The 2012 NFL regular season is finally here.
The Bills open up the season against the division-rival New York Jets, a crucial matchup in a year full of high expectations. Getting off to a 1-0 start is always important, but it’s especially important when going up against a division foe, when the games count twice as much.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick enters his fourth season for Buffalo, and he’s coming off a career year after finally taking the reins under center. Needless to say, much of Buffalo’s success this year will depend upon how well Fitz can perform.
In 2011, the “Amish Rifle” got off to a scorching start. Through seven games, he was 155-of-229 (68 percent) for 1,739 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Buffalo was 5-2 during that span.
But after injuring his ribs in a 23-0 Week 8 win over the Washington Redskins—to go along with some other injuries to key offensive players during the year—Fitz and the Bills began to sputter.
The rest is history, as Buffalo finished the year 1-8. As the 2012 season opens, the Bills are trying to ensure that they can move forward with a step in the right direction in Week 1.
There’s no doubt that the Bills are going to run the ball this year. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller comprise one of the top running back duos in the NFL. Head coach Chan Gailey will smartly utilize them and create mismatches, so they’ll certainly see their touches.
However, now is the time that the Bills’ starting quarterback has to earn and prove his “FitzMagic” nickname. Buffalo offered him a hefty contract extension last season with expectations that he will perform more like the first-half Fitz from 2011 and not the second-half Fitz.
And if he and the offense can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe he won’t have a strong year.
Week 1 will be the first challenge—on the road against Rex Ryan’s Jets. No. 1 wide receiver Steve Johnson is officially questionable with groin soreness, but regardless of the situation, Fitz will need to make plays by getting his pass-catchers involved.
The Bills are much improved on paper this year. Now, they have to prove they can live up to the hype on their quest to take over the AFC East.
Doing so starts with Fitzpatrick, and all the signs point to him having his best year yet as the Bills' starting quarterback.