The Buffalo Bills have reached the midpoint of the season with a 5-3 record, already exceeding their win total from last year.
However, with an improved defense, stability from a newly-signed quarterback and stellar running and receiving play, the Bills’ faithful have been thinking about one goal and one goal only: the playoffs.
It has been 4324 calendar days since the Bills last played in a postseason game. Although only the most optimistic fan could have dreamt about a postseason appearance prior to the start of the season, at this juncture in the season it is not unreasonable to believe the Bills can return to playing meaningful football in January.
Barring an unprecedented turnaround by the Dolphins, it appears the AFC East divisional title chase will be a three-team race. The divisional title remains within their grasp, as the Patriots and Jets have shown themselves to be fallible this season.
Buffalo will have to be able to go 5-3 to finish 10-6, or a potentially insurmountable 6-2 in order to go 11-5. Their schedule remains conducive to this lofty goal, as they may reasonably be expected to have a fighting chance against all seven of their upcoming opponents (two games against the Dolphins).
If the Bills are able to win their games against weaker opponents (Dolphins twice, Broncos) and split against their stronger conference opponents (Chargers, Titans), they would still need to win two out of three from their more elite opponents (Cowboys, Patriots, Jets).
An 11-5 record would almost certainly ensure a spot in the NFL postseason for the first time since January 8, 2000.
The mettle of this team will be tested in all of their upcoming games. However, with the Patriots and Jets proving they can be beaten, the division title is up for grabs. Furthermore, in the absence of a conference powerhouse, any team making the AFC playoffs can be considered a legitimate contender to reach the Super Bowl.
For Bills' fans who have not seen a playoff game involving their team since back when Clinton was President, the original dot-com bubble had not yet burst, and Lehman Brothers' stock was considered "blue-chip," there is once again reason for optimism.