Happy Football New Year.
Today, the Bills are officially undefeated, and are alphabetically high in the standings on NFL charts.
The ’10-’11 season was historically awful for the Buffalo Bills. The team finished with a 4-12 record, and had the worst run defense in the entire NFL.
No one expected much from a team that did little to improve itself in the offseason and was in transition under the 1st year of new head coach Chan Gailey, and new GM Buddy Nix.
Mathematically, however, there was reason for enthusiasm at the onset of that doomed season. SportsClubStats.com, a highly regarded destination for sports pundits, bookies, and fans, had the chances for the Bills to make the playoffs at the beginning of the season at a surprising 37.46%.
After week 3’s loss to the Patriots, the team’s chances flatlined at 0%, and it never recovered.
Still, that’s a pretty high number for a team that was so severely flawed. If there is anything that 37% number tells us, it is that this team is better than a lot of folks give it credit for. The Bills will be better in this upcoming season, and beyond math, there’s a lot of reasons for hope.
– The offensive line is much better than most people think, (if it can stay healthy). Buffalo Rumblings has already done all the work on this, so I won’t elaborate beyond the health issue.
– Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for over 3,000 yards. He established himself as a consistent, confident leader. And he can grow one heck of a rally beard. His facial hair took on a celebrity status all its own, with on-line petitions to save it, along with a Facebook fan page.
– Stevie Johnson emerged from out of nowhere as a legitimate deep field threat, and will be much more confident in his big play abilities next season.
– C.J. Spiller is going to be more involved in the offense. “I have to do a better job of getting him the ball in space,” Gailey said. “He is a touchdown waiting to happen.”
– Roscoe Parrish was finally utilized and showed off his dangerous play making skills before his injury in week 8. Parrish was tied for fifth in the NFL in third down receptions with 13 and had assumed a role as a primary receiver in Buffalo’s offense before going on the IR.
– David Nelson was phenomenal filling in for Parrish, and became the James Hardy the Bills thought they drafted in 2008.
– Lee Evans, Stevie Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, and David Nelson are going to catch a lot of footballs.
– The Bills’ secondary is entering the draft and free agent market with only six players under contract. That’s a dilemma for the secondary, but presents a scenario that should allow for more free-roaming time for Jairus Byrd. Gailey inherited a turn-over machine this year, but kept him grounded, to help teach the 2nd year pro some of the more important subtleties of the NFL defense. Byrd will be spreading his wings more often in 2011.
– The Bills had the worst run defense in the NFL, but have the 3rd overall selection in the draft. There are plenty of defensive studs for Gailey and Co. to pick from.
– Fixing the run defense will be addressed: the Colts were the only team in the bottom quarter in the NFL in rushing defense that managed to sneak into the playoffs. Kyle Williams has emerged as an elite plug in the middle of the line. Buffalo will look to the draft or free agency to put another beast right next to him.
– Dave Wannstedt. The Bills’ new Linebackers/Assistant Coach should work wonders with an underachieving squad – particularly at the LB position – that was exposed on pass defense in 2010.
– The Bills may have finished 4-12, but they had a good run in the second half of the season and gave some very good teams fits (Pittsburgh is a great example of this).
– This will be the second year of the Gailey/Nix era. The rebuilding process is moving into a transition process, which means more confidence, better football, and more wins.
– Shawne Merriman. No one knows what impact he will have returning from long-term injury, but his assessment of the Bills is perhaps even more important: “…looking at the stats, looking at the records, you think the team is really out there getting blown out and that’s not the case. You get a chance to be out there, and your around the guys, around the organization, and it’s a totally different story. This is a team that’s going to go out there each and every day and fight their asses off, um and that’s one thing I loved about it.”
Well put, Shawne.
Let the fight begin.