May in the NFL is the great unknown. It is also the time when hope springs eternal for all NFL teams. The NFL Draft has ended, the rookies are in camp, and everyone dreams big. Every season in the NFL has the proverbial rags to riches story where a team comes out of nowhere and shocks the world.
Buffalo Bills fans are no different, and we do dream big because quite frankly, 10 years is long enough. This is why we always look at schedules and project wins and losses and wonder how long it's going to take before someone "shows us the baby." This leads the Rumblings Roundtable to try and answer two of the more popular questions that are on the front burner of Bills fans' minds in May: what should we expect record-wise from the Bills, and are we in win now mode or rebuild mode?
Projections after the jump...
Sometimes the answers to both questions can be summed up quickly and efficiently as sireric illustrates:
I will answer both in one shot. They are clearly in rebuild mode. They are building the foundation of their team of the future now. I think five wins would be a nice season for this team.
Often when you take the quick and efficient approach people echo your sentiments as Brian mentions:
As has already been said, the Bills are definitely re-building. They have a clear plan, and while I may not agree with it, there's always a chance it'll work. I don't envision more than 4-6 wins in 2010.
MattRichWarren reminds us that other times being concise simply means that we can't make a clear assumption without knowing all the facts:
I hate predicting the Bills' record when I have no idea who the QB is going to be. If they decide to go with Brohm or Brown, I would say five is generous. If they go Trent and Coach Gailey builds an offense around getting the ball out early, I can see them winning more than five. For me, it's all going to come down to that training camp battle under center.
Kaisertown thinks it could be a little from both sides:
I think the Bills are trying to re-build and improve in a hurry all at once. No clue if that will work for them, but I can't imagine any other reason Buffalo would draft C.J. Spiller in the first and then go hard after run D with guys like Dwan Edwards and Torell Troup unless Buffalo is at least fairly interested in winning quickly.
On the other side of the spectrum, Jeff tries to keep it positive on both sides of the question:
Record wise, it's looking like a fairly dismal year. I'd guess we finish somewhere around 6-10. It really depends on our quarterback situation. If we get mediocre production from a quarterback, we could exceed expectations. If we get zero production from our quarterback, we're looking at the Jake Locker sweepstakes. There's a significant chance we see a better team than last year, but it might not translate into the W-L record.
We're building for the future. I think Nix is trying to remain somewhat competitive in the short-term through low-key acquisitions like Andra Davis and Cornell Green, but his ultimate goal is making us a playoff contender in 2012-13. The Bills last season had as many gaping holes as the Star Wars saga, and it's going to take a few seasons to acquire the talent to fix those gaps. With that said, if we find a real, legitimate quarterback, you could see dramatic improvement quickly.
Unfortunately, I don't really feel that I can echo the same sentiments on the record side:
This season could be bad - very bad - from a win perspective. The sad thing is we could be on the whole a much better team, but I look at that schedule and there just aren't a lot wins there. An 0-4 start could easily be a reality, and it could spiral downhill from there. I believe they will be competitive, but it will not be enough, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of fourth quarter meltdowns. 2-14 and 1st overall draft pick is completely possible.
On the rebuild issue...
With that being said, the team is definitely in rebuild mode. If the defense performs well (and I believe that it will, it just won't be enough), then during the 2011 off-season we will see the makeover on offense that we secretly lust for. Remember, stop gaps don't necessarily mean that we are in win now mode, but that there is simply nothing better out there. This team will not sacrifice picks and will not over spend. This is going to be slow, and hopefully fruitful, in 2-3 years. For the first time that I can remember, I am optimistic about the Bills, and more importantly, what they will be in 3-4 years.
Der Jaeger's in-depth schedule analysis pulls a variety of the above points together:
As I go through the league schedule, Buffalo comes out 3-13 to 5-11. I can see the Bills beating the Dolphins or Jets once. I think the Pats streak continues, too, but I think they will be competitive in all six division games (eg: no blowouts). But the division is ultra-competitive, and I can see a 1-5 record, easily.
Outside the division, I think Buffalo has a chance to win against Jacksonville, Kansas City, Detroit and Cleveland. They won't beat Minnesota in the dome or the Packers at Lambeau. Similar results in away games at Baltimore and Cincinnati, though the Bills might steal a game against the Bengals, since the Bills traditionally play well in Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh will have Roethlisberger back for the game, and Buffalo won't win that game at home. Chicago, even at home, with Peppers unleashed in the Tampa 2, and Cutler running Martz's vertical attack, might be one of the few blowouts against the Bills.
And he reminds us about what Nix's message is:
Re-build mode. I don't buy into the logic that selecting Spiller represents a win now attitude. It was a BPA in the draft attitude, which is exactly what Nix said he would do.
Buffalo is one of the most unique teams in the league. There are more good, complementary players on Buffalo than any other team in the league. Some have been way over drafted (Whitner), but it doesn't change their role.
But there are no stars. Maybin, McKelvin, and Byrd could be stars on defense. The Spiller pick also addresses this. But until Buffalo drafts/acquires a legitimate star QB, they will max out at 8-8 yearly. Once they develop/acquire those star players, Buffalo will really have something going. It won't take more than 2-3 stars. Those stars will be heavily supported by the likes of Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Lee Evans, Shawn Nelson, Fred Jackson, Torell Troup, Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams, Aaron Schobel (if not retiring), Alex Carrington, Paul Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell, Andra Davis, Dwan Edwards, Whitner, Terrence McGee, and Drayton Florence.
But one of those 2-3 stars has to be the QB.
The win analysis continues with Kurupt's blunt assessment:
With the schedule we face, the deficiencies we have at QB, LT and pass rush, it's hard to see this team winning more games that last season. A lot of people point out that we still won six games with all those injuries and a mid-season coaching change. Yet, we beat a crappy Bucs team, the Jets and Panthers due to their QB meltdowns, a terrible Chiefs team, a Colts team playing their backups, and had a solid win against Miami. Not exactly inspiring confidence for this year. I think the transition to the 3-4 will not be as easy as some may think it will be, but will be solid by year's end. The offense is going to be a mess again, though I think Gailey can squeeze a little more production out of that unit. It won't be good enough, in my opinion, though. Depending on the degree of ineptitude at QB this year, I'm expecting 3-5 wins. I think we go winless in the division, with the opener against Miami as our best shot at victory.
But answers the re-build question with a thump:
I'd really like to say, with authority, that I feel the Bills are in full-blown re-building mode, but I just don't know if I believe it. I'd say we're rebuilding, with a foot in the win-now doorway. Buddy Nix talked about drafting players who will help out right away. He talked about being unable to wait 2-3 years for a QB to develop. We drafted a RB in the Top 10, even if he was probably BPA. We signed veterans like Cornell Green, Andra Davis and Dwan Edwards to fill starting roles right now. The team didn't try to acquire extra draft picks to help with the re-build, although that's probably more of their philosophy than indicative of anything more. These moves were probably not to win now, but part of me thinks they aren't in total re-build mode.
The addition of many prospects in the draft that will need time to develop, the lack of improvement along the OL, the lack of bringing in any veteran pass rushers or early draft picks there and pretty much opening most positions for competition leads me to believe that, yes indeed, they are re-building. They're just rebuilding in a bit of an unorthodox fashion, and one that many of us probably aren't in total agreement with. Leaving the most important positions on the team unaddressed outside of a few late round prospects is not how I would have begun re-building this team.
If I were in a car looking at the gas gauge with "Win Now" as empty, and "Re-building" as a full tank, I'd say we have a 3/4's full tank right now. I just wish we had a full house cleaning, roster scrubbing and a definitive move towards a re-build. Now, please Buddy Nix, find us the franchise QB we are all so desperate for in next year's draft! PLEASE!
The panel seems set on anywhere from 2-6 wins and full re-build across the board. However, the big difference this year between other years is that we aren't selling ourselves as a contender.
So have at it folks: Agree or disagree and let us know why!