Bill pumps the Bills

Bill pumps the Bills
December 26, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Bill Belichick has a way about him. Although, it’s more like two ways.

First, if you ask Belichick a question about the New England Patriots, his way is typically surly. Tempered. Unresponsive, uncomfortable and understated. For the most part, Belichick talks about his own team with the same level of jubilation and cheerfulness as Captain Phillips discussing the day he was kidnapped by Somali pirates.

However, ask Belichick about the team that his team is playing on a given Sunday and you’re speaking to a very different man. Optimistic. Opportunistic. He’s Mr. Brightsiiiiide. Suddenly, Captain Phillips becomes a psycho pop warner dad, and the upcoming Patriots’ opponent is his child. He’s blind to their faults and obsessed with their potential. He’ll try to convince you that the 2013 Jaguars are the 1986 Bears.

But here’s the thing: Belichick’s pretty persuasive. Even after all these years, and week after week of listening to him bask in the wondrous glow of the opposition. Even knowing what he’s trying to do and the picture he’s trying to paint. It’s hard not to fall into his trap:

“I’m really impressed with the way they’ve been playing, obviously the way they played last week against Miami. It’s a good football team; explosive offensively, second leading team on the ground in the league, doing a good job. They’ve got a lot of explosive players. We know about [C.J.] Spiller and Stevie Johnson, those guys, [Scott] Chandler; a good complementary group.

"Defensively a very strong unit up front, a lot of disruptive players: rush the passer, turn the ball over, second in the league in interceptions, first in the league in sacks. It’s been a highly productive group. Obviously they know our division well from Mike [Pettine] being down there with the Jets and all that. [They’ve] played well in the division: lost to us on the last play, lost to the Jets on the last possession, won three games in the division. I think it’s a good football team that’s played hard, that’s playing well and they’re tough, they’re well coached. I think Doug [Marrone] has done a really good job with them fundamentally. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, you have to go out there and beat them. When you make mistakes, they take advantage of them. We can’t afford to make too many.”

That was Belichick’s Christmas message surrounding Sunday’s Pats opponent – the Buffalo Bills. The 6-9 Buffalo Bills. The team that’s already guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the 14th straight season. The team that’s one loss away from clinching its fifth straight double-digit loss season. The team that hasn’t won a game in Foxborough since Doug Flutie outdueled John Friesz back in November of 2000, which is to say they’ve never beaten Tom Brady on the road and have never won a game at Gillette. The team that will take the field at the Razor this Sunday as 8.5-point underdogs.

Those Bills. And that Bill. Singing praises and painting a pretty picture.

Of course, Belichick isn’t entirely full of it. There is some truth to the webs that he weaves. Are the Bills “the second leading team on the ground in the league”? Yes, they are. Only the Eagles have run for more yards this season. Then again, no one has run as many times as Buffalo. They’re the only team in the league with more than 500 rush attempts. If you break it down by yards per attempt, the Bills only rank 16th in the NFL. Tied with the Pats at 4.2 yards per carry. And the reason they run so much? Because they pass so poorly. Only the Jets, 49ers and Buccaneers have thrown for fewer yards. No team is averaging fewer yards per pass play (6.3). Only the Bucs, Jets and Browns are completing a lower percentage. Basically, the Bills boast the kind of one-dimensional offense that a Belichick defense typically feasts on.

Is Buffalo “second in the league in interceptions”? Yes, but they’re also third in the AFC in passing touchdowns allowed. Do they force turnovers on defense? Yes, well, obviously considering that interception stat. The Bills are tied with the Patriots for second in the AFC with 29 takeaways this season. But their overall +/- is 2, so they do make a lot of mistakes. And while, yes, the Bills are effective against the pass, they struggle against the run. They rank 23rd in yards allowed. They rank 20th in yards allowed per carry. Before last week’s shutout over Miami, the Bills allowed back-to-back 100 yard rushing games to Jordan Todman and Bobby Rainey.

Listen, I’m not trying to hate on the Bills. I’m not trying to disrespect the Bills. They are a solid team. They can’t be taken lightly. They’ve played a ton of close games, and like Belichick suggests, they’re 6-9 record could very easily be 7-8 or 8-7 or who knows. The Bills are 6-9 but only have an overall point differential of -35. The Jets are 7-8 and have a point differential of -110. I’m just saying: They are 6-9. And there are reasons that go beyond bad bounces and a few late game missteps.

And with a first round bye on the line, despite the Kool Aid being served up by Mr. Brightside, this is a game that the Pats should win and need to win, and if they don’t, no amount of spin will make it OK.