I remember the Baltimore Stallions.
The CFL tried to push their way south of the border and actually had some success. The Baltimore fans, who were still smarting from the Colts’ move to Indianapolis, welcomed the CFL franchise with open arms (they actually averaged over 30,000 fans per game).
The Baltimore CFL Colts, as they were originally known, made it to the Grey Cup (the CFL’s Super Bowl) in their very first season. They actually won the Grey Cup in their second season.
They were the most successful CFL franchise ever in the United States.
Then the Cleveland Browns announced that they were moving to Baltimore. All of a sudden, the city of Baltimore had real football and the CFL team either died or moved back to Canada (Editor’s note: actually, they moved back to Canada and became the Montreal Alouettes).
First, Buffalo plays a few games in Toronto; then maybe they move there officially. Next thing you know, the NFL is starting a couple of expansion teams north of the border, and the CFL goes the way of the USFL and the XFL.
It’s not that big of a stretch, really.
That said, it'll be a sad day when the Bills move out of Buffalo. The Buffalo Bills are a small-town team with a rabid group of fans.
Sure, there may not be enough fans to fill the stadium every week, but the ones who show up love their Bills. Former players love and still live in the area. It’s one of the success stories of the NFL’s past collective-bargaining agreements.
But the days of the small-market football team may slowly be coming to an end. The first casualty might be the Bills.
The Bills' games in Toronto are necessary for their survival in today’s NFL. They’re also, unfortunately, the first step in the NFL’s Canadian expansion.
But for now, they're still the Buffalo Bills. And they appear to be heading in the right direction.
If you think about it, the 2007 Bills were two games against the New England Patriots away from a .500 record. Against teams not named the New England Patriots, they were 7-7.
The Bills turned to Trent Edwards last season, and he performed admirably. Certainly better than J.P. Losman. He’s not yet a top-tier quarterback (not even close), but he strikes me as a Chad Pennington-type quarterback with a better arm.
That’s not an insult, by the way.
Marshawn Lynch is one of the best young running backs in the NFL—and he was my first overall pick in my fantasy football draft this weekend. I love his talent.
I question his judgment after his off-field driving incident during the offseason, but I don’t question his ability to become one of the premier rushers in the NFL.
His backup, Fred Jackson, is pretty good as well.
Lee Evans is one of the best receivers in the NFL, except he’s had trouble showing it with the likes of J.P. Losman throwing to him. Hopefully he can work out a chemistry with Trent Edwards this season, and the Bills can turn his talent into consistent on-field production.
After Evans, the wide receiver position is thin. Josh Reed is best suited as a slot receiver, and he isn’t great at that. James Hardy is a rookie with a ton of potential, but he’s a rookie. Roscoe Parrish is a dynamic kick returner, but the Bills have yet to figure out how to translate that into offensive production.
The Bills’ offensive line isn’t even worth talking about if they don’t get Jason Peters back in the fold. Langston Walker is a relative strength at right tackle, but he’s a weakness if they have to move him to left tackle.
The entire right side of the offensive line is questionable. The center, Melvin Fowler, isn’t exactly a tenacious blocker. Derrick Dockery (the left guard) is the only good player who is playing in the correct spot on the line.
If the offensive line doesn’t come together, the Bills are in for an extremely long season—and it’s not coming together without Jason Peters.
For crying out loud, he’s the third-highest paid lineman on his own team! By my count, there are exactly zero offensive linemen on the Bills that are in his class. Or even near his class. Some can’t even dream of coming close to his class (looking at you, Brad Butler).
Buffalo’s defense is leaps and bounds ahead of its offense.
Marcus Stroud should prove to be a good pickup, assuming he can stay healthy. Kyle Williams has never impressed me (every time I see him, he’s being pushed around), but the Bills seem to like him.
Aaron Schobel is one of the most underrated defensive ends in football. Chris Kelsay doesn’t show any ability to get to the quarterback, but he’s decent against the run.
The linebackers are anchored by Paul Posluszny, who looked like a beast at middle linebacker before his broken arm last season. Angelo Crowell needs to get better against the run, but he’s a serviceable player. Kawika Mitchell is a proven veteran.
Jabari Greer and Terrence McGee are both decent corners, but one of them is just keeping a spot warm for Leodis McKelvin. I like Ko Simpson, and Donte Whitner is a stud. The secondary should be pretty good, even bordering on great.
The Bills were the second-best team in the AFC East last year. The Jets may have passed them over in the offseason, but they’re still on the way up.
The question now is whether they’ll get all the way up before they land in Toronto for good.
I know he’s a rookie, but he’s a perfect red-zone wide receiver. He’s 6'7" and can jump over three feet straight up. By my math, that’s almost 10 feet in the air.
Can you say jumpball?
Fighting for draft picks, fighting for the playoffs, or contending for the Super Bowl?
The Bills are on the fringe of the fighting for the playoffs group.
They will be in the mix for a wild-card spot, but I’m not sure they have the offensive line to get there. Especially without Jason Peters.
The Bills take a step back, finishing the season 6-10. They still lose two against the Patriots, they might lose two against the Jets, but they’ll be .500 against the rest of their schedule.
Still, they’re a team that’s moving in the right direction. North. Literally and figuratively.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.