Around the nation: Bills midterm grades



CBS Sports, Pat Kirwan – Picks Manuel and Alonso as offensive and defensive rookies of the first-halfOffensive Rookie of the Year: EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo -- Manuel is injured right now but he has started 5 games and is due back soon. He has already led the Bills to wins over Carolina and Baltimore. If he gets back for seven games he could win this award, otherwise it could be Eddie Lacy.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kiko Alonso, linebacker, Buffalo -- Alonso doesn't leave the field for any down and distance situations and already has 81 tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, 4 passes defended and 1 forced fumble.

Kiko Alonso (MLB Buffalo Bills)—12 Votes**
Alonso is very possibly the best rookie this season, with four interceptions in coverage (tied for an NFL lead) and 81 tackles. Those numbers are identical to those of Dallas Cowboys veteran Sean Lee, who should be headed to the Pro Bowl this season. Alonso, by all rights, should be seated on the airplane right next to him on the flight to Hawaii.

CBS Sports, Josh Katzowitz – AFC East midseason awards (by team)MVP: DE Mario Williams
Surprise: QB Thad Lewis
Disappointment: RB C.J. Spiller
Going forward: The Bills can't be pleased about their 3-5 season, but this also is a better Buffalo squad than we've seen in the past. Lewis has taken over admirably for the injured EJ Manuel, and linebacker Kiko Alonso is one of the most exciting rookies in the league. This team might be a year or two away from contending in the division., Dan Hanzus – Midseason musings» The EJ Manuel knee injury was a tough setback for a Bills team that was just starting to learn what they had in their first round pick. Before going down, Manuel showed some glimpses of promise, although with troubling inaccuracy. The good news for Buffalo is that Manuel should return in a few weeks. The development process will continue.

» That massive Mario Williams contract is looking a lot better in year two. The outside linebacker has racked up 11 sacks in eight games and could threaten Michael Strahan's all-time record in December. Is Williams worth the $14.5 million the Billsare paying him this year? Probably not, but ask Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine how important Williams is to Buffalo's scheme.

Remaining schedule: **A late-season push to get into the playoff hunt will have to get done away from Ralph Wilson Stadium, with four of the final five games away from home with a Dec. 1 "home" game against the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto. Those final games include at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Next up, though, is a home game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

What has gone well: The defense and running game have kept the Bills from collapsing while their quarterback situation is in flux. Defensive end Mario Williams has 11 sacks, already more than in any season since 2008, and linebacker Kiko Alsono has made a strong case for rookie of the year with 81 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Leading rusher Fred Jackson has six touchdowns.

What has gone wrong: First-round pick quarterback EJ Manuel just can't stay healthy. He missed most of the preseason after undergoing a minor procedure on his knee, has been out since hurting his knee in Week 5 and likely won't be back until mid-November. The Bills didn't have much of a backup plan, turning to practice squad quarterback Thad Lewis. Explosive running back C.J. Spiller has been hampered by a lingering ankle injury.

Grade: The Bills have had plenty of reasons to implode, but they haven't. If Manuel can return healthy and continue to progress, the Bills should be a team on the rise late in the season. C

Bleacher Report, Alessandro Miglio – Stock up, stock down for every NFL team at midseason markBuffalo Bills: Stock DownAnother season, another year of disappointment for Buffalo Bills fans.

It hasn't been as bad as previous ones for the Bills, with plenty of promise just dying to come out. Unfortunately, an injury to quarterback EJ Manuel has been a bit of a drag to this young team.

Head coach Doug Marrone has plenty to work with, however. It seems like a matter of time before the Bills put something good together with the talent. But right now, things are as lackluster as ever in Buffalo.


NATIONAL COMMENTS, Jeff Simmons – Give Thad Lewis some credit**
While Drew Brees' five touchdown passes were the biggest takeaway from Sunday's win, we couldn't help but be impressed with the performance of 25-year-old Bills quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. His stat line won't stand out by any means but the kind of toughness and resilience he displayed was eye opening. Lewis took a beating from the Saints' pass rushers but he continued to stand in the pocket and compete for his team. The Bills didn't do enough on either side to overcome a powerhouse such as New Orleans but the loss isn't on Lewis. He's proved to be a serviceable player and someone the team can rally around. Hats off to the tough kid.

MMQB, Peter King – What I liked about week 8
Thad Lewis, who is very tough.

FOX Sports, Brian Billick – No. 18, down two

For a team that is playing with its third-string QB, the Bills are fighting like dogs and are going to be a tough out down the stretch.

Sportsnet, Geoff Lowe – No. 19
Buffalo did a good job of keeping it close in the first half, but New Orleans was just too much for the Bills. Led by Mario Williams, the Bills defensive line continues to get after the quarterback, sacking Brees four times. Next up for the Bills: back to Buffalo for a matchup against the undefeated Chiefs. Anyone smell an upset? – No. 20, up one
There's no time to lick the wounds from a 35-17 loss in New Orleans. Buffalo returns home to face the Chiefs, the last of the league's undefeated teams.

CBS Sports, Pat Kirwan – No. 21
An 'A' for effort but how far can backup QB Thad Lewis take this team? They need EJ Manuel and CJ Spiller back in top form.

Yahoo Sports, Frank Schwab – No. 21, up one
Mario Williams has 11 sacks in eight games. Maybe Buffalo overpaid for him in free agency last year, but that's what they had to do to get him, and he's earning his money.

Bleacher Report, Matt Miller – No. 22, down two
The 2013 Buffalo Bills aren't ready to compete for the AFC East, but they're a lot closer than expected.

Considering Thad Lewis is playing quarterback after starting the season on the practice squad, you have to be impressed with the job Doug Marrone has done in his first year as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

And with the way Lewis is playing, you have to wonder if the Bills wish they had spent their first-round pick on someone other than quarterback EJ Manuel. Lewis may prove to be a flash in the pan, but he's done just as well as Manuel under more dire circumstances.

The future is bright in Buffalo, even if the 2013 season ends with a sub-.500 record. Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley are quickly building a complete team that can contend in the East., Elliott Harrison – No. 22, down one
The Bills weren't awful in New Orleans; they simply couldn't go toe-to-toe with the Saints' offense. 

Looking ahead, the 3-5 Bills can still make something of this season. Yes, the 8-0 Chiefs visit Buffalo next, but they hardly resembled an unblemished team Sunday. After that, the Bills' slateplays out like this: at Steelers, vs. Jets, vs. Falcons, at Bucs and at Jags. That, folks, is an easy schedule.

CBS Sports, Pete Prisco – No. 22, up two
That was a tough second game of a road trip at New Orleans. Now they get the Chiefs. Good luck.

Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio – No. 23, down three
After the Chiefs come to town, the Bills have six straight winnable games to lose.

SB Nation, Jason Chilton – No. 25
Doug Marrone's scrappy band was simply outmatched in the Superdome, but the Bills have turned in credible showings every week behind an underrated D that features plus talent at all three levels. Thad Lewis has kept the offense out of the ditch while awaiting E.J. Manuel's return, and if C.J. Spiller's balky ankle ever heals, the Bills could be one of the league's better spoilers down the stretch.

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