Some thoughts on the Bills as they approach the season’s midway point:
— Any number of Buffalo fans were furious that, before the season, I predicted six victories. Ignored was my contention that the Bills would be better than the reams that went 6-10 three of the previous four seasons.
Right now, they’re on that path, assuming a loss Sunday in New Orleans against one of the NFL’s Top 3 teams under the charge of an elite quarterback.
A defeat would put Buffalo at 3-5 halfway through the campaign.
— That said, there’s reason for Bills’ fans to be optimistic.
Coach Doug Marrone’s crew will play only three of its final eight games at “The Ralph,” plus the faux “home” meeting with the Falcons (2-4) in Toronto.
But three of the four road games aren’t particularly daunting.
Start with the Florida doubleheader in December at Tampa Bay (0-6) and Jacksonville (0-7), back-to-back.
Then there’s Pittsburgh, where the Steelers (2-4) have seemingly righted themselves, but aren’t nearly the team they were even two years ago.
The other road game is the season finale at New England (5-2), where the Bills haven’t won since 2000. Still, the x-factor in that game will be how important it is to each team.
At “The Ralph,” Buffalo will entertain the Jets (4-3), Dolphins (3-3) and Chiefs (7-0).
The Kansas City game, one Sunday hence, is interesting. Most NFL fans are wary of the unbeaten record in that it has beaten only one team (Dallas) with a winning record. The Chiefs’ offense clearly is pedestrian, they’re winning with ‘D,’ surrendering under 12 points a game.
In short, come the season’s second half, every Bills’ game is winnable — pending how much the Pats need the finale — though they could also lose every one of them.
But, the fact Buffalo is playing six teams with a non-winning record, offers the very real chance of getting to .500-or-better.
— There’s another factor too.
Heading into the Saints game, the Bills have been undeniably competitive all season.
Six of the first seven games were decided by a touchdown or less, five of them by three points or fewer. Even at Cleveland, where the Bills lost by 13, it was a 6-point game until 1:45 remained.
The Buffalo faithful maintain their team could be 6-1 ... 7-0 if the starting quarterback hadn’t been hurt late against the Browns.
Of course, Bills’ haters counter that they could just as easily be 0-7.
Bill Parcells would say “You are what your record says you are,” but even assuming a loss to the Saints, if Buffalo finished the first half 3-5, there’s legitimate reason for optimism that winning percentage could improve over the last eight games.
— In this bizarre season in which the Bills’ first-round draft choice, EJ Manuel, was lost for up to eight weeks with a sprained knee, leaving the starting quarterback job to former practice squadder Thad Lewis, Buffalo continues to score ... consistently.
The Bills are the only team, other than Denver (averaging nearly 43 points a game) to have scored at least 20 points every game this season.
About half the league is averaging more points per game, but only the Broncos, besides Buffalo, have reached at least 20 points in each start.
— No matter what, this is the most competitive Bills team compared to those in recent seasons.
When asked about Buffalo playing every team close, Marrone admitted, “I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not adding years to my life or any of our fans, but at the same time we’re a team that’s fighting and trying to get over this.
“We haven’t been in the playoffs in (13) years. We know it’s out there, it’s not the elephant in the room, we talk about it all the time. We’re fighting, fighting, fighting and that’s what we’re going to keep on doing.”
He added, “At some point it’s going to start to break ... to go over the top. Once you get there, it’s another challenge to be able to stay there. That’s what you’re seeing right now ... a group of guys that care about each other. Granted we’re not happy with the record or where we’re at, but we’re working at changing that every single day.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)