It was one of the best story lines of last season. The Buffalo Bills rolled into a 5-2 start and positioned themselves for a playoff push. It was a streak that was highlighted by Ryan Fitzpatrick and company overcoming an 18-point deficit to beat the New England Patriots in Week 3 on their way to 3-0, and capped by a 23-0 shutout of the Washington Redskins in Toronto in Week 8.
Going into that game, the Bills defense led the NFL in takeaways with 16. Their offense led in red-zone efficiency at 76 percent. Fitzpatrick looked sharp with 14 touchdowns to seven interceptions. In a momentarily-competitive AFC East, the Bills stood tied with the Patriots for first place.
But then came Week 9 when they couldn't muster more than 11 points against a team that had been chauffeuring quarterbacks to the end zone all season long. The New York Jets pummeled the Bills to a tune of 27-11, and if not for a meaningless touchdown with three minutes remaining, the scoreboard would tell the story of what actually happened on the field.
That marked the beginning of a downward spiral in which they would drop seven straight, finishing the season by losing eight of their last nine games. Once again, for the fourth time in a row, the Bills landed in last place. And once again, for the 12th straight season, they would be held out of the playoffs, which is the current longest standing drought in the NFL.
It's hard to say what led to their demise. Some blame injuries. Though if Fitzpatrick was playing hurt, you couldn't see it on the game films. Not with the way he was running into contact and using his whole body to throw. But he certainly didn't look like the same quarterback that started the season by rolling into Kansas City and punishing the Chiefs 40-7, the best game of his career (four touchdowns to zero interceptions).
Some might say they were over performing. Whatever it was, one of the best story lines of 2011 eventually crumbled into another embarrassing year. Now, with training camps right around the corner, what better time to fire up the hype machine and make some predictions about the 2012 edition of the Buffalo Bills.