Years ago, daylight savings during autumn meant an extra hour in the bar because 4 a.m. in Erie County wasn’t late enough for some people. These days, hitting the sack early means grabbing an extra hour of sleep.
Indeed, times have changed.
Yet much remains the same.
Take the Bills, for example, a team that encourages drinking a little longer. Fifteen times in the previous 18 seasons, they have finished between 6-10 and 9-7, a remarkable run of mediocrity that was interrupted by three other teams that were worse. They were 3-13 in 2001, 5-11 in 2005 and 4-12 in 2010.
Only twice since 1970 have the Bills had a Top 10 defense in terms of yards allowed and finished with a losing record. It happened in 1987, when they had replacement players during a labor dispute, and again in 2003, when they were 6-10 under Gregg Williams.
Buffalo, which has the sixth-rated defense, would need to finish 4-4 in the second half to finish 6-10 this season. It’s unlikely considering the untenable quarterback situation. The Bills are 31st in total offense and last in yards per play, passing yards and points. They’re one of 13 teams since 1940 with seven touchdowns or fewer through eight games.
But if you swallow the company line along with the Sunday Morning Six-Pack, there’s always hope. The Bills, who are 10-point underdogs at home against the Bears today, can win if …
Nathan Peterman doesn’t play like Nathan Peterman. The second-year quarterback gets another opportunity to show that he’s not a complete embarrassment even when the results suggest otherwise. He has 10 interceptions in just 84 attempts in the NFL, a remarkable run of futility. But with rookie Josh Allen (elbow) and Derek Allen (concussion) sidelined, he gets another chance. This much is true about Peterman: He was their best quarterback in training camp and the preseason. The standards are so low for him that throwing for 80 yards with no interceptions and finishing the game would pass for his best performance in the NFL. But if he can throw for 200-plus yards and a touchdown or two, it could be enough to beat the Bears.
UPDATE: Peterman played the best game of his career - and he still threw three interceptions including a pick-six in the fatal second quarter. Two interceptions weren't his fault, but the pick-six spoke to his limitations. He was 31 of 49 for 189 yards and ran for a short TD in garbage time.
LeSean McCoy outperforms Chris Ivory. The Bills kept McCoy past the trade deadline because they believe he’s still can be an effective back who can help them next season. McCoy had 12 carries for 13 yards rushing while Ivory had six carries for 34 yards. Ivory ran for 81 yards on 16 carries when McCoy was injured against Indianapolis. McCoy is much better in the passing game but … have you seen the Bills’ passing game? McCoy has rushed for more than 100 yards only once in his past 13 games. The Bears will be keying on him because they don’t fear Peterman.
UPDATE: McCoy had 10 carries for 10 yards. Ivory banged out 36 yards on seven carries before he suffered a shoulder injury. Who led the Bills i rushing? Peterman, who picked up 24 yards at the end of the first half when he should have been throwing. Goodness gracious. If the Bills had a chance to grab a mid-round pick or better for McCoy and passed, shame on management.
Stephen Hauschka makes more extra points than field goals. This sounds simple, but nothing is quite that easy for the Bills. Hauschka has made 232 field goals and 320 extra points in his career. He had only one season, his last year in Seattle (2016), in which he had more field goals (33) than extra points (29), and that was because he missed six PATs. Hauschka has made 41 field goals and 36 extra points in two seasons with the Bills. He has made 12 field goals and seven extra points this season. The Bills have run the least number of plays in the red zone (51), which explains why they have scored only seven TDs.
UPDATE: Hauschka kicked a field goal when the Bills should have been going on fourth down. The Bills decided to go for two points after their touchdown. Field goals 1, Extra Points 0. Bears 41, Bills 9.
The defense supplies the offense. People remember Andy Dalton’s pass for lifting the Bills into the playoffs last season, but they forget how many other factors turned in their direction. They also had three defensive touchdowns. Buffalo doesn’t reach the postseason without Tre’Davious White’s controversial fumble return for a TD in which players on both teams thought Matt Ryan threw an incomplete pass (he did) and White picked up the loose ball for a score. Buffalo would have lost last week to Indy even if the defense pitched a shutout. The offense has given up two pick-sixes in the past three weeks. The offense has produced two touchdowns in the past 5½ games. The Bills are so bad offensively that they need the defense to score, too.
UPDATE: This was intended for the Bills, not the Bears. Chicago returned a fumble for one touchdown and an interceptions for another. The Bears' defense scored two touchdowns, the Bills' offense one.
Mitch Trubisky is held in check. Trubisky is on pace for 4,146 yards passing this season. He has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 15 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. On stats alone, he’s having a solid year. Take away the biggest game of his career, when he threw for 354 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-10 blowout over the Bucs, and he’s an average quarterback. He’s expected to have a large contingent making the 2½ -hour drive from Mentor, Ohio, and wants to put on a good show. He can light up a defense, but he actually has averaged 25 yards more in losses than wins.
UPDATE: Trubisky had 135 yards passing, his lowest output this season. Talk about a misleading stat. Games don't much easier than the one against the Bills. He attempted only 20 passes, completing 12, because the Bears were in total command.
Stop the Run. The Bears have the third-best rushing attack, are seventh on third down and second in time of possession. Trubisky is a big reason for their success on the ground. He’s their second-leading rusher with 296 yards in seven games, enough to lead the Bills in rushing even though they have played eight games. The Bills are 15th against the run. If they slow down the running game, put pressure on Trubisky and keep him in the pocket, limit the Bears’ success on third down and control the clock, they have a chance. Sure, that's a large number of IFs. Welcome to 2018.
UPDATE: The Bears had only 64 yards rushing, and Trubisky didn't run around. The Bills did a good job in this department. But they were so poor in other areas that it didn't matter.