On any given NFL year about half of playoff teams change. Parity is in full swing in the NFL which is good for the fans, the media and the individual teams as a whole.
It's certainly too early to be talking about the 2012 NFL season as a whole. Free agency isn't over, the draft is about a month away and the Bills just released their off season activity schedule. I, however, have some pretty strong opinions on the 2012 already and I wanted to lay a few of them out here.
Adding the defensive pieces we've just added really doesn't mean a whole lot if Fitzpatrick doesn't start playing better. He's still inaccurate, too aggressive at times and has a penchant for turning the ball over. The good thing about where the Bills are right now is that year 3 of Buddy Nix's regime looks to be a promising one.
This is pretty much a make or break it year for Fitz - he's got a lot going for him going into this season so it's time for him to put up or shut up really. Here's why:
1) He's now been in Chan Gailey's offense for 3 years. He's had 2 off seasons and a 3rd starting 2 months ago to work with Chan and the offense in general so running the offense from a philosophy stand point should be no problem for him any more. He knows the offense and what Chan is trying to do.
2) Buddy Nix has gotten him good talent to work with. C. Spiller, S. Johnson, D. Nelson, F. Jackson and S. Chandler are good pass catchers and good runners. The Bills do need 1 more piece there but he has the talent to work with to successfully move the offense. Since Chan's offense is one of finding the open guy Fitzpatrick has plenty of reliable options that know how the offense is suppose to work as well.
3) The defensive situation is improved.....on paper. How many Sabres fans do we have here? How many thought the playoffs were a given after Ehrhoff and Regehr were signed? I know the Bills are a better football club but I have to temper my expectations a little.
However, I do believe that our defense is stronger with the middle of our defense and the edges now having the talent to control the line of scrimmage. This means that Buffalo's offense shouldn't be in too many positions where they have to score 25+ points any more. We won't know until we see this unit on the field but one has to surmise that we've added the necessary talent to take pressure off of our offense.
4) The 2011 situation was good for Fitzpatrick. Between the injuries and the sieve like defense Fitzpatrick had to be aggressive on offense and as a result he turned the ball over as much as he scored. Why is this a good thing? After every NFL season every player and coach, especially starting QB's, go back and watch every throw and every situation with their coaches. Chan and Fitzpatrick have, or no doubt will, have done this. As a result he can see where he was being too aggressive and mitigate those situations knowing that he has an improved defense to rely on. He will also have a much better idea of what works really well and what he likes to do in certain situations.
As a result I don't think he's going to walk into 2012 thinking he has to carry the team on his shoulders but more that he has to execute the offensive game plan and put the team in a position to be successful. That means not forcing throws and making smart decisions.
It doesn't take a genius to figure these things out so one would think that Fitzpatrick would know this as well. If he concentrates on moving an efficient offense without putting too much pressure on himself I can envision a scenario in which Buffalo is one of those teams that wasn't in the playoffs the year before but are this year. It's certainly premature to state that but I do believe it.