Going into my senior year of engineering school in Huntsville AL, and up until now have always gotten by with either illegal game streaming, the occasional game on TV, or live streaming of 97 Rock. This year, with the expectations heaped upon the Bills this year, I feel all of these alternatives are unacceptable. Is there a bar in the Huntsville/Madison area that plays host to Buffalo fans every week?
After the jump is my game by game prediction for the season.
This seems to happen every year. The Bills have a disappointing season, they go into the off season, make a few moves, draft some promising players, all the fans get irrationally optimistic, and then go and have another disappointing season. As I’m sure everybody is well aware, this year feels much, much different. Again, this is what gets said every year, but this time I feel "different" is quantifiable. We are bringing a career total of 88.5 sacks to our defensive line, to combine with a legitimate run stuffing, disruptive force in Kyle Williams/Marcell Dareus. We have an excellent mix of youth and experience in our linebacking corps, and some very promising rookies that will look to break into the rotation at some point this season (I see Nigel Bradham starting over Kirk Morrison by week 6). Our secondary has some question marks, but with how much the defensive front seven have improved, hopefully the young cornerbacks will be somewhat sheltered (especially considering that about half the quarterbacks we have to play are either rookies, or just not quality starters).
As many teams have shown, it is possible to win just by virtue of a dominating defense (’90 Giants, ’00 Ravens, ’02 Buccaneers, etc. 35 of the 48 teams to win a Superbowl have had a top 10 defense). This year the Bills have the potential for a potent offense as well. With a legitimate star in Fred Jackson, an up and coming star in CJ Spiller, an above average receiving corps (made so by yes, Stevie) , and a very solid offensive line, this team has the potential to score some points. With a healthy (and new and improved throwing mechanics) Fitz, and a team that’s not constantly having to play from behind, I think the Bills can have a top 10 offense as well.
With that being said, how about some entirely unfounded predictions!
1. Game by game record.
Week 1, @Jets: Bills come out firing on all cylinders, Mark Sanchez still is not a good NFL quarterback, Bills 31, Jets 13. This will be a coming out party for the revamped defense, Sanchez goes down 3 times at the hands of Williams (M and K), and Mr. Lights Out. Williams, A, and a healthy Terrence McGee both get picks.
Week 2, Chiefs: Chiefs will be looking to get some revenge from last year, but to no avail. Despite having a healthy team around him, Matt Cassel is still harried enough that he makes bad decisions frequently leading to the Chiefs demise. Mark Anderson and Marcell Dareus get in on the fun this week, each with a sack. Fred Jackson breaks 150 yards on the ground, Bills win 24-7.
Week 3, @Browns: This shouldn’t even be a contest. One of the more interesting parts of the game should be the two former Crimson Tide players directly opposing each other. Dareus should get the upper hand over Richardson. Bills win, 38-10.
Week 4, Patriots: Tom Brady should be shaking in his Uggs for this one. The Ralph will be rocking, and the Bills have the benefit of 3 more pass rushers than last year (I’m counting Merriman). I think this one will go back and forth. The Bills still won’t have an answer for Gronk, but the Patriots o-line won’t consistently be giving Brady the time he needs either. I think it will come down to the wire, but the Bills will pull it out 31-29.
Week 5, @49ers: This is a 49ers team that was a couple plays away from the Superbowl. Frank Gore is a beast, and the linebacking tandem of Willis and Bowman is arguably the best in the league. The Bills get brought back down to earth after a hard-fought game 24-17.
Week 6, @Cardinals: The Bills stay on the west coast and should have a good game after some struggles in San Fran. Kevin Kolb is still not the answer for the Cards, and neither is John Skelton. However, both are splitting reps as OTAs begin. Without anyone to throw to him, Larry Fitzgerald is a non factor and the Bills win big, 35-14.
Week 7, Titans: The Bills came within a couple CJ2K runs of winning against the Titans last year. However after a big win over the Cardinals, the Bills get sloppy and get behind early, which leads to as we know, Fitz throwing to the wrong team. Bills lose 14-10 in an ugly game for both teams.
Week 8, Bye
Week 9, @Texans: In Mario Williams homecoming, the entire team is feeling the same energy he is and the outcome is dictated by that. Big game defensively, touchdown returns from Jairus and Gilmore. Arian Foster and Ben Tate get going early, but after the Texans fall behind are all but shelved for the rest of the day. 31-13.
Week 10, @Patriots: The Bills haven’t beat the Pats twice in a season for as long as I can remember, and it won’t happen this year either. Brady surgically picks apart the Bills secondary in front of his home fans. Fitzpatrick and company do their best to turn it into a shootout, but are eventually outgunned, 38-28.
Week 11, Dolphins: This is a game lots of Bills fans will be licking their chops for, and for good reason. After getting edged out twice by Miami last year, Buffalo is ready for some comeuppance. Ryan Tannehill is the starter at this point, the Bills D-Line feasts on the rookie. Bills Squish the Fish at home 48-14.
Week 12, @ Colts: This should by all rights be a win for the Bills, as the Colts are in total rebuilding stage, have rookies at a lot of the important positions, and lost a LOT of veteran leadership in the offseason. Hopefully the Bills will have Luck on their side today, and McGee and co. will be there to catch some of his passes. Bills win, 28-17.
Week 13, Jaguars: The Bills have the fortune of playing a division with 2 teams in rebuild-mode in the AFC South. Unless Blaine Gabbart improves dramatically between last year and this year (with a whole offseason under his belt he very well could), the Bills win this one handily. MJD still has some contract issues at this point, but by week 13 they should all be settled and he should be back in the swing of things. This is a homecoming of sorts for Poz and Lee Evans, so I would expect both of them to try their best to keep it close. Final score 21-17, Bills win.
Week 14, Rams: After having an above average season in 2010, the Rams took a big step backward in 2011. They had a good draft, and with a full offseason, and a healthy Sam Bradford this game could be a tough one. Still, the Bills have wayyy more talent on the defensive side of the ball and take care of business 17-7.
Week 15, Seattle (@Toronto): In this quasi-home game, the Bills take on Pete Carrolls Seahawks. Hopefully this game will be better than the last game Seattle played against a Lake Erie team for the fans sake(6-3 loss to the Browns), but it should be a win for the Bills as well. The Seahawks still have questions at QB, and no matter who they plug in he will not have much experience. You all probably remember the last back-up QB who played great in a couple games and then a team awarded him a big contract. Matt Flynn may very well be better than Mr. Johnson, but either him or Russell Wilson will have their work cut out for them. I think the Bills running game makes the difference in this one, with CJ racking up 150+ rushing/receiving yards. Bills win 20-10.
Week 16, @ Dolphins: I think it is completely unjust that the Bills play a game in Florida in December, but oh well. The schedule makers seem somewhat out to get the Bills. At this point in the season, the Bills will be neck and neck in a race for the division with the Patriots. Every year there seems to be a heartbreaking game that should by all rights be won, and I’m calling this one to be it. Miami wins on a last second field goal, Bills fans everywhere are heartbroken.
Week 17, @ Jets: At this point the Bills are playing for a playoff spot, and the Jets are playing for nothing but pride and therefore have nothing to lose. Similar in fashion to the first half of the Bills eventual 48-21 blowout at the hands of the Pats in the last season finale, except the Jets win this one. Bills lose, 35-10.
1. Patriots, 12-4 (Win division, 1st round bye)
2. Bills, 11-5 (Wildcard berth)
3. Jets, 6-10 (10th overall draft pick)
4. Dolphins, 3-13 (Still terrible)
Final Stat Lines
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 3900 yards passing, 26 TDs, 15 INTs
Fred Jackson 1000 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving, 8 total tds
CJ Spiller 700 yards rushing, 300 yards receiving, 8 total tds
Stevie Johnson: 1100 yds receiving, 10 TDs
Mario Williams: 12 sacks
Kyle Wiliams: 5 sacks
Marcell Dareus: 7 sacks
Mark Anderson: 9 sacks
Breakout Player of the Year: Shawne Merriman. With not nearly the amount of pressure to improve the pass rush he had on him last year, a (by all reports) healthy Merriman is ready to pin his ears back and make life difficult for opposing QBs.
Surprise Rookie of the Year: Nigel Bradham. He adjusts nicely to the pace of the pro game, and is starting by week 6 over Kirk Morrison.