With the start of the regular season less than a week away for the Buffalo Bills, many fans have already begun to speculate how this year will unfold. The Negative Nancies seem to be crawling out of the woodwork to unleash their faithless comments on the entire Bills Nation.
I am not one of those people.
While reading blogs and posts from all over the world wide web, something occured to me and it began to lift my spirits. With all of the rebuilding that has been going on the past few years and the more recent changes to the offense, the Bills are starting to remind me very much of a certain elite AFC team: the Indianapolis Colts.
This slideshow will look at some similarities between the two teams and maybe even bring some hope to the not-so-positive fans.
Perhaps the biggest link between the Colts and Bills is this man.
Bill Polian was General Manager in Buffalo from 1986-1993, where he helped build a team that won four AFC championships and had four Super Bowl appearances. He was even responsible for hiring the legendary and much respected coach Marv Levy.
Why Buffalo let Polian go remains unknown to most everyone but Ralph Wilson himself. However, the Colts would eventually take advantage of this great man's abilities and at the end of a disappointing season in 1997, Indianapolis hired him to be their President.
Hopes were high that he could finally turn this team into a true contender. And he stopped nothing short of doing so.
One of the first things Polian did as President was snag Peyton Manning from the University of Tennessee with the 1998 first overall draft pick. What an intuitive decision that turned out to be, considering many thought Ryan Leaf could have been their choice.
In any case, Bill Polian took two teams struggling to make a name for themselves and turned them into Super Bowl contenders. Now, if only the Bills could somehow get him back...
Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to ever set foot on the field. No one can argue that.
In fact, I'm not even going to try and say that Trent Edwards is anywhere near on the same level as Manning, yet. However, the new no-huddle offense that Buffalo is utilizing is very similar to the one run by the Colts.
When most people think of the no-huddle, images of the offense rushing up to the line of scrimmage, trying to catch a defender or two not lined up correctly, are conjured up. This is not so for Indianapolis and Buffalo.
Both teams run a slower-paced version of the no-huddle in which the quarterback can change plays if he sees fit.
Also, like Jauron wants for the Bills, Peyton and the Colts try to focus on a set number of plays and aren't afraid to run them repeatedly if they seem to be working. Why fix what isn't broken?
Throwing in the no-huddle will help mask certain problems with a fairly new offensive line and keeping the plays limited and simple will enable more confidence in Edwards. Let's hope he's watching Peyton Manning closely and taking notes.
Lee Evans is perhaps one of the most underrated players in the NFL. In 2008, even after experiencing a quarterback switch a few games into the season and some putrid offensive play towards the end of the year, Evans still managed to rack up over 1000 yards.
However, because the Bills lacked a true No. 2 receiver, Lee was consistently getting double looks from teams, making it more difficult for him to get open.
This year, the Bills went out and purchased a shiny new compliment for Lee Evans in the form of cocky yet explosive Terrell Owens. No. 83 can finally say hello to single coverage.
For as well as he has done with multiple defenders on his back, can you imagine how potent he will be with only one player trying to compete for the ball? We all know of his abilities to beat out his opponents based on pure speed alone.
The Colts have also reaped the benefits of having two above average receivers in recent years.
The duo of Marvin Harrison (though he is not with the team this year) and Reggie Wayne has been wreaking havoc on defenses for quite some time. If one wasn't open, the other was sure to be and Peyton rarely had trouble finding him.
Since 2004, Wayne has put up a 1000 yard season every year. Marvin Harrison accomplished the same from 1999-2007. His stats last year weren't as impressive but he did undergo an injury while other players emerged as threats.
Both Harrison and Owens are the seasoned veterans while Evans and Wayne are sort of like their younger versions. The Colts have already proven that two great receivers are better than one. Now it's time for the Bills to do the same.
"Beast Mode" is the term used by Marshawn Lynch when describing his style of running. And that it is.
Lynch has the ability to run directly into a pile of players and somehow make it out the other end for some positive yards. This guy's feet just never seem to stop, and that is what makes him a top end running back in this league.
This year, Lynch is suspended for the first three games. However, fans and coaches are not sweating because his backup, Freddy Jackson, is just as good in their opinions.
Coming out of Marv Levy's old school, Coe College, Jackson made his first appearance for the Bills in 2007 against the Washington Redskins, a game in which Buffalo won. On December 9, 2007, both Lynch and Jackson rushed for over 100 yards against their division rivals, the Miami Dolphins.
This was the first time any Bills players had accomplished this feat since Thurman Thomas and Darick Holmes back in 1996. For many fans, this two-headed monster leaves plenty to be excited about.
The Colts are no strangers to having a one-two punch at running back either.
During the 2006 season, the year in which Indianapolis became Super Bowl champions, they unleashed upon other teams the running duo of then rookie Joseph Addai and veteran Dominic Rhodes. While Addai would go on to become the main focus of the team, Rhodes made a case for himself that year rushing for over 100 yards and scoring a one yard touchdown during the Super Bowl.
Addai and Rhodes split carries during Addai's rookie season and it proved to be profitable for the team. Also, last year, when Addai was injured, Rhodes again showed that he was a more than capable backup by amassing nine touchdowns in all.
When Lynch returns to work after his suspension, I have no doubt the Bills backs can be just as productive as Addai and Rhodes, if not more.
Tony Dungy helped to make the Tampa 2 defense famous and the Buffalo Bills seemed to follow suit.
Both defenses focus on lighter, faster lineman who can stop the big play and force the offense to make shorter, more patient throws. It brings with it a "bend but don't break" philosophy in which the offense may move down the field, but has a hard time scoring points.
Both the Bills and Colts defenses are considered to be scrappy. They fight until the very end and never give up. If the Bills defense can play anything like the defense of the Super Bowl winning Colts teams, they may just have a shot at something good.
Finally, one really big similarity between the Colts and the Bills remains the fact that they are both fairly small-market teams.
No matter how many championships or Super Bowls these teams win, they could never compete financially with big wigs like the Cowboys or Patriots. And the fans are completely fine with that,
In fact, many have stated that both Indianapolis and Buffalo have a "college" atmosphere. Fans tend to be die-hard and stick behind their team no matter what happens. For the players, it doesn't seem to be about the money as much as it is about the game itself.
Win or lose, lots of money or none at all, the fans and the players have heart, and that's what makes them among the best in the league.
While this slideshow has illustrated many of the ways in which the former Super Bowl champion Colts and the "revamped" Buffalo Bills are alike, it still may not be enough to ease minds.
Nonetheless, the similarities are there.
In any case, it's better than comparing the 2009 Bills to last year's Lions or 2007's Dolphins, isn't it?