Finally, it has arrived. I hate writing this and I hate feeling this way, but Sunday’s season finale against the Indianapolis Colts screams relief. Around 4 PM Sunday evening, there will be no more games left in what’s been an extremely disastrous 2009 season for the Buffalo Bills.
Again, the Bills will have their noses pressed firmly up against the glass watching the playoffs. It’s fitting their final opponent this decade would be the Colts. These two teams are polar opposites. They’ve been going in different directions for the vast majority of this decade. It wasn’t so long ago that the Colts found themselves at the bottom of the barrel. But along came Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark. Dwight Freeney arrived, along with Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, and Robert Mathis.
The Colts will be sad to see this decade come to an end. Once upon a time, Indianapolis endured consecutive 3-13 seasons in 1997 and 1998. But in 1999, the Colts won 13 games accomplishing the feat for the first time since 1968. Since ’99, the Colts have won at least 10 games 10 times. 8 times this decade, the Colts have won at least 12 games. They’ve been consistently dominant, reaching the pinnacle in 2006 with a Super Bowl title.
Head coach Jim Caldwell has guided the Colts to a 14-1 record, but he’s come under scrutiny for his actions last week against the Jets. With their pursuit of perfection still in tact, the Colts led the Jets 15-10 late in the third quarter when Caldwell elected to pull Manning and replace him with rookie Curtis Painter. Caldwell also sat Wayne, Addai and Clark, and the Jets took advantage of two turnovers by Painter and seized victory, 29-15.
On the surface, it seems like a big deal to some that the Colts cheated everyone a chance to see another undefeated team head into the playoffs aiming for 19-0. The fans booed when Manning came out of the game and now the 1972 Miami Dolphins safely remain football’s only perfect team. But the Colts are sound-minded bunch who know what the end game and the end game is being the last team standing with the Lombardi Trophy in Miami. Their eyes are fixated on a Super Bowl title, not an undefeated season. Nine times out of ten, the right choice is not going to be the popular one, but if Indianapolis wins another Super Bowl I’m pretty sure all will be forgiven and Colts fans will shower Caldwell and company with approval.
While the Colts continue to trend up, the Bills have been steadily trending downwards. This will be the 10th straight season Buffalo will miss the playoffs and a lengthy, organizational rebuilding process is about to commence and when that rebuilding is fully complete is anyone’s guess.
The season began horribly in New England and it’s been a plume ride straight to the bottom ever since. Buffalo blew a double-digit lead in New England on Monday Night. They held Drew Brees and Matt Schaub scoreless, yet were blown off the field in both games. The run defense has been the worst in the NFL. The offense has used three different quarterbacks while ranking 29th in passing offense and 30th overall. Buffalo has racked up a team record 18 players on injured reserve.
So the 5-10 Bills drag themselves (or whatever’s left of them) across the finish line on Sunday. They’ll try to prevent the Colts from going 8-0 on the road and 15-1 overall this season, a feat the Colts have never accomplished. Manning will probably make an exhibition-like appearance and then the reigns will be turned over to Painter. Can the Bills pull out a win against the Colts’ B or C team?
For the Bills, this could be the last time we see many of these players. Terrell Owens, who joined the 1,000 receptions club last week against Atlanta, is a free agent. Fellow wide out Josh Reed is also a free agent. An extensive evaluation, hopefully followed by a roster purge, likely means very few jobs will be guaranteed heading into a tumultuous offseason at One Bills Drive.
Final Prediction: Bills 20, Colts 17. I’m hard pressed to give you any concrete basis for this prediction, other than the Bills will probably come out and play hard one last time in front of the home crowd. Hopefully they send Owens out on a high note. If this team gets beat by Curtis Painter, we’ll be up opening up a Pandora’s Box of unknown problems in Buffalo.
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