Buffalo, NY. Prior to every season, a few NFL teams come to the forefront as hot picks to make the playoffs at the end of the year. Heading into the 2012 campaign, the Buffalo Bills definitely seem to fall on this year’s list. One of the reasons that this league is the most popular in this country is the fact that any team can make a quick turnaround from year to year. The fact that every year for the last 16 seasons, at least five teams have made the playoffs that didn’t the year before cannot be ignored. The NFL is extremely unpredictable, and teams go from good to bad, and bad to good, on an annual basis. Part of the fun at this time of year for any football fan is trying to figure which teams those will be. The final preseason games are about to wrap up, and the regular season is just days away. After a hugely disappointing season where they finished 6-10, the Buffalo Bills are a very trendy pick to be a team that emerges and makes a playoff push in 2012. With a return to health and the huge free agent signing of Mario Williams, Buffalo and their fans are extremely optimistic about their chances this year. Will this season finally be one where they bust out and play well all year, or will they fall flat on their faces like they did in 2011?
For any Buffalo Bills follower, one main question has to be in the forefront…..Who is the real Ryan Fitzpatrick? Is he the guy who led this team to a 5-2 start last year, including home victories over New England and Philadelphia? Or is he the guy who looked very erratic and mistake-prone as the Bills lost 8 of their last 9? Last September, Buffalo came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. In their first three games, which were all wins, they averaged over 37 points per game. Ryan Fitzpatrick was on fire, and staked a claim at being the Bills’ QB of the future. The Buffalo front office soon awarded him with a huge long-term contract, which solidified his standing as their QB for years to come. But everything seemed to go south soon after the ink was dry on that contract. The offense in general bogged down and never seemed to regain that magic until it was too late. The injury to Fred Jackson didn’t help either. Jackson had an enormous start to 2011, and was an equal threat carrying the ball out of the backfield, or catching it as well. C.J. Spiller filled in very well, but the team never had quite the success that it did with Jackson in the lineup. The receivers were pretty good all year, with Stevie Johnson leading this crew. One of the main problems in 2011 was the fact that the defense completely fell apart beginning in November. They gave up at least 23 points in every loss in the second half of the year, which would spell doom for any team trying to stay afloat. The writing was on the wall as the Bills continued to fall out of playoff contention. They needed some major help on the defensive side of the ball. Once the March free agency period hit, it was obvious where Buffalo was heading for this help. Enter Mario Williams. Once they brought him to town to wine and dine him, it was pretty clear that they didn’t even want him visiting any other teams. They blew the doors off with a contract offer he couldn’t refuse. After a few days of negotiations, Williams was a Buffalo Bill. He signed for six years and a potential of $100 million, which makes this the most lucrative for any defensive player in NFL history. To say that the Bills are now expecting him to lead the charge in making Buffalo’s defense one of the leagues best is apparent. Can one man be the key in turning around an entire component of an NFL team? As the regular season rapidly approaches, we are all soon going to find out.
The kiss of death for the Buffalo Bills this year could be that they are a pick by many to be in the playoffs. Expectations are now there, and another sub .500 finish would be unacceptable. With Mario Williams now in the fold, this defense should be much improved. Pressure on the QB should be their specialty, which in turn should help every other facet of that side of the ball. But the ultimate factor in whether or not Buffalo can be a factor in the AFC East will fall on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Has he ironed out the wrinkles in his game which led to too many mistakes late last year? Or will he once again prove to be someone who Buffalo should not have signed long-term, and be the main reason the Bills disappoint in 2012? The talent around him is there, as the play of this signal caller will ultimately dictate how far this team will go.
Denver Sports by J Simp