Buffalo Bills: Have They Closed the Talent Gap on the New England Patriots?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 20, 2012

All the Bills want is for someone to show them some love. Sorry, guys. Not me.
All the Bills want is for someone to show them some love. Sorry, guys. Not me.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Signing free-agent defensive end Mario Williams put the Buffalo Bills on the map, but did it make them the king of the mountain in the AFC East?

That throne has been occupied for nearly a decade by the New England Patriots, and it's going to stay that way if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have anything to say about it.

But do they? The Bills were 5-2 at one point in 2011 before things went rotten quicker than milk that had been left on the counter. Much of that was a result of injuries that ate the Bills' postseason dreams alive like Hannibal Lecter.

There were several problems that hurt the Bills' chances down the stretch: pass rush, injuries and well-below-average play at the quarterback position.

Adding Williams helps fix the first and most prominent issue. Not only did the Bills generate just 29 sacks as a team in 2011, but in their transition to a 4-3 defense they also lacked a true 4-3 defensive end.

If they can stay healthy, that knocks two issues off the list of what plagued them last year.

But then we get to the most important issue—quarterback.

Yes, it's almost unfair to compare any quarterback to Brady, but in the AFC East, it's a necessity. It's the one position that sets the Patriots apart from every other team in their division.

And even at his best, Fitzpatrick isn't quite the quarterback Brady is. Looking at Fitzpatrick's red-hot start to 2011 side-by-side with Brady's first seven games, it's close to be sure. But can Fitzpatrick keep it going for 16 games?

And Brady's first seven games were nowhere near as good as his final nine. In Fitzpatrick's case, his late-season skid was a big part of what cost the Bills a shot at the playoffs.

But that's not all. The Patriots have made their own improvements this offseason, and while none might carry the star power or the long history of production of a name like Mario Williams, the Patriots have long since stood by the strength-in-numbers strategy.

Jonathan Fanene. Brandon Lloyd. Anthony Gonzalez. Donte Stallworth. Robert Gallery. Trevor Scott. Steve Gregory. Daniel Fells.

The Patriots were already a Super Bowl contender. If two or three of those eight signings make an impact, the Patriots have done pretty well for themselves.

And beyond all player and personnel decisions, there's one more spot where the Patriots have a leg up—coaching.

While Chan Gailey is a good coach in his own right, Bill Belichick is one of the best head coaches of the modern era. Taking nothing away from Gailey, Belichick is the best coach in the division, with Rex Ryan coming in second.

The Bills put themselves in the discussion for the playoffs with the Williams signing, but unseating the Patriots is another discussion entirely. 

One thing is for sure—the Bills are trending upward and could be ready to take that spot sometime in the future.

That being said, I'd be surprised if that happened on Brady and Belichick's watch.