Sports

NFL Analysis: Time to Buy into the Buffalo Bills Hype?

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It’s not easy being a Buffalo Bills fan. It’s not like I’m not proud of it, but it’s also not like I don’t get laughed at sometimes for it. There’s nothing I could do. It was handed down to me and it’s in my bloodlines. It didn’t help that I was born in 1987 either. I grew up on the four straight Super Bowl losses. That’s how I was introduced to the NFL. I got a little older, and in 2000 I found myself on the wrong side of the Music City Miracle. Although I have to admit, at least on that day, Jeff Fisher was the greatest football coach on Earth.

Not many people realize, or care, that that was the last time the Bills were in the playoffs, the longest active streak in the NFL as you might expect. Since that day Buffalo has a record of 76-116 (40%), and a total point differential of -620. Over the last 12 seasons, the once proud franchise has become the laughing stock of the NFL, at least everywhere outside of Upstate New York…(where?).

That’s what makes it so difficult. It’s not the miserable weather seven months out of the year, or the poor rusted out economy. It’s not the crappy hotels, sparse nightlife, or even its proximity to Canada. What makes it hard to be a Bills fan is nothing more than how much they’ve sucked since Kevin Dyson ran down that sideline. Go ahead, laugh. I guess it must have been pretty funny.

Last year through the first eight weeks of the season, Buffalo was one of the most exciting teams in the league. After beating the Pats in week three for the first time in 15 tries, Buffalo became the only team since 1950 (when the stat was first tracked) to overcome two consecutive 18-or-more point deficits and win (down 21-0 vs. New England, and 21-3 vs. Oakland the week before). They found themselves on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time since big Sam Adams stumbled down the sideline and into the end zone with a Tom Brady pass in hand. That was week one of 2003, the last time Buffalo had managed to beat the Golden Boy and BB. After shutting out the Redskins 23-0 in Toronto, they were 5-2 through week eight. Ryan Fitzpatrick cracked a few ribs during that game, but he downplayed it, as did head coach Chan Gailey, and thus so did every single Bills fan including myself.

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Who knows how much that affected Fitzpatrick the rest of the season, but something changed. The first eight weeks of 2011, the Amish Rifle threw 14 touchdowns and seven picks with an average passer rating of 98. The rest of the season he put up 10 TDs alongside 16 picks and had an average passer rating of 65, while the Bills went 1-8 to finish the year. Sweet.

At this point, it’s hard to even picture the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs. But truth be told, they haven’t been this talented going into a season, at least on paper, since probably the ‘90s. If you haven’t heard, and maybe you didn’t, they signed the biggest free agent on the market in Mario Williams, and also added DE Mark Anderson to a D-Line that already featured Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, but ranked 28th in the league against the run last year.

Throw in a supposedly healthy Shawne Merriman, first round draftee CB Stephon Gilmore, and a handful of returning playmakers behind the front four, and the defense looks well rounded with added depth in the right places, as I said, on paper.

Adding H-back Dorin Dickerson to a backfield that already features Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller creates more matchup problems for defenses who are already worried about Stevie Johnson on the outside, and David Nelson and Scott Chandler inside. Even if the line is only satisfactory, the combination of Gailey’s creativity and Fitzpatrick’s ability to make good reads (at least pre-snap) should allow the offense to move the ball, supplemented by the consistency of steady Freddy.

All this is encouraging news for Bills fans. The team looks poised to contend for the playoffs and maybe even their first AFC East crown since 1995. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. Bills fans hope for the best but expect the worst, and we have every reason to be that way. When your heart gets ripped out and stomped on then shoved back down your throat each fall, it’s hard to be optimistic. The problem this year is that unless everyone gets hurt (which is definitely within reason), there really will not be an excuse for Buffalo to hang its hat on, and its loyal fan base will be left to once again pick up the pieces. Like I said, it’s hard to be a Bills fan and I pray to God it gets a little easier this year. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

A recent graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, earning his Masters in public relations, Michael Tremiti is a communications intern for RotoExperts and contributing writer for TheXLog.com. Growing up in Syracuse, Mike is a lifelong die-hard fan of the Syracuse Orange and Buffalo Bills. You can contact Mike directly @ [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @@Miketremiti15.