The 2012 season looks to be the most promising season for the Bills in over a decade. Before the season starts, I like to try and make predictions about the team to test my football and Bills knowledge. I like to think: the bolder, the better.
It’s easy for someone to say Mario Williams will lead the team in sacks or Stevie Johnson will have the most catches on the team. Where’s the fun in that? I give you 11 predictions, for those who think 10 isn’t enough. It also keeps me from having a tie in predictions I get correct.
For each prediction, I’ll do my best to show why I think they can come true.
ROGERS! I don’t need Justin Rogers to do a discount double check when he gets in the end zone, but I do think he will get there. I’m assuming the Bills will have Rogers returning kicks like he did toward the end of last season.
Rogers returned 13 kicks in 2011, replacing the ineffective Brad Smith. Rogers had an average of 28.7 yards per return, and a long of 54. Last season, he showed his blazing speed that a kick returner needs to reach the end zone.
I liked what I saw last year so much that I predict he will score at least once. Especially when the weather gets worse in November and December and kickoffs are into a stiff wind, he’ll get more chances to return. Remember, the kickoffs are still at the 35-yard-line.
The Bills only returned 37 kickoffs last season. I think we’ll see more players return kicks out of the end zone this season than last season. Teams won’t be so willing to start from the 20.
Disregarding the first preseason game against Washington, every game will be sold out. The first two home games against Kansas City and New England were sold out by May 20. If you’re trying to find seats for the Titans game, there aren’t many left. There’s only a few stragglers in the upper deck.
In 2011, the last three home games were blacked out. In 2010, three games were also blacked out. I don’t think western New York will have to worry about the Bills being on TV this season. The Dolphin’s Thursday night will be sold out, and between Bills and Jets fans, their week 17 battle will be sold out.
The “home game” against Seattle is in Toronto, which counts as a sellout. Only the home games against the Rams and Jaguars will be in question. If the Bills are pushing for a playoff spot or you’re late to the party on getting tickets, they should sell out as well.
This means is Gilmore will be the Bills No.1 cornerback by opening day. He’s already listed as a starting corner on the depth chart, so it’s not that bold of a prediction. He has been the most impressive player in training camp so far.
Gilmore has been covering Stevie Johnson in camp, which tells me the Bills’ coaching staff thinks he’s the best corner they have. Gilmore will have a huge impact on the defense as a rookie. The Bills have even thought about moving him inside in nickel packages to cover Rob Gronkowski when Buffalo plays the Patriots.
Gilmore's size and toughness make him tough against the run as well. Don't label Gilmore as a cover corner because he will be an all-around cornerback.
Not only will Stevie Johnson not get a celebrating penalty, I don’t think he’ll do any celebration that causes controversy. I don’t want him to become like Chad Johnson where the celebrations overshadow his play. Johnson is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the league. Nobody torches Darrelle Revis on accident.
Johnson has said he won’t stop celebrating. I think players should have a little fun in the end zone, as long as its not premeditated. I think Johnson has learned his lesson after last year. Remember, the last game he played last year, he finished on the bench. He’ll jump in the stands at home and maybe do a dance on the road.
Johnson doesn’t want to miss any game action because of a celebration.
I’ve seen enough of Terrence McGee. Actually, that's because I haven’t seen McGee on the field enough lately. He’s only started 19 games over the last three seasons due to injuries. He hasn’t had an interception since 2009.
McGee played six games in 2011. He was hurt in the first game of the season against Kansas City and never recovered. McGee was already hurt coming into training camp. He was riding the bike before he had a chance to practice.
At this point, McGee is taking the roster spot of another corner that can get on the field. They probably won't have the skill set McGee has, even at this point of this career, but if McGee can't get on the field, anybody is better than him. Stephon Gilmore rising to the top of the depth chart shows the Bills don’t need McGee anymore.
Sure, the easy pick would have been Rob Gronkowski. It would be easier to even go with Aaron Hernandez or even Dustin Keller, but where’s the fun in that? In 2011, Gronkowski had 17 touchdowns, Hernandez and Chandler grabbed six scores and Keller caught five.
The addition of Brandon Lloyd gives Tom Brady another option to score, along with the cast he already had. I think Gronkowski’s numbers will take a dive in 2012.
I’ve been to two training camp practices and I’ve seen Scott Chandler dominate both practices. When the Bills get into the red zone, he will be Ryan Fitzpatrick’s prime target. Chandler caught all six of his touchdowns in the first half of the season and played hurt most of the second half. If he stays healthy, he should double his numbers from last year.
It starts with a Thursday night game against the Dolphins on Nov. 15, and ends with the Jets on New Year’s Eve. The Bills will face six opponents (Miami twice) that didn't have a winning record a year ago, and and haven't shown any reason for improvement.
The Bills will enjoy home field against teams not used to Buffalo winters. Warm weather teams like Miami and Jacksonville, along with the Rams who play in a dome, will be coming to Ralph Wilson Stadium when the ground starts turning white in western New York. Going 7-0 down the stretch will make the Bills season promising in December.
Week 11 vs. Miami
Week 12 @ Indianapolis
Week 13 vs. Jacksonville
Week 14 vs. St. Louis
Week 15 vs. Seattle (In Toronto)
Week 16 @ Miami
Week 17 vs. New York Jets
The additions over the offseason make Buffalo’s defense better right away. They can’t be much worse than they were a year ago. They were 30th in scoring, giving up 27 points per game, and they were tied for 27th with three other teams in sacks, 29.
Based off last year’s numbers, a top 10 defense would only give up 20 points a game and sack the quarterback 41 times. The improvements of defense should be worth a touchdown less and 12 more sacks this season.
For those who wanted a coach that will bring some fire on the sidelines, Dave Wannstedt is your guy. Who could forget the coaching job he did when he was at Pittsburgh against West Virginia, when Wannstedt was on crutches?
He will have Buffalo’s defense playing with intensity all year long. He’s also a proven NFL defensive mind and he will have players in the right spots to make plays.
This may seem impossible. In 2011, Fitzpatrick led the NFL with 23 interceptions, while Tom Brady had 12. Of course, four in one game in Buffalo.
However, Brady will throw more than Fitzpatrick will in 2012. Last season, Brady had 611 attempts and Fitzpatrick had 569 attempts. Brady could throw as much, if not more than 611 times because his team needs that. New England doesn’t have much of a running game and they relay on Brady’s arm for most of the offense.
Fitzpatrick should throw fewer times than he did a year ago. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller should be the focal points of the offense, which means Fitzpatrick would be throwing less. Between the runs and screens that Chan Gailey likes to run, Fitz will have fewer high-risk throws that can be picked off.
I think saying Fitz will manage the game is a bit of an insult. He’s better than that, but he’s also not Brady. But Brady could throw 100 more times than Fitzpatrick this season. Just the percentages would say Brady has more times to be intercepted than Fitz.
If Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller don’t both rush for a thousand yards, they should be close. Jackson is a lock, but Spiller lining up as a receiver might keep him from gaining a thousand yards on the ground.
Both Jackson and Spiller will each have at least 1,200 all-purpose yards. As I said on the previous slide, Buffalo’s offense will revolve around these two backs. Chan Gailey said he doesn’t want to see them standing by his side for very long. Jackson and Spiller will be on the field together, creating mismatches for opposing defenses.
This is the year that Bills' prayers will be answered. I think this has to be the boldest prediction, considering they haven't made the playoffs since 1999.
To be exact, the date was Jan. 8, 2000. Remember 2000? Y2K had come and gone, Bill Clinton was the President, the 49ers went from being one of the best teams in the NFL, to irrelevant and back to a Super Bowl contender, Tom Brady thought he would sell insurance the rest of his life and Chan Gailey was the latest Dallas Cowboy coach that Bills fans could hate.
Now 2012, Bills fans can get their phrases going again: "In Chan We Trust," "Fitz-Magic," "Time to Billieve." A 11-5 record could symbolize how the Bills will play as a true 11-man team, and how the playoff drought comes full circle, since they went 11-5 in 1999. I think 2012 is finally the year the Bills get their moment in the postseason sun.