If you listen to your typical Buffalo Bills fan, you would think the sky is falling.
The Bills have lost two in a row. The latest defeat wasn't close. The New Orleans Saints came into western New York and won 47-10. The offense has been inefficient. The defense has been porous.
Oh, and did you know the Bills haven't made the playoffs since 2000?
Reality is sinking in after the Bills' 5-2 start. This team has plenty of flaws. It's a franchise that's not quite rebuilding, but not quite a winner either. Head coach Sean McDermott insists the goal is to win. No one said it would be easy.
Losing to the Jets hurts because it's a division rival, an AFC team and a weak opponent. Losing to the Saints? New Orleans has a good team. They are easily one of the best in the NFC. They caught the Bills at the right time. The Saints showed the league what they can do when you aren't at your best.
But here's some advice: R-E-L-A-X. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Take another. The sky isn't falling. Not by a long shot.
The Bills are 5-4. Yes, they made it harder on themselves by losing two in a row in November. But if the season ended today, they would be a playoff team! They currently hold the sixth spot in the AFC playoff picture.
The road ahead isn't easy, but there are winnable games. The Bills travel to Los Angeles Sunday to play the Chargers. The Chargers are 3-6 and 1-3 at home. Philip Rivers, the team's longtime quarterback, is in the concussion protocol and may not play. With or without Rivers, the Chargers have plenty of weaknesses. The Bills can win this game and improve to 6-4. That would be a big boost before an even harder stretch ahead.
The Bills head to Kansas City for a game against the Chiefs. After a hot start, the Chiefs have lost three of four. They will be tough to beat at Arrowhead Stadium, but if the Bills bring their "A" game they can win that tough road game.
The following three games will be at home. The first of two games against the Patriots (they head to New England on Christmas Eve) and a favorable matchup against the Colts. They host the Miami Dolphins in Week 15 and then travel to South Florida for the season finale against their AFC East rival.
Of their final seven games, the Bills have a better record than four of their opponents (Chargers, Colts and Dolphins). If the Bills finish 9-7, it could be enough to secure a playoff spot.
Put this in perspective. The Bills weren't supposed to be here, right? How many of us thought they would start 5-2? How many thought they would be 5-4 through 10 weeks and have a legitimate shot at snapping their 17-year playoff drought? So-called experts had this team finishing 3-13 this season. A playoff spot? More people thought the Bills would end up with a top 5 pick in the draft.
That's not what happened, of course. The Bills came out and competed. Tyrod Taylor, who has his share of detractors after his performance against the Saints, has helped them win some games. The defense, which has given up 81 points in two weeks, was one of the top scoring defenses before this mini-slump.
Maybe cautious optimism is in order. Maybe I'm drinking the "Trust the Process" Kool-Aid. Maybe I'm wearing red and blue-colored glasses. But I'm not ready to give up on this team's playoff chances just yet.
Yes, the Bills have to perform. But look at the teams behind them. The Dolphins have been woefully inconsistent. The Raiders are 4-5 and have a lot of talent, but they have a tough schedule. Games against the Patriots, Eagles and Chiefs could easily drop them to eight losses. The Ravens are 4-5 and have a favorable schedule ahead, but their inconsistencies on offense could cost them some easy wins.
In a lot of ways, this is the Bills' to lose. The teams behind them are even more inconsistent. They have a golden opportunity to surprise everyone and make the playoffs.
Let's relax. Let's take this all in stride. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some in this league. There will be winning streaks and there will be losing streaks. This recent slide is no reason to give up on the Bills. There is plenty of football left. Let's give them a chance to rebound.