If the Buffalo Bills don’t make the playoffs this year, then when will they? The sting of the Musical City Miracle has still not gone away, which was the last playoff game the Bills played. Buffalo has only one winning season since 1999, when it went 9-7 in 2004.
The 5-2 start a year ago showed this team could be a playoff contender if everything breaks right. If it keeps the injuries down, it has a team with enough talent to have a winning season.
The reasons why Buffalo has a chance to make the postseason this year have been well documented, and it starts with Mario Williams. Not only did the Bills get one of the best defensive ends in the league that will help their horrendous pass rush, but his presence will trickle down and make the rest of the defense better.
The defensive line as a whole has given Buffalo those high expectations. Putting Williams next to Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus gives the team the potential to be dominant. Add the other offseason pickup, Mark Anderson, and that line could be scary. Anderson had 10 sacks a year ago.
So far in training camp, the defensive line has looked as good as anyone could have hoped. The first few days of padded practice, the defense was contently in the face of Ryan Fitzpatrick and could have done more if it were allowed to tackle.
The offense was so far ahead of the defense a year ago that the Bills should want to see the defense win practice.
Fred Jackson could have been an MVP candidate in 2011 if he didn't break his leg against Miami. However, the injury will strangely help this year’s team, because the Bills found out what they had in C.J. Spiller when Jackson went down. In the six games he started after Jackson got hurt, Spiller rushed for 446 yards and had 187 yards receiving. That’s an average of 105 all-purpose yards per game.
In two NFL seasons, he has a rushing average of 4.6 yards per carry.
The running backs will drive the offense. Chan Gailey likes to use backs in the short passing game that works as runs. Spiller proved last year he will be another weapon that opposing teams need to plan for. Look for Jackson and Spiller to be on the field together often.
The Bills’ schedule couldn’t be more favorable for them to make a run. It’s one of the easiest in the league, with non-division games against the AFC South and NFC West, along with the Browns and Chiefs.
Unlike last year, there is no daunting road trip and their tough games are in the first half of the season.
The layout of it is favorable as well. Their first two road games are in New York and Cleveland before hosting New England in Week 4. They only have to make one trip out West to play at San Francisco and Arizona, and then Buffalo faces the Titans at home before the bye week.
Buffalo will be able to rest before it travels to Houston and then New England, before a short week with a Thursday night game against Miami. The extended break following the Dolphins will let the Bills get ready for the final six-game run against bad teams.
The Bills don’t play a team with a winning record in 2012 in their final seven games.
While it sounds mean and sarcastic, Buffalo will have its best players healthy for the tough games in the beginning, so when 17 players go on IR like a season ago, it has easier teams at the end.
Everything points in the Bills' favor this season. If nothing else, maybe it’s finally their turn. After all, the Lions made the playoffs last year. 2012 could finally be the year that those images of Kevin Dyson running down the sideline finally go away.