It's been pretty gloomy around here for the past week, and with good reason. Once again in 2012, the Bills are going nowhere. The only place to be is the playoffs, and the Bills aren't going there.
But there may be something more going on. I'm wondering whether we might look back on this season and realize that the Bills have a top 10 defense.
"Wait," you say, "right now, the Bills are ranked 26th in yards per game in the league, and 30th in points per game. What are you talking about?
In the last six games, the Bills have given up an average of 323 yards and 23.8 points per game. That's good enough to 20th in points and 7th in yards, based on the seaon-long league averages. Two of those six games were against New England and Houston, on the road, and they are 1st and 5th in yards and 1st and 2nd in points in the league. The Pats are averaging 438 yards per game, and the Bills held them to 347. Indianapolis is 7th in yards and 21st in points, and that game was on the road, too.
The Bills have been stout against the run. In the last six games, in order, the Bills have given up 182, 197, 118, 117, 60, 87, or 126 yards per game. That's 24th in the league, but look at the trend. And Houston, who's 5th in the league, got 118 and New England, who's 6th, got 117, in both cases 25 below their averages. They held Miami and the Colts 40 and 20 below THEIR averages.
Over that period, they've been exceptional against the pass, giving up 196 yards per game, which for the season in the league would rank 3rd. They are 13th in the league with 27 sacks; 17 came in the last six games.
Yes, I've kind of cherry-picked the numbers, because the two games before that were San Francisco and the Pats, when the Bills gave up record numbers of yards and points for a two-game stretch. There are some other teams that have put up better-than-average numbers in the past six weeks. I get that. But that doesn't explain why, if the Bills are really bad on defense, how the Bills gave up 200 fewer yards and 15 fewer points to the Pats six weeks later, in New England? New England is passing for 292 yard per game, and the Bills held them to 230 in good weather on their home field. I think it may be because the defense is getting better.
Besides the stats, what are the signs that the defense is improving? Mario Williams and Marcel Dareus are clearly playing better. Kyle Moore has been a factor. Bradham in the lineup seems to be an improvement. People like to dump on McKelvin, but he's been playing very well., and Gilmore isn't a rookie any more; together, they haven't been letting receivers get deep. I thing team also is working into a better understanding of what Wanny wants.
It's premature to crown the Bills as having one of the stud defenses in the league, but there's a lot of recent evidence that it could be true.
I'd like to be able to write about the reasons we might have hope for the offense, but I don't like writing short posts.