Friday, October 22, 2021

Behind Enemy Lines: Buffalo Bills

Welcome to the second of our recent addition to our Aqua Thirteen content, Behind Enemy Lines: Buffalo Bills Edition. 

Each week I will be talking with fans from the teams lining up against the Dolphins that week. We love our Dolphins, but at times can get carried away with our own hype, both positively and negatively. This series enables me to speak to fans of other franchises, well entrenched in their fanbase to see how the other half live and what they think of our Dolphins, their own teams and the match up between the two 

This week, the 1-0 Miami Dolphins play their second divisional game in as many weeks, facing off against the Buffalo Bills after their loss to Pittsburgh in week 1. I have spoken to Buffalo native, but now UK resident Alex Penvose of @UK_Bills to get his take on upcoming events. 

BEHIND ENEMY LINES WITH THE BUFFALO BILLS

Appreciate your time Alex, divisional match ups obviously have that little bit extra to them, and this is our second in as many weeks, and your first of the season, but before we get into that, introduce yourself to the Miami fanbase, who you are and how you became a fan of the Buffalo Bills. 

I’m Alex from the UK Bills, you can find us on twitter via @UK_Bills and my own personal account via @alexpenvose. I was born in Buffalo and been a fan of the franchise as long as I can remember and moved to the UK in 2017. Since then I’ve joined up with other UK Bills fans to start the Red, White, and Buffalo Blues podcast. 

Ah ok, so despite being at the forefront of the UK Bills, you are an authentic member, born and raised in and around the atmosphere of the franchise, I like it. I’ll be honest, when I first contacted you, I wasn’t expecting that but as someone with an extensive knowledge and history to your fandom, how do you rate your chances this season? 

It’s weird coming into a season with high expectations. Most Bills fans I know will always say 16-0 lol, that’s just how the fan base is. Obviously last year was huge for us, and the goal is to go deep into the playoffs and challenge for the AFC Championship. When you make it to the Conference Championship game the expectation next year is to make it back and win it. That’s where we’re at. 

I completely agree. I mean, don’t get me wrong, with my Fins Up and Dolphins hat on, I hope that it doesn’t go that way for you, but the perspective of, we were close last year, lets take the next step is the logical next progression for all franchises who would be in your position. Completely agree with that mindset. However saying that, week 1 didn’t really go according to plan did it? What’s the fan base reaction been to that first week loss? Is there anything coming out of the fan base that isn’t being talked about by the mainstream media? 

I try not to pay too much attention to the mainstream; I know there was a lot of hype around Allen for MVP and the Bills to be Superbowl contenders but here we are after a loss to Pittsburgh and things are a bit out of sorts. The issues last week are what everyone is and should be talking about, the o-line play and play calling. Then again, it’s week 1 so I’m not reading too much into it. Having our RB 1b Zach Moss be a healthy scratch really shows our teams renewed trust in Devin Singletary, that or we plan to really just throw 50 times a game. I’d rather run a bit more to be balanced on offence. 

So pretty cut and dried then? What you see is what you get? The reasons you lost are the things that are highlighted. I suppose that can bring some comfort in defeat, to the tune of the fact that there are so many games left and the issues are correctable and obvious, and therefore can be worked on.

But you mentioned Josh Allen there, coming of a huge season last season and as you state, an early contender for an MVP award this year, just how high is his ceiling? I can imagine fans getting carried away with his success, has that been the case? Do people expect further improvement or is it a case of asking him to maintain those levels and improving the play around him? 

This topic has a few people divided. Logical fans know a regression to the mean is inevitable. I posted a video about this on our youtube page actually. I believe Allen will have a good season, but beating the numbers from last year is a tough ask. A lot of people will point to him getting better in each of his first 3 seasons so they expect him to be even better this year, but I fully expect an average between his 2nd and 3rd year for his stat line. The extra game this year will throw the total stats out of whack, but the average stats should be a little lower than last season. 

That seems an awfully realistic view point… not the passionate endorsement of how he will take the league by storm that I was somewhat expecting. Trust me, I understand the divided fanbase where QBs are concerned, I don’t think any QB has split a fanbase as much as ours, but I’ll come to that in a bit. 

But your position on Josh Allen feels very reasonable. It is potentially unreasonable to ask him to continually better his numbers, but to rest within that upper tier average and find year on year consistency seems an acceptable progression. 

But how about the match up now, there is obviously a rivalry between the two teams, being divisional, but also our history together through key points in time. I know how we view this match, but what’s the view on the rivalry from your side of it? 

I feel as if the Bills / Fins rivalry has fizzled a bit in my lifetime. I know in the 70’s we didn’t beat you once (as my dad always told me) it was 21 straight losses for the Bills back then. Then there were the shootouts between Kelly and Marino. I became a hardcore fan of the Bills in 99 so I don’t hate the Dolphins as much as I hate the Patriots. I think that will change now, the Dolphins seem like the biggest team to challenge us for the AFC East this year, so things could get heated. I do know that Allen has dominated Miami in his career, so that makes me feel better about things. 

Yeah, we have struggled with him to be fair, its undeniable. His ability to be a dual threat and our inability to defend the run has us less than ideally places to deal with him. That said, Coach Flores is developing a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality to defence that we hope may be able to contain him slightly better. Unfortunately that didn’t stretch to the final game of the regular season, but we are hopeful that we have moved forward this year. 

But that’s our opinion, so what is the Bills’ point of view on how the Dolphins are positioned? How are we looking for the season, through your eyes? 

Good question, Bills fans are a crazy lot. You’re either saying “16-0!!!!!!” or “Oh man I hope things don’t fall apart.” I usually am from the latter group. If Tua takes a step forward and Waddle can become a true #1 for him then Miami can absolutely challenge us. You’re a very balanced team with a good defence and an offence that is looking to take the next step, I hope you don’t take that step haha. 

Aha, I get that. I mean, this has been a wonderful interaction buddy, but I’m hoping just as much as you that I am not the disappointed one coming out of Sunday evening’s game! From our perspective, we believe we are making that step forward, even with teething problems and still finding its rhythm, there are stronger pieces around our QB who can provide that next stage of momentum. Plus we have a few people who we believed are under valued around the league too, people like Myles Gaskin are less known names and we feel like he could surprise a few people. 

Do you guys have an equivalent to Gaskin? Who the world is NOT talking about, but that your fanbase is feeling good about and who should be concerning us more? Whose name should I be looking out for this Sunday and hoping not to see leading the charge? 

The offence runs through Allen, everything is on his shoulders. There isn’t a single player that could sneak up on you. The run game is average and you know the WRs. Dawson Knox has the full faith of the coaching staff so if anyone is going to take the “next step” it’s him, but I doubt it. 

On Defence Hyde and Poyer are still not getting enough respect from the national media. They can make big plays in the run game and take teams passing games down. 

Allen is the obvious one isn’t he, and I suppose with that, Diggs goes hand in hand somewhat. Interesting that you say Knox, he is a name that crops up on Redzone from time to time, but as you alluded too, is yet to fully break out and capitalise on his role. 

What about our roster, I’ve mentioned Gaskin as a name that isn’t talked about enough, but what names are on the Bills’ minds when talking about the Dolphins, is there anyone who you think could cause you issues on Sunday? 

Allen needs to stay away from Xavien Howard. We have enough WR depth to stay away from your best defensive playmaker. On the other side of the Ball, we don’t really fear anyone on your offence. The matchup you can exploit is Gesecki, as we’re quite poor vs TEs generally, but from what I have seen, read and heard, the connection between Tua and Gesicki hasn’t really blossomed yet, so we’re hopeful that we can cope with that threat on this occasion. 

Ah yes, Xavien Howard, the jewel in our defensive crown really. We feel really good about our defence at the moment, even if we are nervous about stuffing the run, it seems like something that has been worked on, but knowing that Howard is circling around for errant throws certainly has a calming effect for our match ups. 

Gesicki is an odd one. Personally I feel he is undervalued in Miami. He’s in a contract year right now and if that relationship doesn’t develop like you hinted at, we could find ourselves walking away from him due to the price tag he will demand. That said, if we do, I have no doubts whatsoever that he will find success elsewhere as he is a very talented player. 

The other name you mentioned was Tua. One of the most discussed QBs out there right now. I honestly do not remember any rookie as scrutinised as he is, but maybe that is just my biased view point. But what do Bills fans think of him? I’m betting that you are not believing any of the hype just yet? 

It all seems straight forward from where we are, with all the news about your front office wanting DeShaun Watson really shows us that there isn’t much faith in Tua, there’s no smoke without fire with this stuff. 

Personally, I think he’s a slightly above average QB but honestly I don’t believe he is someone who can take you to a Championship game, never mind beyond. 

He needs to prove he can play at that next level up, and until he can SHOW UP in big games, he wont strike much fear in our Buffalo Bills staff, fans or roster. 

Oh don’t bring up Watson mate haha, I know I left myself open for that one, but that is one name that continues to hover around. From my perspective I believe Tua has the potential to be the guy you don’t think he can be but I agree we need to start to see progression towards that. My concern is that ever since he entered the league there has been a cloud over him, shadowing his ability to be free to develop.

Whether it be his injury and lack of pre-season, Fitzpatrick standing on the sideline ready to sub in and take over and now the threat of a DeShaun Watson trade. I just wish they’d let him be and let him get on with football. 

But back to the game. How do you see it going, what is your prediction? 

Josh Allen has a 114.3 QB rating with 20 total TDs and only 4 INT in his 6 games versus Miami. I see no reason why this dominance shouldn’t continue. Then again, based on what we just saw in Week 1 versus Pit, our o-line might not be able to help Allen much. I trust our coaching staff to get this sorted though. So I think the Bills will win both games versus Miami. 

For me, I agree that I feel we will find this match up tough. Having watch the Patriots game I feel we are still ironing out some creases, and coming up against a Bills team licking their wounds after defeat, we could feel a backlash. 

However, the game in Pittsburgh at least showed Josh Allen in a more human light, and as you mentioned, the OLine shows signs that we could break through, its going to be about capitalising on those moments if it does happen. 

But my projection is more bleak from a Miami perspective, and I feel we will stay in the game during the first half, but that the Bills will turn the screws in the second half and claim the win. However, I don’t fear a complete dismantling similar to the final game of last year. 

And there you go, you can see what the Bills think of us. Their confidence feels sound, genuine and unwavering. I think they have a genuine respect for what we are trying to do in Miami, but they still feel like they have us at arms length, even if we have overtaken the other two teams as their main threat. 

Obviously Xavien Howard’s name has cropped up again and that is likely to only strengthen giving his game winning forced fumble and recovery last week in New England. The positive for us is that the league seems to think they can combat it by just not throwing the ball at him, but we saw just last week, that if that is the case, Howard will go hunting and find ways to contribute big plays. 

This year is about getting close to the Bills, and this Sunday we will get a very real update into just how well we are doing in that respect. For me, it is an ideal platform for Tua to arrive. He will have a full compliment of weapons to throw too and playing a team who maybe underestimate him a fair bit. He could put people on notice here, in a way Josh Allen had to do to prove his own doubters wrong earlier in his career. 

Let’s hope Tua is in a position to do exactly that and we continue our run to 2-0. 

Fins Up! 

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