September and October were the best of times along I-90. Syracuse began with four wins to open up the season, knocking around Louisville and UConn, then surviving Purdue and Virginia. Sure, some of it felt fluky, but Orange fans weren’t going to apologize for winning games after all the losing in recent years. What will next season bring? You can check out the offseason odds at PowerPlay.net.
The Bills also began the year going gangbusters. Buffalo crowned the season by destroying the defending Super Bowl champs 31-10 in Los Angeles, sullying banner night for the Rams. Then they took the sledgehammer to last season’s top seed in the AFC, the Titans, 41-7. By Halloween the Bills were 6-1 and looked like the best team in the AFC, maybe the entire league.
When the calendar flipped to October. Syracuse’s winning continued but it would start to fizzle. Wins over Wagner and a banged up NC State squad moved SU to 6-0, and that would be the high point. T-shirts were printed for the bowl eligibility, and then the bottom dropped out. Five straight losses ensued, and all of the breaks, stops, and big plays that defined the start of the season evaporated. The Orange didn’t look very much like winners anymore. Maybe the real Syracuse was somewhere in between the 6 straight wins and the 5 consecutive losses.
The Bills began struggling right around this time as well. After Halloween Buffalo inexplicably melted down against the Jets, then collapsed against the Vikings. Minnesota trailed by 17 points, but somehow picked off Josh Allen twice in the end zone, recovered a fumble at the Bills 1-yard line, and converted a 4th-and-19. That was a bad omen. They found ways to win the rest of their games, but control of the AFC seemed to slip away. The Bills benefitted in the standings from the game against the Bengals being canceled, because it locked them into the 2-seed. But as we saw yesterday, the Bengals could have beaten up on the Bills no matter where they played. Nearly blowing a big lead to Skylar Thompson and the Dolphins last week was another not so kind reminder the Bills had flaws.
Syracuse finally pieced together a win in the season finale to avoid the ignominy of finishing 6-6 after a 6-0 start, but once again got beaten by a better team in the bowl game against Minnesota. Both the Orange and the Bills have to overall be somewhat satisfied with their seasons. SU finally had a winning season, and the Bills went 13-3 and won a playoff game. But both ended with a whimper. And it leaves a conflicted taste in the mouths of both fan bases. That was a good season… we think?