As an eternally optimistic fan of my beloved Buffalo Bills, I'm usually pretty quick to make a prediction every year. These consistently positive "visions" always stretch into January and February and involve the acquisition of bragging rights come Super Bowl time.
However, because I am a Bills fan, the realist in me must peek her head out from time to time so that I'm able to take a step back and truly assess their situation. Since I am going to put forth some of my expectations along with a prediction or two for the upcoming 2009 season, I will most certainly need a little help from both.
The NFL is unquestionably a quarterback's league. In most cases, a team will only go as far as their signal caller can take them. The Buffalo Bills, unfortunately, are no different.
Often times, when relaying to someone that the Bills are my team, for better or for worse, they scratch their head and ask me who their starting quarterback is.
Directly following is usually a comment by someone who actually knows the answer: "Exactly!" As much as I would like to argue against this exclamation, I know that there is a truth behind it that can only disappear in time.
The Bills have been looking for their franchise quarterback since the departure of that guy who took them to the Promised Land four times in the early part of last decade. Need I even mention his name? As it stands now, though, Trent Edwards is the new face of the Buffalo Bills.
As the example above shows, unless you're a die-hard Bills fan such as myself or are heavily into Fantasy Football, you most likely will not know who he is. I'm not saying that he has to be highly recognized like Tony Romo or Tom Brady.
In order for the Bills to win more consistently, however, the young signal caller must step up and make a name for himself.
Last year, his first full year as a starter, Trent's QB rating was an admirable though unspectacular 85.4 percent, up from 70.4 percent in 2007. He certainly has the talent and intelligence to become a true difference-maker for this team.
Trent's pocket poise and ability to read opposing defenses are rare for someone who just entered the NFL three years ago. Even Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh (God rest his soul) made a point to give props to then GM Marv Levy on drafting him in the third round.
Unfortunately, even with all of these skill sets, a winning season has never come to fruition for Trent Edwards. His play was heavily inconsistent last year, leading the Bills to a 4-0 record and then leaving the Arizona game early with a concussion.
After that, things were never quite the same and the Bills, who were quickly becoming the favorites of the AFC East, ended up 7-9 on the season for the third time in a row.
The No. 1 thing that must happen for the Bills to make the playoffs next year is the progression of Trent Edwards. Hopefully, with a revamped line and bigger weapons such as Terrell Owens and Shawn Nelson, he can finally become the quarterback they've been looking for.
The front office is doing everything they can to give him what he needs to succeed and now he just has to run with it.
Trent is smart enough to be a leader on and off the field. He's stable enough to lead a no-huddle offense, which the Bills wish to implement this year.
He's also thorough enough to be a time manager, knowing exactly where the clock is at and what he needs to do in order to use it wisely. If he can pull everything together, the offense will be explosive.
There are a few other issues that take a backseat to Trent's play. First up is T.O. I have to admit, when I first saw the breaking news that the Bills had landed him, I was ecstatic.
Looking past all of the off-field nonsense that has surrounded him since he entered the league, I truly believe that he can help Trent Edwards not only grow as a player but also as a teammate.
Finally the Bills have two great receiving threats and a few reliable slot receivers that arguably no cornerback tandem in the NFL can cover with much success. Nonetheless, there is always a negative side to every positive.
It's no secret that T.O. loves the spotlight. While I truly believe that Edwards would be comfortable giving up that kind of fame if it meant winning more games, I also know what can happen if Lee Evans, who still proclaims he is the No. 1 receiver, catches more balls than he does.
T.O.'s ego could become a major hindrence in the wake of a Lee Evans breakout year and may even force Edwards back into his shell, which would completely stunt all productivity.
Last but not least, if the Bills want to reclaim their title as AFC East champions, they MUST get past the New England slump. Since 2001, the Patriots have won 11 games in row and 16 out of 17 against the Bills. Last year, with Brady being injured, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to come up with a win. Again, though, the Patriots proved that even without their franchise quarterback, they are still miles above their AFC foes.
This year, the Bills need to take New England out of the equation. With the two Aarons (Schobel and Maybin) lining up opposite each other at defensive end, Buffalo may just have a stifling enough pass rush to consistently put the pressure on Brady.
This may cause the Patriots to look to the running game to get things started, something I'd take over Tom Brady any day.
A potentially potent offense and a stronger, more experienced defense can get the ball rolling for the Bills in what could be their first victory over their division rivals in years. We won't even have to wait long to see it since the first Monday Night game of the season will be played in Foxborough. The Bills should be ready for this one.
Now it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming season. With everything I have said taken into account, I do believe that Trent Edwards will progress nicely as a quarterback. His rating should be somewhere in the mid-90s and his touchdowns to interceptions ratio will be much better than the past two seasons.
If T.O. can be kept satisfied and if he doesn't let his ego get in the way, which I doubt he will, the Bills will be a touchdown machine.
Teams will have to change their playbooks just for Evans and Owens, who I now call "Ovens", referring to the heat players will get from coaches for not being able to cover them. Their offensive woes of the past will most likely stay there.
Finally, overcoming New England just once this year will significantly increase their chances of a playoff berth. With my optimistic side rising, I believe that they can pull it off.
If everything pans out the way my article says it should, the Bills will make the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. While I don't expect them to win the AFC East being that it is such a strong division this year, I do fully "billieve" they will earn a Wild Card spot.
The Super Bowl may have to wait a few more years but let's be realistic here and follow the whole "one step at a time" slogan. Then again, you never know because "nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!"
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