Yes, fans, football season is upon us!
Tonight the Bills will take the field for the first of four “warm up” games. This evening they play the Washington Redskins at home. (That means that we get to watch it one day later, since we will not be at the game!) If you are a fan of our team, you’ll recall that our quite-sorry defense put on a 10-sack, shut-out performance against this opponent last year! Wow!
Don’t expect a shutout tonight. (Even with a vastly improved defense!) In fact, don’t really expect to learn anything from the score, win or lose.
Preseason games are weird. It’s really not about the game plan, or the scoring, or anything that might matter in a regular NFL game. It’s more about seeing mostly the backup players in “game conditions”. You want to see who should fall where on the roster once the season begins. It’s about “getting into football shape” (readjusting to the quickness of real football, actually hitting people, stuff like that).
At least, that’s what I’ve heard… 🙂
So, rather than discuss tonight’s game here, I thought I’d give me somewhat regular, somewhat annual preview of the upcoming Buffalo Bills season!
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Believe it or not, there are many. (And those aren’t just Bills-colored glasses!) But, check the reasons for pessimism that follow for the “reality check”.
- The Defensive Line
In the photo at the top of this article—taken on the first day of Bills training camp in Rochester, NY—you see the biggest reason for optimism around Western New York—the greatly-bolstered defensive line! Adding the most prominent free agent (other than Peyton Manning, I suppose) definitely helped. But in addition to Mario Williams, the Bills added Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks last year. Plus they get Pro Bowler Kyle Williams back, ostensibly healthier than he’s ever been following last year’s surgery. Then there’s Marcell Dareus, last year’s third overall draft pick (who really shouldn’t be overshadowed in anyway, but somehow gets mentioned third or fourth on this line). PLUS, Shawne Merriman seems to be healthy, along with Chris Kelsay. Are you kidding me? If these guys are as good as they seem to be, this defense is going to be fun!
- A High-Scoring, Multi-faceted Offense
I know, it sounds funny. “Who do they have? Uh… Stevie Johnson… and, um… is Marshawn Lynch still on that team?” Right. I know. So far, the Bills (thanks to many losing, non-playoff seasons) are very much “off the radar”. BUT (big but) …
Last year, Fitzpatrick (he’s the starting QB, the guy with the huge beard) was actually in the top QBs in the league in passing, TDs, rating, etc. Then he got hurt. (After his center(S) got hurt.. and his star RB got hurt… and … yeah. Lots of hurt.) So his numbers dropped off, and people said, “Yeah, that’s just Fitz. He’s not really that good.” But… don’t be so sure.
Stevie Johnson is that good. Fred Jackson was truly an MVP candidate (leading the league in rushing and close in all-purpose yards through the 10 weeks he played) and CJ Spiller filled in more than admirably. Plus, our receivers may not be known yet, but there is a competition for those roster spots because they don’t know who to cut, rather than whom to keep. (Which is how it has been in years past.)
Add a one-year-smarter offensive line, plus a couple new players for depth, and, barring injury, this offense should put up some points!
- The schedule
Yes, that may seem silly, but really, it is very much in the Bills’ favor. They begin with three win-able games. First at the division-rival NY Jets (a great game to test/prove their off-season improvements), and then Kansas City in Buffalo and at the Cleveland Browns. They should win at least two of those, because the only tough stretch of the season follows. New England, at San Francisco, at Arizona (maybe not so tough? who is their QB again?). Then they play the Tennessee Titans (Chris Johnson…), at Houston Texans (Mario’s home coming). THEN, get this… the Miami Dolphins, at the Colts, St Louis Rams, Seahawks, at the Dolphins, then Jets at home. THAT is a great way to end the season. Even if they are 5-4 or 4-5 after that second New England game, things look pretty good for a return to the playoffs!
REASONS FOR PESSIMISM
- Unproven Talent
Perhaps this doesn’t need to be said, but, the Bills still have to actually put a whole season together. Injuries are definitely to blame for some of their implosions, but regardless, they still have to show they can do it. Period.
Can the no-name receivers get it done? Can the very young, inexperienced offensive line perform well enough? Can Fitz be a playoff QB in the NFL?? How about our young secondary? And just who are the LBs again??? Plenty of questions.
OK, this is a weird one, but really… STAY HEALTHY!!! Over the past five years or so, the Bills have been among the (or THE) league leaders in players—important players—on injured reserve. The teams that make the playoffs, and the Super Bowl, have fewer. That said, they also have depth. Until now that has not been true of the Bills, but if they expect to make the post season, they will need fewer injuries!!
- It’s Buffalo…
Sadly, this might be the biggest reason for pessimism! 🙂 Whether it’s the Bills (12 years and counting with no playoffs) or the Sabres (new owner spending lots of money on an already OL-to-good team and still missing the playoffs)… Buffalo seems destined to never quite be good enough.
The four Super Bowls… Wide Right… the Music City Miracle… the President’s Trophy season with no Stanley Cup. No Stanley Cup. No Lombardi Trophy.
So the good thing about 2012, I’m the opinion of this very long-time Bills fan, is that there really do appear to be more reasons for optimism than pessimism.
Tonight begins the proving of that.