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NFL Predictions 2011: 5 Reasons Why the Buffalo Bills Will Surprise Critics

Josh TrueloveCorrespondent IIISeptember 7, 2011

NFL Predictions 2011: 5 Reasons Why the Buffalo Bills Will Surprise Critics

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    After last year's painful season, the Buffalo Bills are getting no love from critics.

    The Bills are ranked outside of the top 25 teams in just about every major sports company's NFL power rankings and are made fun of in articles and on television.

    After last season, the Bills do not deserve to be in the top of the power ranking, but they are ranked a little too low by everyone.

    Here are five reasons why the Bills can surprise critics this season.

5. The Bills Can Run Better Than Critics Realize

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    The Buffalo Bills' offensive line is not great, but it has some running backs who can ball!

    Fred Jackson is a tough runner who is hard to bring down. Jackson is more of a power back, but the speed he brings along with his power makes him a force to be reckoned with.

    Jackson is the starting running back for Buffalo and will receive a heavy portion of carries. It will be his first time being the starter from day one, and it will be interesting to see what he does with it. Pro Bowl is not out of the question for Jackson.

    C.J. Spiller is the other Bills' running back. Spiller will not touch the ball as much as Jackson will, but his speed is frightening and he can create a mismatch on any defense.

4. Stevie Johnson Is the Leader, Playmaker This Team Needs

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    Wide receiver Stevie Johnson has become the team leader. He is a fun guy, a great player and the other young Buffalo players really look up to him.

    Why?

    Because he was a seventh-round draft pick who was given an opportunity to prove himself and ran with it. A lot of Bills fans thought Johnson would be a solid player, but nobody saw 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns coming.

    Johnson is the go-to guy in Buffalo's passing game and has great chemistry with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He brings a fun-loving attitude to Buffalo and will be with the team for years to come.

3. Shawne Merriman

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    Shawne Merriman is the remedy for Buffalo's lack of pass rush and attitude on defense.

    He brings a certain physicality to the game that few players can, and he will change Buffalo's defense completely now that he is healthy.

    The last time Merriman was healthy, he was dominant—he was unblockable and teams were terrified of him. During training camp and preseason this year, Merriman made a lot of people think it was 2007.

    If "Lights Out" stays healthy, Buffalo will go from a bad pass rush to a scary pass rush. It all starts with good pass rush, and Buffalo now has that.

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick Is Better Than Critics Give Him Credit for

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    The Buffalo Bills only won four games last season, so they must need a new quarterback, right?

    Wrong.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick was more than solid for Buffalo last season. He threw for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns and gave Buffalo a fire on offense it has been lacking for years.

    Fitzpatrick played behind a so-so offensive line with a lot of unproven and undrafted wide receivers. Not to mention the league's worst run defense to back him up.

    If the offensive line improves, Fitzpatrick will do even better than last season. But the criticism will not stop unless Buffalo starts to win. Until people stop blaming quarterbacks for everything, nobody will realize how important Fitzpatrick is to Buffalo.

1. The Defense Is Much Improved from Last Season

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    Buffalo's defense was down-right laughable last season. It could not stop anyone from running the football. Things have changed, though.

    Buffalo upgraded at inside linebacker by adding Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison to line up with Andra Davis inside. Inside linebacker was a huge problem for Buffalo last season, but with the upgrades it has made, the position has become one of their strengths.

    Kyle Williams is the Bills' best player. He is unblockable and arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL. Line him up next to third overall pick Marcell Dareus, and you have yourself a pretty scary defensive line. Do not sleep on Dwan Edwards, either—he is a good player.

    The Bills secondary is always solid. They have a ton of talent at safety but need more consistent play from their cornerbacks.

    The Bills defense is so improved a top 10 overall defense is not out of the question.

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