start from 2008, which ended in a 7-9 record, is still fresh in our minds. Plus, the Bills are doing it with a lot of late round and undrafted picks, which adds to the "Are they really this good?" rhetoric. I think the team can finish 10-6 or 11-5.