With anticipation rising in Buffalo offices for the Bills 2012 season, QCS decided to preview how we think the Bills will end up this year.
Queen City Sports is starting a new weekly column called the Buffalo Water Cooler. It will consist of the largest topics of each week in Buffalo sports and feature the opinions of multiple QCS writers. This is the 4th edition to be published and the first edition to be published on its new Tuesday feature day.
This week’s water cooler features writers Mike Bundt, Ryan Talbot, Branden Hess & Mike Straw Jr. as they preview the Buffalo Bills season.
Mike Bundt: What’s up everybody? For the first time all year, we’re going to focus on the NFL regular season coming up instead of what’s been happening during the preseason. With the season getting underway on Sunday, I figured we should preview the Bills upcoming season. How do you all think the Bills will do this year record wise?
Mark Sanchez is one of a handful of “weak” quarterbacks the Bills will face in 2012 according to Ryan Talbot. (Source: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America)
Ryan Talbot: 10-6. The Bills not only have an easy schedule, but this is by far the weakest group of collective quarterbacks they’ve played during a season in a long time. Look at the QBs: Sanchez/Tebow, Cassel, Weeden, Brady, Alex Smith, Skelton, Locker, Schaub, Tannehill, Luck, Gabbert, Bradford, Russell Wilson or Matt Flynn. Brady and Schaub are the only two quarterbacks on this list right now that are heads and shoulders above Fitzpatrick. Some of the QBs listed will go on to have great careers, but many are going to experience growing pains this season. If our defensive line is as good as I think it is, they’ll create many problems for the quarterbacks and help us significantly in terms of field position. With two very good RBs, I see the Bills being more run oriented (think San Francisco from last year). When all is said and done, the Bills finish with 10 wins.
Mike Straw: 8-8, tied for second in AFC East: Buffalo’s front office has done its job to field a highly competitive team in 2012. To quote GM Buddy Nix, “it’s time” for the Bills to take that next step, and I believe they will move a step in the right direction in 2012. I think they improve on the field, but still fall short of the playoffs due to the inconsistency of Fitzpatrick.
Bills GM Buddy Nix has done a tremendous job in his short time in Buffalo, helping the Bills rebuild from a pretender to a contender. (Heupel/AP )
Branden Hess: I see this Bills team finishing 9-7, and finishing second in the AFC East behind New England. Buffalo has the talent, and the favorable schedule to put together a 10 or 11 win season, but it will be a struggle for the Bills at times to win the games they’re supposed to win. I could see them dropping a road game to a weak team somewhere along the way that prevents them from getting double digit wins. Still a winning record would be validation for Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey that their plan is working.
Mike Bundt: I have them going 9-7. I think the Bills have the potential to do a lot better this year based on their acquisition of Mario Williams and a very easy schedule facing them in 2012 but they’ll still have to go out on the field and prove it. Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t play like he did in the second half of 2011 if the Bills want to contend for a playoff spot this season.
Now, moving on to your picks for who’ll be the most important Bills in 2012. Give me your preseason Bills MVP’s on offense and defense.
Branden Hess: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mario Williams
Mike Straw: Fred Jackson, Jairus Byrd
Ryan Talbot: Fred Jackson/ CJ Spiller duo, Mario Williams
Mike Bundt: Stevie Johnson, Marcell Dareus.
Now that we’ve gotten all of our Bills MVP picks out-of-the-way, tell me who you guys have as your top Bills rookie this year.
TJ Graham is one of many Bills rookies in 2012 that will be depended on including the likes of Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn. (Mark Mulvile/Buffalo New)
Branden Hess: TJ Graham. If Chan Gailey’s spread offense is to be successful someone other than Stevie Johnson has to step up and make the most of their touches. Graham has the speed to beat defenders at this level, and once he learns how to be a pro receiver and develops chemistry with Fitzpatrick he’ll be a deadly weapon for the Bills.
Mike Straw: Cordy Glenn. Glenn was projected to go in the first round and fell to the Bills lap in the second. He’s going to be a stud for the team at left tackle for years to come, and he’ll prove it in a big way during his rookie season.
Ryan Talbot: I have to go with Stephon Gilmore here. Glenn’s spot at left tackle is significant, but Gilmore is going to be going against team’s best wide receivers all season long and hold his own. With the defensive pressure up front, he’ll also get a few interceptions in his rookie campaign.
Mike Bundt: I’m going with Stephon Gilmore. He’s going to start right off the bat and will be given ample opportunity to become an impact player. The Bills are excited to see how he performs as he has what it takes to become a shutdown corner in the future.
Who is the most vital player for the Bills to have a successful season?
Ryan Fitzpatrick might be the most important player on the Bills when it comes to deciding whether or not they’ll make the playoffs. (Derek Gee/AP)
Mike Straw: It’s simple, Ryan Fitzpatrick. If Fitzpatrick can cut down on the turnovers from a year ago, this Bills team can go places. If he can’t, expect another long season.
Ryan Talbot: Here I’ll pick Ryan Fitzpatrick. I believe the emphasis will be on the run this season, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ability to read defenses will prove to be extremely beneficial to the Bills. This season he’ll be more of a game manager and won’t be asked to be such a gunslinger this season.
Mike Bundt: With all the hype the Bills have had this offseason, are they capable of reaching their high expectations?
Branden Hess: There’s no doubt this Bills team is better than last year, and on paper appears to be a playoff contender, but winning games you’re supposed to win is difficult for a team that has only been accustomed to losing in recent years. Despite this, I believe this Buffalo squad will meet the expectations of finishing with a winning record, whether or not that is good enough for a postseason birth depends on how the rest of the AFC fares as well. Still, a winning record would be a huge step forward for this core and the Chan Gailey regime.
Rob Johnson was the Bills quarterback the last time Buffalo made the playoffs. Do the Bills have what it takes to reach expectations of making the playoffs in 2012?
Ryan Talbot: Their expectations? Sure. I think the Bills expect to contend in the AFC East and they have the ability to. That said, I think their biggest expectation is reaching the playoffs and the Bills have a great chance to return to the playoffs this year.
Mike Straw: Right now, I’m not sure that they are. There are too many question marks at the quarterback and cornerback positions. On offense, can Fitzpatrick actually be “the” guy? I’m not so sure. On defense, will rookie Stephon Gillmore be the next top shutdown corner? Can Terrence Mcgee stay healthy? Can Leodis McKelvin even find the field? There are a lot of questions to be answered.
Mike Bundt: I think they’re capable of reaching their expectations. Will they? That’s another question. An important individual on the Bills that will need a big season for Buffalo to make the playoffs is Mario Williams. Will he live up to fans expectations this year?
Mike Straw: I feel this is one thing we should all agree on. I definitely think he will. He may not get gaudy numbers, but his presence alone will allow his line-mates to put up those top-tier numbers.
Mario Williams brought a new sense of expectations when he signed with the Bills in March. With the Bills expectations on the rise, will Mario even manage to reach fans expectations? (Kevin Hoffman, US Presswire)
Ryan Talbot: Depends on how realistic people are being. I’ve read where some fans have said they’d be disappointed if he didn’t get 20 sacks this year. Twenty! That’s ridiculous. I love Mario Williams and think he is entering the prime of his career. If he gets double-digit sacks, he will have lived up to the hype this season. For the record, I don’t want to say Mario can’t reach 20 sacks, but to expect 20 sacks isn’t fair. I think most Bills fans don’t think that way for what it’s worth, just a few.
Mike Bundt: We’ve answered most of the big questions regarding the Bills this season but we’ll end with a bang. Will the Bills make the playoffs in 2012?
Mike Straw: No
Bills running back Fred Jackson hopes 2012 is the year the Bills finally end their playoff drought. (Getty Images)
Branden Hess: The Bills should finish with a winning record, most likely with 9 or 10 wins. It’s too hard to predict whether or not a 9 or 10 win team can make the playoffs, last season the New York Giants won the Super Bowl with 9 wins, but in 2008 the New England Patriots missed the playoffs entirely with an 11-5 record. This season the AFC is wide open and we’re sure to see some new blood sneak into the postseason, I think the Bills will be that team earning a wildcard birth and their first playoff appearance in the new millennium.
Ryan Talbot: Yes. The Bills will snag a Wild Card spot and win one game in the playoffs.
Mike Bundt: Normally I’m a leveled, realistic Bills writer when it comes to picking the team’s record but I’m lost this year. The Bills have never had a team good enough in recent history to even take this question seriously but I’ll go out on the limb and agree with Ryan and Branden that this is the year the Bills playoff drought ends as they’ll make it in 2012.
Thanks for checking out another edition of the QCS Buffalo Water Cooler. Remember that from now on, it will be published every Tuesday.
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