Typically after a loss in the National Football League, you’ll hear players and coaches say, “we have to forget about this one, learn from it, have a short memory, and get ready for next week.”
For fans, there’s more of a mourning period, if you will. They don’t have to get back to work the next day, preparing for the next opponent. It’s not their job. No, they stew over it, sit in it, have it ruin their Monday (or in this year‘s case Tuesday or even Wednesday) then eventually pick up the pieces and do what the players and coaches are doing: look to the next week to hopefully be able to feel good about their favorite team again.
After wins, it’s a bit different.
If you're a fan, you'll want to re-watch all the big plays, maybe even the entire game itself, text your friends about it, enjoy it for a few days, and take a peek at the standings to start doing some math, before ultimately turning attention to the next game, hoping the good feelings keep rolling.
Every Monday, I show up at the WGR studios to do The Extra Point Show from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. I take calls to react to what we all saw the day before. For good or bad, win or lose, people call me and tell me what they like and what they didn’t. We feel good together after wins, and I am a shoulder to lean on and and ears to talk to after losses.
Right around 11:30 a.m., maybe 11:40 a.m. or so, I tell you, “we are turning the page to next week."
This week was different.
As soon as I woke up Monday morning, I already mentally started doing that thing I usually do in the last 20 minutes of the show hours later. I started thinking about the next game.
The New England Patriots.
Not because the win over the New York Jets went poorly and we all need to flush it and forget about it. Not because I’m trying to act like a coach and say, “just move on to the next one.” No, not for any negative reason at all. In fact, just the opposite.
I couldn't help myself from moving on because of what this week's game means for this season, and what it represents to the Buffalo Bills' organization and fanbase. Maybe even what it means and represents to the Patriots' organization and fanbase.
Even before the 2020 season started, the stated goal of the Bills, from general manager Brandon Beane to head coach Sean McDermott, down to the players, was to win the division, because that’s how they’ll get a home playoff game. Whenever they mentioned it, they also specifically referenced beating the Patriots. The standard. The team that’s owned the AFC East for the last 20 years. It’s still theirs until the Bills take it from them, Beane and others said. They're right.
No Tom Brady, no Rob Gronkowski, no Patrick Chung, no Dont'a Hightower. No lots of things for New England. But none of that matters.
I don’t care who they have and who they don’t. Here they are at 2-4. Three losses in a row.
Then there the Bills are. 5-2. A win by the Bills will put the Bills 3.5 games ahead of New England halfway through the season.
If the Miami Dolphins, who are 3-3 and starting Tua Tagovailoa for the first time, lose to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the Bills will also have a 2.5 game lead on them, with wins against both teams and a 4-0 divisional record. Miami would be in second place in the division ahead of New England.
There would still be plenty of football to play, but a win by the Bills will go a long way towards their first divisional championship since 1995.
Sure, it’s the most important game because it’s “the next one on the schedule.” That’s what’s always said. But let’s not kid ourselves. This is the one we’ve been waiting for.
Not since Sunday at 4 p.m. ET when the Jets game ended. Not since the season started. Not even since the schedule came out in May. Nope. This is the one we’ve been waiting for for 20 years. Here it is - a real, legitimate chance to bury this dynasty.
Last week, the Patriots Hall of Fame released their “All Dynasty Team.” You don’t release an All-Whatever Team until that thing is over. All decade? It’s after the decade ends. All-Pro Team? After the season is over.
The Patriots themselves have essentially told everyone that the dynasty is done. They’ve already set their own fanbase up for understanding that. They’ve basically braced them for life in the real world after living in Football Utopia for 20 years.
But it’s not over yet. Not here in Buffalo it’s not. It won’t be until after Week 17, the Patriots are out of the playoffs, and the Bills are hosting a playoff game as the 2020 AFC East champions. We’re still 10 weeks away from that funeral.
We’ve made the mistake before of burying the Patriots too soon. I've done it myself. Probably mostly out of hope. Playing, and almost always losing, against Brady, Bill Belichick, and that team for 20 straight years was hard to deal with. "It has to end at some point, right?"
Two losses in a row? “Ha ha, they’re done.” A blowout loss every couple years? “Put a fork in them.”
So I don’t want to do that too quickly now. That’s dangerous. But this is different. These two teams, and organizations, clearly aren’t the same as they have been throughout this run.
So I’m not going to preside over the body yet, but the real estate‘s been cleared, the dirt‘s been gathered, and the shovels have been distributed. Now it’s up to the Bills to dig in, grab a big pile, and throw it on top them.
We’ve been waiting for this week for 20 years. I don't want to wait anymore.
Follow me on Twitter: @SalSports