Midseason Stock Watch: Bills

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
2:00
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Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 31. This week: No. 32.

2010 schedule/results

[+] EnlargeCJ Spiller
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireFirst-round draft pick C.J. Spiller hasn't made much of an impact on a winless Bills team.
Where they stand: The Bills are the NFL's only winless team and on their way to an 11th consecutive season without the playoffs. But the Bills have remained competitive on a weekly basis. They have lost three straight games by a field goal, including two in overtime on the road. The Bills rank 26th in total offense and 26th in total defense.

Falling: The Bills went into 2010 with two key strengths. Head coach Chan Gailey boasted three feature-quality running backs in Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and rookie C.J. Spiller. The Bills also had their secondary intact from the season before, when they ranked second in pass defense and second in interceptions.

Neither of those supposed assets has held up. The Bills traded Lynch. Jackson has been OK, but has only two rushing touchdowns. Spiller virtually has been a nonfactor. The ninth overall draft choice has one receiving touchdown and another via kickoff return, but on the ground he has only 150 yards and no touchdowns. The Bills had 28 interceptions last year. They have one this year, and it belongs to linebacker Andra Davis, whom they just put on injured reserve.

Buffalo's scouting department hasn't looked too swift. If not in a winless season, when should we be witnessing youngsters emerge? Many of the Bills' past several first-round picks have been disappointing. Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin and defensive lineman John McCargo are healthy scratches every week.

Rising: Poor run game aside, the Bills have developed a sometimes-entertaining offense under Gailey, daring to get into shootouts with the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, for instance. Ryan Fitzpatrick does a nice job of distributing his passes to receivers Steve Johnson, Lee Evans and -- up until breaking his wrist last week -- Roscoe Parrish. Fitzpatrick is on pace to become only the second Bills quarterback to throw for 30 touchdowns in a season.

There hasn't been much to like about the Bills' switch to a 3-4 defense. They've waffled lately and deployed four-man fronts to stop the run. But nose tackle Kyle Williams has stood out with a team-leading three sacks (unusual for that position), and the Bills recently showed they were committed to the 3-4 by claiming outside linebacker Shawne Merriman off waivers. Merriman probably won't be back next year, but his addition should improve an anemic pass rush.

Midseason MVP: Fitzpatrick still makes untimely mistakes, but since he assumed control of the offense from Trent Edwards, the Bills seem to harbor significantly more hope. Johnson's brow-raising aerial production has gone hand-in-hand with Fitzpatrick's promotion.

Outlook: The Bills are halfway to 0-16 and have a rugged remaining schedule. Their best shot might be Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions, who aren't expected to have starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. But, as the Bills showed by taking the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs into sudden death, they have a legitimate shot to win any week. The prediction here is they pick up a couple victories but still finish with a top two draft choice in April.

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