As many of you may know, the Bills have been annually disappointing for quite some time. What you might not know, though, is that I’m a big fan even though by December I’m totally disenchanted by yet another year of football that is way below my standards. For some reason, though, I keep coming back next season with hope that maybe it’ll be our year. Being a Bills fan is a blessing and a curse, and I’m glad that I haven’t gotten to the point that a lot of older fans have gotten to where they’ve given up any hope of seeing a winning season and the playoffs. There are a few reasons why I haven’t given up yet.
1) Fitz isn’t that bad.
Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be in the top tier of quarterbacks in the league, but he definitely isn’t in the bottom either. Personally, I see him as a better than average quarterback when healthy. Last year, he was the victim of the fans wrath after being rewarded a big contract and under-performing afterwards. I am not ashamed to say that I was one of the nay-sayers, I thought he had taken his money and was fully aware that he didn’t have to perform anymore. Boy, though, did I feel like an asshole when news came out after the season that he played half of the season with cracked ribs, courtesy of a brutal shot by former buffalo bill London Fletcher. Ironically, it was his first game after the big payday, so when the team started going downhill people had no idea that he was playing injured. At full health, he was playing like the franchise guy that Buffalo was looking for. If he stays uninjured I think Fitz could have a great season.
2) Our running back situation is pretty darn good
Fred Jackson should win an award for worst luck and timing in the 2011 season. His numbers were at an MVP like level before he got put on IR with a leg injury. Obviously, there’s no way to tell if his numbers would have been at that level consistently for the rest of the year, but with the numbers he was putting up it definitely would have helped the team if he had been able to keep playing. To make a good situation even better, when Jackson DID go down CJ Spiller did a pretty good job picking up the slack. He had a bit of a slow start, but once he got on his horse he definitely did his job and did it well. The only concern for Bills fans isn’t an immediate one. Fred Jackson is in a contract year this next season. I fully expect they’ll lock him up and he’ll finish his career in Buffalo, but the league is fickle and nothing is a 100% guarantee. If he doesn’t end up staying in Buffalo after next season, CJ Spiller is a guy I see with some upside to him.
3) One of our glaring weaknesses on defense should be addressed in April.
One of our glaring weaknesses on defense was the pass rush, or lack thereof. At the beginning of the year our pass rush looked pretty good. Marcell Dareus was a great first round pick in my opinion, and Kyle Williams is pretty good too. Unfortunately, Kyle Williams along with the rest of the defensive line (minus Dareus) had injury problems and there was virtually no pass rush for most of the season. With the lack of pressure on Quarterbacks, there was way too much time for opposing wide receivers to get open, and their weaknesses in the secondary were easily exposed. The Bills pick at 10 in the first round of the draft, and I think with their first pick they need to take some sort of pass rushing defensive end. This years draft is definitely deep in pass rushers and I think my pick would be Courtney Upshaw, a defensive end from Alabama. Not only is he explosive off the snap, he’s 6’2″ and 265 lbs, which is a pretty good size for a defensive end. I’m hopeful that a combination of Upshaw, Dareus, and Kyle Williams will be a force to be reckoned with especially since the bills are switching back to a 4-3 defense.
4) I think Stevie Johnson will be back
one of the biggest questions for the bills heading into this offseason was the fate of star reciever Stevie Johnson. Stevie becomes a free agent in March, and there have been conflicting stories about the progress in contract talks between the Bills and Stevie’s people. The reason I think he’ll be back is that Buddy Nix said that one of his top priorities is resigning him, and Stevie has said himself that he wants to play in Buffalo. I don’t think he’ll be signed to a huge deal this offseason, but I think the Bills are going to give him the franchise tag, and tell him that he’ll get his big money if he has another stellar season. I think this is a win-win for both sides because not only will Buffalo keep their number one wideout, but Stevie will play like it’s another contract year. I’ll tell ya what folks, money is a pretty good motivator, and if the head office can tell Stevie that he’ll get his money if he has another great year, I don’t see him going anywhere. He’s the only wide reciever to have 1000 yards in back-to-back seasons for Buffalo in the history of the franchise. I think he realizes that if he stays in Buffalo, he’s THE guy. He’s the definite number 1 if he stays, while elsewhere he might have to compete for that honor. Stevie is a prideful guy, and being number 1 is a big deal for someone with pride like his.
Well, there ya have it folks. I don’t think fans up in Buffalo have much longer to wait for the team to finally make the playoffs. If you didn’t know, the bills have the longest playoff drought in the league and haven’t seen the postseason since 1999. I’m not saying that they’re a definite playoff team in 2012, but if things keep improving and moving in the right direction I have good faith that we may be nearing the end of our painful playoff drought. Through it all, what makes me a true bills fan is that I’m hopeful and I will never stop being hopeful.
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