Does anyone else feel that this years optimism is more well founded than in previous years? Usually this time of year we read the same rehashed and outrageous predictions, by fans, of impending on field glory, the year they finally turn things around. Could this be that year for Buffalo?
The optimism this year from Bills fans seems to have been tempered some what compared with recent years. But lets just imagine the possibility if everything finally fell into place for this team to become a force again. We're not talking Super Bowl yet, but a team no one wants to face and is though of respectively around the league. Here are some scenarios, that if come to fruition, could catapult the team into prominence once again. Not implying all(or any) of these will happen, but its still too early in the season for my spirit to be crushed. If even half the eight points below actually pan out, the Bills will still end the season better than many predict, hopefully as a result of a few wins within the division.
1. Trent Edwards takes a giant leap forward.
Many are hoping and praying for Trent to just become a serviceable NFL quarterback, until his replacement is found. What if new direction from Chan, a little confidence, and some solid game planning and play calling catapult Trent to an upper tier QB. He is as physically gifted as say Drew Brees, or Tom Brady, but just miles behind both in the mental aspects of the game. If the light turns on for Trent, Buffalo immediately becomes a much more dangerous team in the division.
2. CJ Spiller stays healthy, and lives up to, or exceeds expectation.
If CJ Spiller stays healthy, and touches the ball 300 plus times on rushing, receiving, and special teams, the Bills will have a lot of big plays, and lot more points than last year. Spiller's ability to keep the chains moving, as evidenced by the 42% of his runs that resulted in first downs this preseason, will bring balance to the offense, and help the defense by keeping them off the field. Even if he scores quickly once or twice in a game, defenses tend to play a little more intense after a big play on offense. His presence will open up the passing game, particularly on deep play action routes and screens. Best case scenario, if healthy, he makes everyone around him better, wins rookie of the year, and helps Buffalo still be in contention past Halloween and beyond.
3.Offensive Line stays healthy and gels.
Just imagine if every member of the offensive line stayed healthy for the entire year, became a cohesive until, and had the reserves pushing starterss for playing time because of solid play. What if Bell is the answer at left tackle? With the talent, and toughness we have on the interior, if Bell takes a big leap this year, and stays on the field, this much maligned unit could actually be an asset to this team for the first time in recent memory. Green would only need to be competent, if the other four make a jump both individually and as a unit.
4. Evans becomes a Pro Bowler, and Roscoe Parrish becomes a dynamic player again.
Well if Edwards steps up, CJ Spiller dominates, and the O-Line gels, Lee Evan will finally fulfill his enormous potential. Flying by defenders, making DBs pay for taking a false step on a play action pass while trying to creep up with Spiller in the backfield. Finally having the ball delivered to him with an opportunity to make a play. Best case scenario, he catches 80 plus balls, with a ridiculous YPC, and double digit touchdowns. If Roscoe is also utilized properly, and becomes a Wes Welker type force out of the slot, the Buffalo offense will be a nightmare for defenses. 3-4 or otherwise. Also a return to form in the return game would be a huge boost for this team.
5.The Secondary dominates.
If everything were to go right on offense, teams would need to score more point, leading to more aggressive play calling, and more opportunities for Buffalo DBs to make plays in the passing game. And judging from the preseason this group is looking to get six on every INT. The fact that the run defense may not consistently hold up, or that not enough pass rush will be generated, could still be offset by a couple, or more, turnovers each game. Best case scenario, they are again near the league lead in interceptions, give the offense plenty of extra opportunities to score, and score themselves half a dozen times.
6.Maybin and a yet to be named player surprise everyone with their pass rush ability.
Same as with many on the players on this list, his ability will only begin to show when he finally learns the mental part of the game. While I think he will always be a liability in the running game, he still potentially could be a dangerous pass rusher. Buffalo has odd fits at linebacker that have very little experience as 3-4 outside backers. The good thing is that there is enough diverse talent among the group to have faith that one of them, along with Maybin, develop into pass rush threats. Best case scenario, Maybin along with Coleman or Ellis make a big jump this year and are pushing double digit sacks by the end of the year. Buffalo could be pushing 40 plus takeaways this year with a couple young pass rushers causing a some fumbles, and hurrying some throw that help the INT totals.
7.D-Line veterans and rookies step up, make play, and push the pocket.
What if Stroud, Williams, and Edwards all play like pro bowlers this year. What if Stroud thrives as a 3-4 end and Edwards surprises now that he is out of the shadow of the defensive stars in Baltimore. What if Williams continues to outperform everyone's expectations and continues to rack up tackles for loss leading to more opportunities for the seconadary to make plays on 3rd and long passing downs. This group may be really good in short yardage areas with the bulk an athleticism that Stroud, Williams, Troupe, Edwards, and Carrington have. Throw all of them out there at once in goal line and third and fourth and short, even good o-lines will have a tough time blowing the group off the ball. If they are great in short yardage, make some plays in the backfield, get the rookies contributing, and provide a little push up the middle on passing downs, Buffalo will continually keep teams in difficult down and distances. This will lead to more turnovers, more points, and more wins.
8. The Division:
Best case scenario - The three other teams in the division are grossly overrated, suffer through injuries at a pace only the Bills could appreciate, and generally fail to live up to some lofty preseason predictions from the experts.
- What if Miami takes a step back. Miami still has plenty of deficiencies on defense, injury prone running backs, and an unproven quarterback. Throw in a couple of key injuries and this is not such a formidable team, not terrible just beatable.
- New York has Mark Sanchez at quarterback. What if he remains a turnover machine and takes a step back this year. If the ground game cant consistently churn out yards and Sanchez is forced to put the ball in the air, he will make mistake and cost this team some games. If this happens the team will be lucky to average 17 points a game. The the defense cant pitch shutouts every week and they will be looking an 8 and 8 record.
- What if the New England secondary and d-line completely fall apart because of inexperience and injuries. Teams, including Buffalo(if all dreams mentioned above come true) will rack up yards, points and time of possession. Maybe Moss, Welker, or Brady miss significant time. If one or more of the receiving weapons go down for significant time, the offense will be limited as few are scared of the running attack especially without Logan Mankins in the fold. Best case scenario, an improved Bills team with competent coaching, finally finishes an entire game against the Patriots and end the losing streak.
There are more players and units that could "potentially" step up and help the Bills make a Dolphins style leap from worst to first, but that would likely only matter is some of the players and units above actually had breakout seasons. Though unlikely as it will be for all of the above to happen, lets not forget that every year some team surprises everyone and wins their division. And every so often the stars align and all the pieces fall into place. As a young fan, when the Bills Super Bowl teams where coming together and struggling with consistency, there was an excitement that the team was very close to something big for a couple of years. I've been waiting years for a similar turnaround. This feels like something special is happening again, even though it is difficult to pinpoint why. Many say that every year is their teams year to make a leap, so here is too dreaming of glory for Buffalo finally, if only for a few more days.