For fantasy purposes, the Bills’ run defense has been a pungent running back potpourri, as it’s capable of taking the most vile smelling beasts and turning them into clean cut, upstanding individuals who contribute to our fantasy society.
The formula was simple, as if you answered yes to the two questions below, fun times would follow:
1. Do you have a running back on your fantasy team?
2. Is he playing the Buffalo Bills?
And it still is simple, just not as simple. Which makes it hard, but not very hard.
Confusing, yes. Allow me to explain.
If you’d like to view last night’s stuffing of the Dolphins and their combination of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas as a outlier, you’re welcome to that false assumption. More on that in a minute, but first let’s explore how exactly the bad Bills run defense become so bad, and let’s do it through a series of game logs looking primarily at the top rushers for each of the Bills’ opponents prior to their Week 8 bye.
- Week 1: Shonn Greene had 94 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Since then Greene has eclipsed the 90-yard mark only once, and he’s averaged 63 yards per game.
- Week 2: Peyton Hillis had 66 yards on 11 carries. The total yardage may have been manageable, but the six yards per carry wasn’t. Also, like Greene, Hillis has been otherwise underwhelming in his split with Jamaal Charles this year, as his next highest single-game output was in Week 10 when he had 30 rushing yards.
- Week 3: Trent Richardson finishes with 27 yards on 12 carries. This was a solid shut down, so there’s nothing to see here, and no weakness anymore, amiright? Yeah…
- Week 4: Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden combine for 243 rushing yards and three touchdowns at a pace of 6.4 YPC. Again similar to both Hillis and Greene just much, much worse, this game featured an explosion from an otherwise silent running back. Bolden posted 137 yards against the Bills, and he’s produced only 97 yards in his four other games.
- Week 5: Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combine for 187 yards and a touchdown. The theme continues: Hunter finished with 81 yards, yet he’s averaging only 35.1 per game overall.
- Week 6: An injury-riddled Cardinals backfield resulted in a greater workload for William Powell, who had 70 yards on just 13 carries. The real development here was Kevin Kolb’s scrambling that resulted in 60 yards. Excluding this game, he has 35 rushing yards on the season over five games.
- Week 7: Here comes the boom. Chris Johnson rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries, an explosion that included an 83-yard touchdown run.
This is a front seven that simply wasn’t executing prior to Buffalo’s bye. And by that I mean no one was executing ever, as the Bills were giving up at lest five yards per carry to every area of the field, and they were particularly gashed to the left side up the middle, giving up 8.2 yards per carry (*head asplodes*). Buffalo’s 176.9 rushing yards allowed per game as of week 8 is bad enough as a whole, but consider how awful it is just when we take into account the individual efforts noted above. Those 10 running backs/quarterback had 942 yards even including Richardson’s dud, and they needed only seven games to do it.
But now, the times are a changin’, and for the better if you’re a fan of the Bills of Buffalo, and maybe not so much if you enjoy fantasy pincushions.
Maybe coordinator Dave Wannstedt made his defense watch Brave Heart on an endless loop throughout the bye, or maybe he hooked them up with an IV filled with Sunny D. Man, when I was a kid that stuff sure put a boot to my ass. Whatever it was, something worked.
Since that bye, the Bills’ average rushing yards allowed per game has dropped by 23.3 yards. They’re still woeful as far as the overall rankings are concerned, but that’s a sizable improvement considering the quality of their competition. In Week 9 the Bills opposed Arian Foster, and while he had a successful day with 111 yards and a touchdown, that’s still a moderate and quite manageable thrashing, especially when we toss in the fact that the Texans only had 119 total rushing yards. A drop of 57 yards from the Bills’ previous average was more than just a baby step against a back like Foster.
Then came the Patriots, an offense that had opened the first major wound with that 243-yard day between Bolden and Ridley back in Week 4. That total dropped to only 117 yards during a close game which was nearly a Bills upset win. And finally last night was the pinnacle, as a Dolphins offense that was rushing for 100.9 yards per game was held to just 60 yards, as Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus clogged the middle and propelled Reggie Bush backwards (only 20 yards on 10 carries).
They’re still vulnerable, and the Bills will still spend the season on the low end of the league’s rushing defenses. But suddenly recent performances will give you less confidence while using the Bills’ front seven as a streaming rushing yardage punching dummy, especially with potential flex plays like Donald Brown/Vick Ballard, Daryl Richardson, and Rashad Jennings on deck over the next three weeks.