[Full disclosure -- I am formerly known as blat1 on this site until I made certain unflattering comments -- this is my public mea culpa and I hope you will forgive me -- especially Brian]
Like most, at the beginning of the season I would (and did) laugh if anyone said that the Buffalo Bills would finish above .500; this was an absurd prediction. I honestly thought that the Bills would be in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes. We are not; we are in the "Just [Keep Winning], Baby" sweepstakes. The Bills have a bona fide shot to, not only make the playoffs, but possibly win the AFC East. When I reflect on the Bills at the mid-point of the season, I come away with only one thought, with only one opinion, with only one feeling deep down:
I Love the Buffalo Bills.
Admittedly, I did not become a fan of the Bills until 2005 when I attended UB. I have NEVER experienced a winning season as a fan of the organization. At the same time, I have not yet experienced the utter devastation that most of you have. But, I love sports. At the end of the day, there is always a certain type of team that I root for. The 2011 Buffalo Bills personify this.
I want a team that will, no matter the adversity, give every single piece of themselves for the team, and for the fans.
Ryan Fitzpatrick - [We all know -- Harvard, 7th Round Pick, 'Career Backup,' etc.] He took a shot in Sunday's game that would have made me cower in the corner for the next 2 months. What did our FRANCHISE QUARTERBACK do? He got up. He talked to his coach. He played the VERY NEXT PLAY. That is Bills football. That is Buffalo. That is heart.
I want a team that will, not matter the criticism, go out and play 4 quarters of football. Even if a player does not have the contract, or he does not have the respect in the league for being elite, he goes out and shows the world that he is something special; it is me against the world -- I will persevere.
Fred Jackson - He went through hell [we all know -- Arena League, NFL Europe, Coe College]. He is currently ranked in the Top 5 in Rushing Yards, Yards From Scrimmage, Yards Per Attempt, Yards Per Game, and Touchdowns Per Game. That is Bills Football. That is Buffalo. That is heart.
Steve Johnson - Again, same story, different player [7th Round Pick, University of Kentucky, constantly injured, and 'never a number 1 receiver']. My how things have changed. Vizio Top Value Performer for 2010, over 1,000 yards, and 10 TDs. Lee Evans who? Oh, and did I mention that every time I have seen Stevie, he is representing the Bills in a great light -- let me rephrase -- he is representing BUFFALO in a great light (i.e., he is ALWAYS wearing Sabres or Bills stuff). Stevie always represents BUFFALO [and the Bills] like all of us hope for on the field, but he also does it off the field, too. That is Bills football. That is Buffalo. That is heart.
The Entire Bills Roster - See every single characteristic above and apply that to our entire team. Most of them are 'rejects', critics said they would never see the field, and most said the Bills would not even win a game this season. They were wrong -- That is Bills football. That is Buffalo. That is heart.
I want a coach that speaks his mind. I want a coach who is honest with the media [fans]. Chan Gailey is that coach. Admittedly, I have never watched one of his press conferences until right now. Wow. I love candor and honesty -- why bother BS-ing? Coach Gailey does not mince words and says what needs to be said. He admits when players are not playing well, he admits when players are probably not going to play because of injury, and he is honest about when we can see those injured players back in the lineup. Here are the most notable points in this weeks press conference that make me love him as our coach [in my opinion -- and all paraphrased].
In regards to the defense - 'In the first few games, we got interceptions, not sacks. Then, in this game [against the Redskins], we got sacks and not interceptions. (Although we still got 2 interceptions, and lead the league.) This is a great comment and belief that his team will do what is necessary to get the W [and a shout-out to his Coordinator, whom, admittedly, I am not too confident in -- I am looking at you Mr. Edwards -- GREAT work this week, though.]
In regards to Nick Barnett - 'He brings immense talent to this team, but there is something more. He brings an intensity that I cannot define. He is the heart of our defense.' You took the words out of my heart, Coach. There is something special when Barnett is on the field. He invigorates the team -- especially the young guys. The only comparison that I can think of is a low-key Ray Lewis [no disrespect to Barnett -- I love him -- but Ray Lewis is.. well.. Ray Lewis]. I love you Nick Barnett; you are our best off-season pick-up.
In regards to Kyle Williams' injury - '[Knowing where to put Williams after his injury] is a great problem to have.' That about sums it up. Great response, Coach.
In regards to Andy Levitre - 'This guy can play any position you ask of him. He can play -- pause -- right tackle, center, or even left tackle.' I cannot agree more. When the Coach says ''play this position,'' you do it. That is what the Buffalo Bills have done all year. That is Bills football. That is Buffalo. That is heart.
One last point -- Stevie Johnson's Facebook picture of his Halloween costume. He dressed as Chan Gailey [HILARIOUS]. Then, Chan's smirk when asked about it is priceless. Our Coach loves it and he knows it. But, most importantly, the team loves him.
OH, and not to mention the most recent Buffalo Rumblings Approval Poll (99% approve -- it is basically an impossibility for 2,000+ people to agree on anything -- good job, Coach).
Will the Bills win/make it to the Super Bowl? Probably not.
Will they make the playoffs? Hopefully.
Are they the best team to root for in the AFC [maybe even the NFL]? Yes, they are. They are a group of never were players, whom the league shunned. They play with a chip on their shoulder that no one really can understand unless you are from Buffalo. They have a point to prove: DO NOT COUNT US OUT UNTIL WE ARE OUT.
The Bills are not out. The Bills are very much in. That makes me happy.
That makes me love the Buffalo Bills.