Futility at its best will be on display Sunday inside Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Buffalo Bills are 0-8, the NFL’s only team in 2010 without a victory. They’re halfway to becoming the third team since the merger back in 1970 to have a winless season, and the second team in league history to go 0-16.
By accident or on purpose or because the football gods drew up this way, the opponent of the Bills this afternoon is the Detroit Lions. Ironically, the Lions are the last to complete the undefeated streak in reverse, going 0-16 in 2008.
Oh, the plot thickens.
Detroit carries a 24-game road losing streak into Buffalo, which ties a dubious mark they set from 2001-03. The Lions’ last road victory came back on Oct. 28, 2007 , a 16-7 win over the Chicago Bears. So we’ve got 0-8 vs. 0 – 24. Sure this game doesn’t mean a hill of beans in the grand scheme of the 2010 NFL season. Neither team is going to the playoffs, and the odds are pretty good both will be picking within the first eight or so picks in next April’s draft. But no question, somebody’s franchise is about to change this afternoon.
Being winless gets you the unflattering distinction as being the worst in your sport. However, I caution you to just take a glance at what’s transpired this season down in Dallas and get back to me. Of the Bills’ eight losses, five of them have been by a combined eight points. Buffalo has lost three straight games by three points, including two straight overtime contests on the road.
But despite being close and despite playing their opponents tough and not throwing the towel on the season, Buffalo simply hasn’t put together a total effort that’s been good enough to win. Fumbles. Missed field goals. Interceptions. Penalties. Underthrown and overthrown passes. Little by little, they’ve all added up. And the result is zero wins.
Ignore the Lions’ 2-6 record. These aren’t necessarily your Lions of yesteryear. Detroit has four losses by five points or less, and are coming off a crusher last week at home, an overtime loss to the New York Jets 23-20 after they squandered a 10-point lead in the last seven minutes of regulation.
Detroit has some weapons Buffalo must contend with. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson bring with him 551 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew figures to take advantage against one of the league’s worst defenses against tight ends. Pettigrew has three scores so far this season. Rookie rusher Jahvid Best will test the Bills with his speed and big play threat, leading the Lions in carries (107), yards (345) and touchdowns (4). One offensive weapon the Bills won’t have to worry about is Matthew Stafford.
Stafford suffered a seperated shoulder in last Sunday’s loss to the Jets and could be done for the remainder of the season. Shaun Hill, who broke his arm against the New York Giants on Oct.17, steps back into relief of Stafford for the second time this season. Stafford was injured on opening day against Chicago and played six games in his absence, throwing nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Defensively, the man in the middle for Detroit is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh leads the Lions with 6.5 sacks including an interception returned for a touchdown. Kyle Vanden Bosch is enjoyed his first season in the motor city, registering four sacks while rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith leads the secondary with five interceptions.
These aren’t the same Lions. The Bills are fighting their tails off, but the results haven’t backed up their improved play. One team is winless on the road. The other team is just winless. This one figures to be football desperation at it’s best.
Prediction: Lions 24, Bills 23. I said before I’m sticking with my pick ‘em plan, which is prove to me that you can win a game before I think about picking you to win. Call this the Desperation Bowl: Detroit sees this as the prime chance to end a 24-game road losing streak. Buffalo sees this one as their last possible chance to salvage a victory in 2010. FYI, Ralph Wilson grew up in Detroit. That’s tips the irony scale for me. I say Wilson’s native team beats the team he owns.