Last month I offered up team awards after the first quarter of the season. Ironically, those awards came immediately after the offensive and defensive unraveling against New England. The halfway point awards will be presented the week prior to another showdown with New England.
Things haven’t changed much since the New England loss.
The run defense continues to struggle and Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly cannot win football games. Might things change as the second half of the season evolves? Possibly, but only if Chan Gailey gets off his high horse and changes some of his philosophy.
1st Half MVP – CJ Spiller: Spiller was my 1st quarter MVP and nothing changes here. He is the most effective offensive player on the roster and has proven to be difficult to contain every game. What could only be if Chan Gailey actually gave him the ball.
Out of the box stat: CJ Spiller has gained over 100 yards in total offense in 10 of his last 14 games.
1st Half LVP – Aaron Williams/Ryan Fitzpatrick: Williams and Fitzpatrick have easily been the most consistently bad players on the roster. At least once a week they manage to make a ghastly mistake that plays a big part in the loss. Even the recent victories have come in spite of their performance.
Out of the box stat: Ryan Fitzpatrick is ranked 26th in yards per completion. Since being with the Bills, he's never ranked higher than 22nd.
Race for Rookie of the Year: I won’t make a determination on who Buffalo’s top rookie is until the final set of awards. However, this is really a two-horse race. Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn have been the biggest contributors and are the only two options at this point. TJ Graham and Nigel Bradham could sneak in the conversation if they begin to contribute more. Right now I give a slight edge to Glenn.
Out of the box stat: The Bills have five rookies starting (Gilmore/Glenn/Graham/Bradham/Powell) this Sunday. They haven't had this many rookies start since 2001.
Play of the 1st Half – Spiller’s screen pass TD against Cleveland: Another holdover from the first edition of these awards. It couldn’t have been much easier for Spiller on this play. He caught the ball in the flat with a convoy of blockers and plenty of green in front of him. It was a perfect example of how scary Spiller can be in space.
Out of the Box stat: Jackson/Spiller have 46 catches on the season, which would put them on pace for 92. The 46 catches are the 2nd most grabs by any RB duo next to Sproles and Thomas in New Orleans (56).
Worst Play of the 1st Half – Chris Johnson 83-yard TD: Basically the Bills run defense in a nutshell. Sure, there was a pretty blatant hold on the play, but Johnson was untouched through a massive hole for the long TD.
Out of the Box stat: The Bills' defense have given up 6.3 yards a play; ranking 31st in the NFL. They also have the worst 3rd down defense in the NFL at 46% conversion rate.
Super Mario Moment – 2 sacks, 3 tackles vs. Arizona: Williams playing with one arm, as it has since been reported, had his most electric game of the year against the Cards. In addition to his pair of sacks, Williams was a disruptive force for most of the game as he blew up a number of plays despite not actually bringing down the quarterback. Last Sunday showed a bit more flash from the post-surgery that I am actually confident that he will turn in some better performances down the stretch.
Out of the box stat: Mario Williams 4.5 sacks are the most a Bills' defensive end has had since Aaron Schobel in 2009 (10.5 sacks).
1st Quarter Defensive MVP – Jairus Byrd: Byrd is still Buffalo’s best defensive player. He has excelled in every aspect of the game and is going to be due a very significant raise this offseason.
Out of the Box Stat: Jairus Byrd has forced six turnovers (3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles). Only Charles Tillman (9) and Tim Jennings (6) have forced as or as many turnovers. Byrd also had they same number of forced turnovers last year.
1st Quarter Defensive LVP – Aaron Williams: See above.
Out of the Box stat: A lot of talk about making Williams a safety for next year. Last time the Bills had a NFL Pro (We use the term loosely with Aaron) switch from corner to safety was Troy Vincent in 2004.
Best Adjustment – Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller platoon: This adjustment isn’t even credited to the coaching staff. After alternating series against New England, the duo switched to a two series rotation and have benefited from it. In games in which the staff has stuck to the run, the duo has been nearly unstoppable…when they get the ball, of course.
Out of the Box Stat: The Bills are ranked 6th in rushing yards a game. Of the top 10 rushing teams, only the 49ers (Hunter/Gore) and the Bills have two running backs with more than 50 attempts each.
Lack of Adjustment – Abandonment of the run on a weekly basis: Chan Gailey’s lack of interest in the run game has varied each week. However, as the season has progressed, it almost seems as if he isn’t willing to ignore his favorite pet, the passing game. Despite having a dynamic running attack, it has been the passing game that has been the undoing of the Bills this season.
Out of the Box Stat: The Bills have run the 28th least amount of plays (483) in the NFL. However, they have run the ball 44% of the time which is the 11th best percentage in the league.
Best Personnel Move – Kyle Moore: A player who wasn’t considered to offer all that much, has been a pleasant surprise. He is phenomenal on the pass rush and has made a big money signing of similar stature – Mark Anderson – look like a poor investment.
Out of the Box stat: Of the Bills 15 LBs and DL on the team, eight of them have played for two or more teams.
Worst Personnel Move – John Potter: Two-straight scratches of the specialist is one too many, which obviously cost him his job.
Out of the box stat: The last time the Bills had a kickoff specialist was Brad Daluiso in 1991. He was signed after week 2 and played in every single game that season.
Question Mark – Ron Brooks: He was a draft pick despite playing behind two All-Americans at LSU. Marcell Dareus noted to me how impressed he was with Brooks during the preseason. Now that he is active, I want to see what he can offer. Might he turn into an effective nickel corner? Could he even fill in for Aaron Williams while he is injured?
Out of the box stat: Terrence McGee was the last Bills rookie drafted in the 4th round or lower to have 2 or more interceptions in a season.
#GiveUpForGeno: Maybe #BlowItForBarkley makes more sense with the USC product. Right now the 3-5 Bills are looking at four, possibly five teams who will be drafting before them this spring (Jacksonville, KC, Cleveland, Tennessee and Carolina). Who the Bills choose to pick is anyone’s guess. But based on the recent performance of this team, the playoffs are certainly out of the question.
Revisiting Predictions: I called for a 2-2 record in games against Arizona, Tennessee, San Fran and Houston. I was almost right. Terrible fourth quarter play calling doomed the Bills against the Titans in what should have been a sure victory.
Bold Prediction for the Next Quarter: Sunday might be an ugly loss. However, the next three games are certainly winnable. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Bills come away with victories against Miami, Indy and Jacksonville after dropping one to the Pats.
Out of the Box stat: Chan Gailey is 3-4 in November/December home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
**Out of the box stats brought to you by Joe P.**