Tough Season Ahead For the Buffalo Bills
January 8th, 2000. You remember the "Music City Miracle". The Tennessee Titans came up with an incredible play at the end of the game to beat the Buffalo Bills in the AFC playoffs. Yep, it's the last time the Buffalo Bills were in the playoffs. It cost Special Teams coach Bruce DeHaven his job and the following year coach Wade Phillips was fired. The Buffalo Bills have been struggling to find their way back to the playoffs ever since.
The Bills have made improvement over last year's 4 & 12 team, especially on defense but they have plenty of holes in the lineup that'll likely keep them out of the playoffs for a 12th straight year.
Their number one draft choice Marcell Dareus is a huge addition to the defensive line. At 6-foot-3 and 340 pounds he's a player the Bills can build their defense around. Linebacker Shawn Merriman has been solid when he's been able to play. And former Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett was a big free agent pick-up.
Those three players alone are a big improvement over last year's defensive lineup that was one of the poorest team's in the league against the run and had a tough time putting pressure on the quarterback. An improved defense will keep the Bills in a lot of games this season, but there's a problem - the offense.
Since Jim Kelly retired in 1997, the Bills have never been able to find a franchise quarterback. The likes of Rob Johnson, J-P Losman, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Todd Collins, Kelly Holcomb and Trent Edwards have come and gone. Now it's Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had some good moments last season after replacing Edwards, but now he gets the starting job from the start of the beginning of the season.
I'm just hoping the chemistry between the quarterback and his receivers develops quickly because during training camp and during the preseason I just didn't see it. Except for the brief appearance in the preseason game against Jacksonville where Fitzpatrick finished 11 of 12 for 165 yards and two touchdowns, there have been a lot of overthrown and off target throws and way too many dropped passes. The lockout didn't help, but then of course every other team in the league was in the same position.
So the season begins this weekend with the Bills at Kansas City. The Chiefs have a solid defense and it's what the Bills are looking to develop.
When you look at the schedule you see those games against the Patriots and Jets - a couple of teams the Bills will have their hands full with. They also face the NFC East this season - Eagles, Giants, Cowboys and Redskins. They have one of the toughest schedules in the league this season and it's hard to see them winning much more than the four games they won last year. They won't get blown off the ball like they did last year, but 5 & 11 would be optimistic