Buffalo Bills: Can Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick Lead Bills to Playoffs?

Robert QuinnCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Steve Johnson #13 of the Buffalo Bills runs after a catch against Stanford Routt #26 of the Oakland Raiders at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

After the second week of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills sit atop the standings with a 2-0 record, following their comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders. In Week 1, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Fred Jackson dismantled the Kansas City Chiefs defense, putting up 41 points while Fitzpatrick tossed four touchdowns. 

While the Chiefs and Raiders aren't exactly elite teams on paper, the Bills look dramatically different than they did just a year ago, when they went 4-12. The front office knew they needed to revamp their defense, as they were ranked dead last in the league in rush defense, and did so by bringing in some key front seven players in inside linebackers Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison.

They also added defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, and inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in the draft, both of whom have the potential to be premier players for years to come. Furthermore, they addressed the secondary after the loss of safety Donte Whitner, adding cornerback Aaron Williams and safety Da'Norris Searcy in the draft as well. 

Playing in an extremely difficult AFC East division featuring the New England Patriots and New York Jets, the Bills haven't earned a playoff berth since 1999. However, this team is playing hard under head coach Chan Gailey, and not making the same mistakes that have cost them key games in the past. 

Through the first two games, the Bills offense has put up 79 points, and they have been running the ball better than ever with Fred Jackson rushing for over 100 yards in each game. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson is showing that his breakout year last season was no fluke, catching 12 passes for 162 yards and scoring a touchdown in each of the first two games. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick is spreading the ball out to the Bills' deep receiving corps consisting of no-name, undrafted players such as Donald Jones and David Nelson, that create mismatches for opposing defenses. Chan Gailey's "spread 'em out" philosophy has helped the run game as well, and C.J. Spiller finally is looking like he is catching on to the speed of the National Football League. 

On defense, the Bills have stood strong against two of last year's top rush offenses, holding Jamaal Charles to just 50 yards in Week 1, and Darren McFadden to 72 yards in Week 2. 

While the Bills do have to face the Patriots and Jets twice each this season, they have a legitimate shot to win at least one game against each, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them earning a wild card berth with a 9-7 or 10-6 record, especially with the subpar play of the teams in other divisions.