The Buffalo Bills have only played one playoff game this century and it was when the century was eight days old and the Music City Miracle ended their season early. They have had one winning season in that time, with a 9-7 mark back in 2004.
Over the past two seasons, the Bills have won a total of 10 games and some may think things look bleak. With the NFL season only one game old and the Bills not even taking a regular season snap yet, I think this is the year they can end that playoff drought.
There are a number of things that will need to fall into place for this team to be one of the top six teams in a tough AFC, but here are five reasons why the Bills could sneak into the playoffs.
How could a team looking this good not make the playoffs? They have moved away from their Arena Football League-looking jerseys and went old school with their new look.
This is something the fans have been hoping for, especially after they introduced their alternate jerseys a few years ago. Hey the Broncos won a Super Bowl in 1997 in their first year in their new uniforms, why can't the Bills?
The Bills defensive line quickly went from a weakness to a strength of this team with the addition of first-round pick Marcell Dareus. A front line of Dareus, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and defensive end Dwan Edwards combine for 941 pounds and they will be a handful for opposing offensive lines.
The defensive line will greatly improve the run defense and allow the linebackers to move around a little easier by not having to deal with offensive linemen. This should allow the linebackers to fill the running lanes and start making some plays. These next two players will really enjoy playing behind this line.
Yes, the Bills hopes for the playoffs do rely on two injury-prone linebackers in Nick Barnett and Shawne Merriman. When both are in the game though, they make this defense much, much better.
Merriman came over from the Chargers last year and lasted about 15 minutes into his first practice before getting hurt and missing the rest of the season. He has come into camp strong and made his presence known early in his first preseason game against the Bears.
Now he has dealt with some knee problems in training camp, but did play in the final preseason game and has said he is ready to go. If he can regain the explosiveness he had in San Diego and get pressure on the QB, he will make the rest of the players around him much better.
Nick Barnett is also an injury-prone linebacker, but he replaced another injury-prone linebacker in Paul Posluszny. When they are both healthy, Barnett is the much better player. He fits better into the Bills 3-4 defense than Poz and will have plenty of running room to make plays behind the new defensive line. I really think this defense will be much improved from a year ago.
This is the first time in Fitzpatrick's career that he will be entering an NFL season as a team's starting quarterback.
The Bills did not draft a quarterback this year, which should give Fitzpatrick a little extra confidence. He will have a little more freedom to try to make plays and not worry about the occasional mistake and hear about people calling for a young rookie QB.
Some say Fitzpatrick is not a franchise quarterback. Maybe he isn't, but he is the perfect quarterback for Chan Gailey's offense.
Last year in 13 games, he threw 23 touchdowns and 3,000 yards after taking over for Trent Edwards. Even though he does take risks with the ball and doesn't protect it as much as some might hope, he is very smart and generally makes more plays than mistakes.
The Bills may have one of the tougher schedules based on opposing teams' winning percentages, but looking at the actual schedule, it sets up very nicely for the Buffalo Bills.
They only face four playoff teams from last year in the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. They also have one division game in the first eight weeks of the season.
None of these are guaranteed wins, but if the offense can produce like it did last year and if the defense is able to improve with the additions of Nick Barnett, Kirk Morrison, Shawne Merriman and Marcell Dareus, the Bills are set up to potentially end the organization's playoff drought.