When you stop laughing, let me explain. One game does not make a season. But as desperate moves such as firing the offensive coordinator a week before the season opener, releasing a Super Bowl winning running back and the starting left tackle (who was characterized by management as an adequate replacement for the Pro Bowler you traded away four months ago) all a week before the season opener, indicates Monday night's season opening divisional tilt between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots will be a turning point in the fate of the Buffalo Bills organization.
For those who don't know just how lopsided this divisional match-up has been since the K-gun offense left the shores of Lake Erie, the Bills have not swept the season series since 1999. That was the last year the Pats were coached by someone other than Bill Belichick as well as the last time the Bills made the postseason.
Aside from the infamous 31-0 rout engineered by quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the 2003 NFL season opener, only one other Bills QB has defeated "the hoodie," and that was a 16-13 win in 2000 (Belichick's first year) by a Bills team led by Doug Flutie, Sammy Morris (yes that Sammy Morris), and Steve Christie's right foot.
So why would I believe that this Bills team, with the brittle QB and green offensive line, can win this time?
1. For the first time since Peerless Price left via Free Agency for Atlanta, the Bills have enough offensive weapons to realistically compete.
For at least the last four seasons due to a variety of reasons too lengthy to list here, opponents could simply put eight or nine players in the box to stop the run and force Bill's QB Trent Edwards (or J.P Losman) to try to beat them. This was an easy choice, as Lee Evans was still coming into his own, and there was little or no threat from the number two or number three wide receiver. The Patriots could afford to put nine in the box to stop the run and pressure Edwards, with one safety back to blanket Evans.
Obviously, Terrell Owens fills this void at the very least and depending on what he has left, he may indeed be a number one option. Detractors insist that he drops too many balls, publicly criticizes his teammates and coaches, and will eventually destroy the team chemistry.
Proponents state that he fills the Bills need for a big, strong receiver who will force opponents away from the line of scrimmage, make defenses pay for double teaming Lee Evans, and enables the bills other wide receiver's, the steady Josh Reed and the speedy Roscoe Parrish, to work in the slot where they are much more dangerous.
Based on reports out of Bills camp, he has been a leader on the field with his work ethic, and off the field with his mentoring of former second round pick James Hardy.
Also, as Bills QB great Jim Kelly stated in an appearance on Sirius satellite radio, "People say he (T.O) might be a disturbance in the locker room. You know what I say? I hope he is. We haven't had anything in the locker room. When you walk into a locker room on Monday and you don't know whether your team won or lost, something's got to change."
Working against a revamped, but well coached New England secondary, if the O-line can keep Edwards upright, he can get the ball to them in the position to make plays.
2. With the two Aaron's, The Bills can finally generate enough pressure to force Tom Brady into making bad decisions.
With the return of Aaron Schobel, the addition of first round draft pick Aaron Maybin, and returning veterans Marcus Stroud, Ryan Denney, and Chris Kelsay, The Bills appear to have the depth and talent to apply pressure to Brady, inside and out.
The last time a Brady-led Pats team faced the Bills, the final score was 56-10, Brady was never sacked, and official game stats indicate was only "hit" once. While the Bills defensive line took the afternoon off, he and Randy Moss toyed with Buffalo defensive back's for a ghastly four touchdown's (Brady had five total before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter).
This year will be different.
After a lengthy preseason holdout, Maybin returned for the teams final two games and showed why the Bills held him in such high regard, registering a sack in each of the games in which he appeared. The return of a healthy Aaron Schobel to the Pro Bowl form he exhibited in 2007 teamed with the massive Stroud, should pose problems for any offensive line this season, even New England's.
As the N.Y Giants showed at the end of that season, the way to beat the Pats is to focus on generating as much pressure as possible on Tom Brady using your front four. Not that I believe the Bills defensive line is as good as the Giants defensive line from their Super Bowl run, but with the depth and speed they have on the edges and Stroud and the unsung Kyle Williams pushing the middle, Brady, who is fresh off a season ending ACL injury that took others at least two years to sufficiently heal from, could be tentative and rattled.
3. Personnel turnover on the Patriot's defense will finally catch up to them
During his tenure in New England, Belichick has masterfully been able to maintain a core group of star defensive play makers such as Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Asante Samuel and surround them with capable role players in a system designed to disrupt and dictate to an opposing team's offense.
This year with the retirement of Tedy Bruschi and Harrison, and the trade of Seymour to Oakland, New England has three new starters in the secondary. Shawn Springs who is currently injured and has not played a full NFL season since 2000, Leigh Bodden, who played for the win less Detroit Lions last year, and Brandon Meriweather, the versatile third year pro who is expected to fill Harrison's dirty cleats at strong safety.
In the front seven Jarvis Green is an obvious step down from Seymour and Derrick Burgess is still only a situational player, too small to play defensive end on a full time basis in the NFL.
The most vulnerable area may be the loss of veteran linebacker's Mike Vrabel (traded) and Ted Bruschi (retired), which should open up holes for Fred Jackson who exploded for 136 yards in Marshawn Lynch's absence the last time these two teams met.
Fourth year veteran Pierre Thomas and second year stud Jerrod Mayo will look to fill the void.
Despite their talent and Bellichick's ability to mold pieces to fit a system like he did with Troy Brown, it will take these new starters time to get familiar with not only the new 4-3 base defense, but what it takes to play at a high level on a tremendous stage. The best facet of the Pats defense in the past was their experience which enabled them to minimize their own mistakes.
By playing this team early in the season, the Bills should be able to take advantage of the mental errors that are normally committed by players still learning a new system.
In the NFL, there is no rule that says you have to win eventually (see: Lions, Detroit, 2008).
But if there was ever a time where the stars aligned for a Bills upset, it would be Monday night. The national press has written them off. The local press has been calling for Jauron's head since last season's collapse, and the echo is still loud and clear in the wake of "Pop-Warner" accusations by the newly unemployed offensive coordinator, Turk Schonert.
Whether it's Pop Warner or Popcorn, if the Bills can execute Jauron will be able to sleep soundly Monday night when the Bills pull out a win, in possibly the biggest game for this franchise since the Music City Miracle.
At least until they play the Miami Dolphins in week four.