Buffalo Bills: Is This the Year the Bills Mafia Takes over the AFC East?

Erik Cotton@https://twitter.com/ErikCotton2Correspondent ISeptember 7, 2012

Buffalo Bills: Is This the Year the Bills Mafia Takes over the AFC East?

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    The Buffalo Bills have been an afterthought in the AFC East for over a decade now. However, many think they're poised to give their most rabid fans, known as the Bills Mafia, their first taste of playoff football since 1999. So is this the year the Mafia takes over the division?

    Before we answer that, let's explain how this phenomenon originated. Back in November 2010, after a costly drop in an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Stevie Johnson vented via Twitter:

    I praise you 24/7!!! And this how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I'll never forget this!! Ever!! Thx Tho.

    Almost 24 hours later—an eternity in the Twitter world—Adam Schefter of ESPN retweeted Johnson's God tweet. Many Bills fans wondered why, especially since the commotion over the tweet had died down.

    A few select ones started poking fun at Schefter, tweeting things like "Man discovers fire" and "Washington crosses Delaware" with the hashtag #SchefterBreakingNews. 

    After these Buffalo diehards found themselves blocked by the ESPN insider, they started using the hashtag #BillsMafia, because according to BillsMafia.com:

    We were “bad guys” in the eyes of Adam Schefter.

    Nick Barnett's arrival in Buffalo is really what brought the movement into the limelight, as he had commented on how he liked a #BillsMafia tweet. Other current and former players started using the hashtag in their tweets and the rest is history. 

    So back to the question at hand. 

    Is this the year the Bills Mafia takes over the AFC East? Let's look at a couple reasons why that might be the case.

The Offseason Focus on Improving the Pass Rush

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    The Mafia is as hopeful as its been in quite some time. That's because the Bills finally went out and spent big money to make the team better.

    Landing Mario Williams was something few in this community thought was possible. It had been years since the Bills courted a big-name free agent so aggressively. 

    The fact he chose Buffalo over numerous other suitors made him an instant hit with this ferociously loyal fan base. With the longest current playoff drought in the NFL, Bills fans are desperate for a winning team. 

    The subsequent signing of defensive end Mark Anderson only solidified that the Bills actually seemed serious about becoming a playoff contender. 

    The 2011 season saw only two teams finish with less sacks than Buffalo. Yet in a blink of an eye, management had quickly turned one of the biggest weaknesses on the team into one of the biggest strengths.

    One thing Bills fans have learned over the years is to be cautiously optimistic. The Washington Redskins are a perfect example of how throwing a lot of money at players every year doesn't always translate to wins on the field.

    The Bills Mafia is chomping at the bit to see what this revamped pass rush can do for a defense that sorely needed to improve at getting to the QB.

The Continuity of the Offense

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    On the other side of the ball, the Bills stood pat for the most part. There were no major additions or subtractions via free agency.

    Most in the Mafia would agree that Buffalo would have benefited from bringing in a legit No. 2 receiver to play alongside Stevie Johnson. Wide receiver still remains a huge question mark coming into Week 1.

    The hopefulness for this group stems from the continuity they've developed with one another over the last three years. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller and Johnson are all familiar with each other's tendencies, which should leave this unit operating like a well-oiled machine.

    Head Coach Chan Gailey has shown that he has the wits and the game plan to get the most out of this group. Last year, they were forced to try to outscore everyone because of the defense's struggles.

    This year, they should be the beneficiary of better field position. A better pass rush always leads to more turnovers, so expect to see a much more balanced squad in 2012.

    Fitz and Co. carried this team to some amazing comeback wins in the first half of 2011, so the résumé is there. The second half collapse was cemented when Jackson was lost for the season with a fractured fibula in Week 11.

    With a clean bill of health and the trust these guys have of one another, look for a more consistent season-long performance on offense.

The Answer

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    So are the Bills and their fans ready to take over the AFC East? Unfortunately, the answer to that is no.

    As long as Tom Brady is behind center for the New England Patriots, it's hard to imagine them giving up their stranglehold on the division. Even though their defense is incredibly suspect, the Pats added Brandon Lloyd to an already stacked set of skill players at Brady's disposal.

    With that said, there's no reason the Bills can't go 11-5 and secure a wild-card spot. The Jets are a circus and the Dolphins have last place written all over them, so the Bills should find themselves in 2nd place at season's end.

    Will that be good enough for the Bills Mafia? 

    For a team that hasn't had a playoff game since the "Music City Miracle," which for the record was an illegal forward pass, that result would be more than good enough.

    Bills fans don't care about a division title. They only care about breaking that streak. 

    The Mafia will eat, drink and sleep Buffalo football every step of the way for the next four months. They're hoping their devotion to the team they love so dearly will finally result in a postseason berth.

    After all the disappointment and heartbreak over the years, don't they deserve it? 

    Maybe the Bills Mafia should ask Stevie Johnson to pray for some better "divine intervention" this season.