The Buffalo Bills open the season on Sunday against Gang Green. Like last year, when the team had a stellar 5-2 start to the season, Buffalo needs to get off to a fast start in 2012. This is a team on the rise with exponential potential.
How well quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick performs could very well mean the difference between the Bills ending currently the longest playoff drought in the NFL (12 years), which is also the longest playoff drought in franchise history or once again fading down-the-stretch on the way to more disappointment.
In 2010, Fitzpatrick completed 255 of 441 passes (57.8 completion percentage) for 3,000 yards with 23 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in 13 games (all starts). Last season, he threw for 3,832 yards on 353 completions of 569 attempts (62.0 completion percentage) with 34 touchdowns to 23 picks in 16 starts.
Coach Chan Gailey has taken the team out of the dark ages and into the modern, pass-happy era on offense in two seasons.
Arguably the Bills’ biggest Achilles’ heel last year was the lack of pass rush. Though the secondary was completely torched, that was a direct correlation to the lack-luster pass-rush. While Buffalo was one of the best teams in the league in takeaways in 2011, the defense registered just 29 sacks (27th in the NFL) and ended the season ranked 26th in total defense, 28th against the run and 30th in scoring.
But that was before Buffalo bolstered its front four and transformed one of its biggest weaknesses into hands down its best strength, spending big bucks on defensive ends Mario Williams (from Houston) and Mark Anderson (from New England) in free agency and the Bills also addressed all of their main positions of need in the draft.
The team’s most recent moves include saying sayonara to unsuccessful experiments in Shawne Merriman and quarterback Vince Young, who was just replaced with Tarvaris Jackson in a trade with the Seahawks.
|Buffalo Bills 2012 Schedule|
|1||Wed, Sept. 5||at New York Jets||W (1-0)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|2||Sun, Sept. 16||vs. Kansas City Chiefs||W (2-0)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|3||Sun, Sept. 23||at Cleveland Browns||W (3-0)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|4||Sun, Sept. 30||vs. New England Patriots||L (3-1)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|5||Sun, Oct. 7 at San Francisco 49ers L (3-2) CBS – 4:25 p.m.|
|6||Sun, Oct. 14||at Arizona Cardinals||W (4-2)||CBS – 4:05 p.m.|
|7||Sun, Oct. 21||vs. Tennessee Titans||L (4-3)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|8||Sun, Oct. 28||Bye Week|
|9||Sun, Nov. 4||at Houston Texans||L (4-4)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|10||Sun, Nov. 11||at New England Patriots||L (4-5)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|11||Thu, Nov. 15||vs. Miami Dolphins||W (5-5)||NFLN – 8:20 p.m.|
|12||Sun, Nov. 25||at Indianapolis Colts||W (6-5)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|13||Sun, Dec. 2||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||W (7-5)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|14||Sun, Dec. 9||vs. St. Louis Rams||W (8-5)||FOX – 1 p.m.|
|15||Sun, Dec. 16||vs. Seattle Seahawks||W (9-5)||FOX – 4:05 p.m.|
|16||Sun, Dec. 23||at Miami Dolphins||L (9-6)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
|17||Sun, Dec. 30||vs. New York Jets||W (10-6)||CBS – 1 p.m.|
While the Jets once again grabbed the offseason headlines and the Dolphins have been busy attempting to swim back to relevance and put an end to their three-year rut as a new coach and a new quarterback enters the ranks, the Bills have been busy going about their business as well, but also gaining ground on New England the entire offseason.
Sure, the chances of Buffalo beating New England for the AFC East crown this year are slim to none, as the Patriots remain one of the top teams in this league and have a very soft schedule. However, the Bills looked to have closed the gap and in position to make a move in this division and are now already in the postseason discussion entering the upcoming season.
Is Buffalo better than some of the AFC heavyweights, like the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers? No, but they are mentioned in that pack right behind those bunch with the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs and look to finish ahead of the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets.
While the Bills have had a recent history of fast starts followed by disappointing second-half collapses down-the-stretch, last season this team was one of the most ravaged by injuries. A total of 17 players made it on the Injured Reserve list by the end of the season and the offense was especially decimated by injuries, yet the unit still managed to finish 14th in scoring in 2011.
However, this club could finally be on the cusp of turning the chapter. Back before the draft we saw this team put an end to its trend of being a life-long K-Mart shopper on the open market. With some solid and consistent play under center coupled with a couple of breaks along the way, Buffalo could be in the mix for postseason play come January.
Verse of This Piece: “And what is the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching but lets worries about his life and the temptation of wealth stop that teaching from growing. So the teaching does not produce fruit in the seed of that person’s life.” —Matthew 13:22
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He also writes for RantPolitical.com, where he reports on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyzes important issues in the liberty movement. Follow @_MichaelGartman, @RantPolitical and @GridironGrit on Twitter!