Insiders

Bills and Redskins Have Resurrected Their Seasons

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As humans, we tend to act like, ya know, humans, especially when it comes to sports. Sometimes we fall victim to over-analyzing every play, every drive, every quarter, and every game. After the first two weeks of the season, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins fans fell under this category. Both teams got off to rough 0-2 starts, which caused both fan bases to become pessimistic. By the same token, the doubts were fair to say the least. Last year, the Redskins won the NFC East for the first time in three years with a record of 9-7 and no one truly knew what to expect from the Buffalo Bills.

One month later, both teams have experienced improbable turnarounds as the Bills and Redskins are currently on four-game winning streaks. When looking back on Buffalo’s first two games, maybe we should’ve never overreacted. After all, the Bills lost their first two games by a combined total of 12 points. In their first contest against the Baltimore Ravens, they were unable to get things going from an offensive perspective, as they were able to only muster up one touchdown. In complete contrast to their season opener, Rex Ryan’s squad lost to his former team in a 37-31 shootout at home.

Nonetheless, as mentioned before, Buffalo’s fortunes had a complete 180 degree turn. It all started when the Bills shocked the football world after defeating the high-powered Arizona Cardinals to the tune of 33-18, and then Buffalo went into Foxborough to take down the hated New England Patriots 16-0. That was the first time the Patriots were shutout inside Gillette Stadium and the first time they didn’t score for an entire game since 2006. Granted, there was no Tom Brady, but New England still went 3-1 during his absence.

From that point on, Buffalo went on to take down two NFC West foes; the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. Considering Buffalo is on such a streak, one would assume Ryan is boasting about his team because that’s what he does. Well, not anymore, for now at least.

“We’re trying to win this game, period,” he said before the Niners game. “I can tell you that 100 percent of our attention and our focus is to try to accomplish that. But playoffs, anything like that, we’re not even close to that. And as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve still got a lot of dirt on us from opening up the season [and] losing those first two games.”

Following the 45-16 drumming of San Francisco, Ryan kept it even keel.

“I don’t know about all that other [playoff] jazz for us,” Ryan stressed. “We lined up to play this week. We put absolutely everything into winning this one game, not thinking about anything else on the horizon. That’s where our focus was, and we accomplished our goal.”

Ever since Ryan decided to fire offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the Bills have placed their focus on the rushing attack. During the winning streak, LeSean McCoy has rushed for 470 yards to go along with six total touchdowns. 

“We don’t have to throw it 50 times a game,” Ryan stated. “And quite honestly, if we throw it 50 times a game, we’re getting beat and getting beaten badly.”

As Buffalo prepares for their next challenge against the pesky Dolphins, we’ll learn more about this ball club before Thanksgiving. Their next four games are against Miami, New England, Seattle and Cincinnati.

Correspondingly, the Redskins (0-2) start felt different. Unlike Buffalo, there were real expectations around the DMV area for Jay Gruden’s bunch. Sure, they won the east with a slightly above average record of (9-7), but after not coming to terms with quarterback Kirk Cousins, many expected him to come out blazing to prove himself. Well, that was far from the case.

The former Michigan State standout threw three picks after the first two games, but what was even more troubling is how poorly Washington’s defense performed. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins allowed a total of 65 points. Even in their first win versus the Giants, they allowed 27 points.

Gruden attested to his team’s mental toughness after the (0-2) start.

“Well, it shows that they put in the work and they’re resilient and we understand situational football pretty good, the importance of each down and the next down. We can overcome things that happen. You know, we gave up a kickoff return and then an interception return back-to-back. Guys staying resilient. Just kept working, kept grinding. That’s pretty much the motto of our team right now.”

Not only has Cousins got better with time, the major improvement has been on the defensive side of the ball. In the midst of the winning streak, Washington’s defense hasn’t allowed one second half touchdown. Yes, you read that correctly.

“They’ve been outstanding, they have,” Gruden admitted. “And they’re doing it a lot of different ways. They’ve mixed up their coverages and stunts and stopped the run game better in the second half. We give up some big plays, but they bend but don’t break and hold to field goals, which is excellent. There’s some opportunities there where they could have really got back in the game and made it really interesting but we kept that 10, seven-point cushion which was huge by holding them to field goals. So, defensive coordinator, defensive players, they’re doing a great job of executing.”

Just like Buffalo, the Redskins will show us what they’re made of over the next few weeks as they have teams such as Detroit, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Green Bay and Dallas on the horizon.

At the end of the day, there’s not doubt both teams have potential to become playoff bound, but I believe the stiff schedules will catch up with them.

Only time will tell.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.