So I logged into facebook tonight and found out Apple founder Steve Jobs and Civil Rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth died today. While I’m not certain my life has not been affected by their works, I am positive I didn’t know so many people I know knew of them and were, by the sound of it, deeply moved by their passing.
I, on the other hand, continue to go through life not pretending like they were more than commonly searched Google terms.
Here’s what really matters to me on this day: the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. I mean, come on. How can this not be important? Who would have thought in August or even September this game would matter?
I did. Every Bills game matters the same to me. Whether it’s versus the New England Patriots – who’d beaten my team twice a year since I was in high school prior to the Bills’ recent win two weeks ago – or the Cincinnati Bengals, a Bills game is a Bills game. A win is a win.
(And I don’t know if “Cincinnati” is spelled correctly. Spell check isn’t flagging it, which makes me profoundly uncomfortable.)
But here we are, in week five of the 2011 season. The Bills – expected to do nothing this year – are 3-1 and atop what is arguably the NFL’s toughest division, the AFC East. The Eagles – expected to do everything this year – are 1-3 and basically the bottom feeders of division everyone thought was wonderful 365 days ago, the NFC East.
Who needs this game more?
Without question, the Bills do – and those aren’t simply words swayed by a Bills fan who’s gone blind due to bias. Their division foes, New England and the New York Jets, are lurking in the shadows, waiting to be the teams everyone knows they are. Sure, they’re behind the Bills right now, but a few more games like the Bills put forth against Cincinnati (there’s that word again) and they’ll be right where everyone though they should be: a hiccup above the currently winless Miami Dolphins.
The Eagles, on the other hand, can afford to lose. The Cowboys suck. The Giants can only hope to be labeled sporadic. The Redskins? They won’t finish .500. The Eagles and their plethora of talent will catch fire, eventually, and it will happen in plenty of time to make the playoffs.
I made the mistake of predicting the Patriots to beat Buffalo in week 3 despite my gut instinct. I won’t make that mistake again. In fact, I’m going to practically repeat my individual predictions for that contest this time around.
Mind you, it’s Thursday … and it’s time to start getting pumped the f*** up for Sunday.
The Bills linebackers will put up big numbers. I know, I know. How do linebackers put up “big numbers?” It’s an awful cliché, but I reckon you know what I mean. Shawne Merriman, Andra Davis, Nick Barnett … look for them to have big days. Don’t be shocked if the DBs make some key stops as well: they’ll all be facing Michael Vick, who is the only real threat (albeit a big one) the Eagles’ offense has. The proven recipe for stopping Vick has been blitzing the crap out of him. If the Bills do this, perhaps they can give his hand a bloody concussion. Woof!
LeSean McCoy will have a monster game … according to an Andy Reid offense’s standards. McCoy alone can beat a team set on stopping Vick, but Reid – the guy who passes on first down practically every series – won’t allow it. Expect close to 100 yards on the ground from McCoy.
C.J. Spiller will have at least 100 all-purpose yards; Brad Smith will have more than 16. The cat’s out of the bag when it comes to Fred Jackson. Guys will be keying on him. I can’t help but notice the added attention Spiller and Smith received from the media and coaching staff prior to Sunday’s game against the Bengals. They will get more touches in the contest and will, more than likely, live up to their massive contracts. They’ll be needed.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will be intercepted twice. But don’t let that fool you into thinking he won’t be effective. Extra time in the pocket afforded by the Eagles’ defense, crippled by a pass rush riddled with injuries (Trent Cole in particular), will likely make Fitzpatrick think he can complete throws he can’t. Expect the highly-skilled defensive backfield to have their way with Buffalo’s no-name receivers. Even Stevie Johnson will be fooled.
Players will talk about the homefield advantage in the post-game press conferences. This has been a common theme during the Bills 3-1 start. Teams are beginning to see how tough it is to visit Ralph Wilson Stadium when the Bills are winning. Buffalo loves the Bills regardless of how they’re doing, but the town will rock your world when the Bills are playing well.
Prediction: Buffalo 31, Philadelphia 17. I don’t think the game will even be as close as this score indicates (not that 31-17 is close). Buffalo will have their way with this banged-up team of egos and high expectations. Everyone knows for which Eagles’ weapons to prepare; the Bills have an arsenal the Eagles – and the rest of the NFL – has never seen.