Now, those hopes have taken a beating, in more ways than one. As the Bills try to prepare for a critical Week 12 "home" matchup that may or may not take place on Sunday and will not take place in Buffalo, superstitious fans of the team are again wondering aloud:
Are the Buffalo Bills "cursed?"
When the Bills entered their Week 9 bye, all appeared well. The team was in the thick of the AFC East race at 5-3, fresh off an impressive 20-point win over the Jets in New York.
Since then, not much has gone right.
The Bills lost a heartbreaker at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10, then had to play the Miami Dolphins on the road in a crucial division game on a short turnaround. The Bills looked like most road teams have on Thursday nights in 2014, failing to score a touchdown in a 22-9 loss that dropped the team to 5-5.
Now, with the team's playoff aspirations hanging by a thread heading into a rematch with the Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills (and Western New York) are stuck trying to dig out from under a record-setting snowstorm. After over seven feet of snow was dumped on the area this week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo admitted to Mike Rodak of ESPN that as of now there's no telling when (or where) the game might be played:
Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first. At this point in time, doing what we have to do with the driving ban and everything we just said -- staying off the roads -- would make a Bills game impractical.
So if you ask me today, right now, my two cents would be it would be impractical to do the game because it could jeopardize public safety.
Maybe we get a break somewhere along the way. We get a break in the weather, the snow, the rain. And if there's any way that we can scramble to get it done, I know the mayor, the county executive and myself will do everything we can to deploy resources to make it possible. But now we're focused on public safety.
Sure enough, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN's Adam Schefter the game will be moved, although where it will be played has yet to be decided.
"Public safety is the first priority," Aiello said Thursday. "We have been in discussions regarding potential alternatives. We will provide an update later today."
The announcement came down Thursday night that the Bills will be playing in Motown:
Before we go any farther, it's important to note that there are much bigger fish to fry in Buffalo than a football game. There have been several fatalities as a result of this unprecedented snowfall, which has crippled the area. Warming temperatures could mean widespread flooding.
At the end of the day, this is just a football game, and there are infinitely more important considerations for the people of Buffalo right now.
With that said, though, there's also no denying the impact the storm has had on the team. The Bills were unable to practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Friday's no sure bet, and the Bills are also now looking having to travel to a neutral site on short notice to boot.
I'd say that it's thrown the Bills' preparation into chaos, but there hasn't really been any preparation for the Jets, and that's most decidedly not a good thing. Yes, the Jets are 2-8, but they're also coming off their bye.
The Jets have had an extra week to prepare for a game the Bills haven't been able to prepare for at all.
It's enough to inspire whispers, hushed conversations in darkened corners of a curse brought about by a diminutive quarterback.
"The Curse of Doug Flutie."
Kerry Byrne of Sports Illustrated detailed the "curse" back in 2012:
The Curse of Flutie is karmic retribution from the great spiritual beyond for the fact that Wade Phillips benched our pint-sized hero passer before the 1999 playoffs when both were with Buffalo, despite the fact that the Bills had gone 10-5 with Flutie at the helm.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts named that move the worst head-coaching decision of the 20th century. And the Curse wasted no time spreading its tangled web of misery and cruel defeat: with Flutie watching from the sidelines, the Bills immediately suffered one of the most memorable and painful defeats in NFL history. They lost to the Titans in a postseason finish so improbable and controversial it's known only as "The Music City Miracle."
Twelve years later, and Buffalo has never returned to the playoffs.
That dry spell is 14 years (and counting) now.
Of course, that's hardly the only bad break to befall the Bills. Long before Flutie was ever in the picture, the Bills dropped four straight Super Bowls, with the first loss coming via a soul-crushing field-goal miss by Scott Norwood.
That's OK, because the Bills apparently have more than one curse.
In fact, there's an entire website dedicated to the "Buffalo Curse:"
The Buffalo Bills captured back to back AFL titles in 1964 and 65, however this was when the AFL was in it's infancy and got little if any national attention. Several years later the young upstart AFL merged with the established NFL and this ushered in the Super Bowl Championship.
Since that time Buffalo sports fans have gone through one devastating loss after another from both of their two remaining major sports teams. Here at BuffaloCurse.com we have pondered this perplexing subject and have found a possible answer to the WHY. It can be linked to a major event that took place in the city of Buffalo over one hundred years ago.
The city of Buffalo was the site of the Pan American Exposition in 1901. This was considered a major national event, and a huge victory for the city to host it. This was the very first time Buffalo had such a national spotlight, and scored another huge victory when President William McKinley accepted an invition to the Exposition, and arrived for the opening days events. On September 6, 1901 the president was shot twice by Leon Frank Czolgosz at the Exposition. Doctors thought McKinley would recover, and he convalesced at the home of the expositions director in Buffalo. However little more than a week after he was shot, he died of his wounds on September 14, 1901.
This unquestionably was a major blow to a city trying to make a positive name for itself with it's first big national event. Ever since this event, whenever the city of Buffalo is in a national spotlight, bad things happen! Now of course the rebuttal to this Voodoo speculation would be "Why has Dallas not been affected by some curse, or Washington DC for that matter?" Perhaps because McKinley was a Freemason.
Most religious groups view Freemasonry as a cult or "evil power". Perhaps what the city of Buffalo needs is some sort of exorcism held at the site of the assassination, which was at that time the Temple of Music on Exposition grounds. One things for sure, regardless of the reason or cause the Buffalo Curse lives on. As a result the poor suffering souls who continue to sell out games, buy merchandise, and pay for football and hockey on satellite services are all forced to acknowledge that something HAS to be going on here.
Oh, there's something going on there, all right—and that guy needs to knock it off. You're starting to cook the brain cells that are important there, sport.
Freemason ghosts (it's loony as all get out, but you have to admit, it's a fun story) aren't the only thing being blamed for the Bills' futility. According to Mike Sullivan of The Kick is Good, it isn't a long-dead president that's to blame.
It's the team's mascot:
On September 3rd, 2000 the Buffalo Bills introduced Billy Buffalo. A lovable furry blue buffalo that would be the team’s first costumed mascot since the Bills put a bullet in “Huddles” in the 1980s. Apparently all of the winning that the team had been doing over the past decade wasn’t enough to engage the Buffalo Bills rabid fanbase.
In the 14 seasons BEFORE Billy Buffalo was named the team mascot:
Winning Percentage: .605
Regular Season Wins: 135
Bills Head Coaches: 3
Bills Starting QBs: 5
Playoff Appearances: 10
Super Bowl Appearances: 4
In the 14 seasons SINCE Billy Buffalo was named the team mascot:
Winning Percentage: .344
Reg Season Wins: 77
Bills Head Coaches: 7
Bills Starting QBs: 174
Playoff Appearances: 0
Super Bowl Appearances: Please
But wait, there's more! Ryan Talbot of the Bills Mafia (the team's rabid online fan community) posited back in July that the team's training camp venue may be the NFL equivalent of the house from Poltergeist:
The Buffalo Bills have changed their training camp venue a few times in their history. Their current “home away from home” is St. John Fisher College. The Pittsford location has been their home since 2000. The last time the Bills were in the playoffs of course was 1999. Look up at the stats that Mike Sullivan mentioned about Billy Buffalo. The “since” stats also hold true for St. John Fisher.
Now I love traveling to St. John Fisher College. It gives me a reason to go to Rochester and eat garbage plates as well as visit the Strong National Museum of Play with my kids. That said, the Bills haven’t played well since changing their venue.
On a completely unrelated note, I've never eaten a garbage plate, but it looks phenomenal.
So, the misfortune of the past few weeks has to be proof that the Bills are a cursed franchise several times over, right? A pint-sized quarterback, a big blue bison, the Freemasons (because why not?) and a heaping plate of greasy deliciousness have conspired to doom the team forever, right?
Of course not.
For starters, curses don't exist. Billy Buffalo isn't cursed. He's just butt-ugly. William McKinley was assassinated several decades before the Bills were founded, so I doubt his spectral energy really gives a crap whether the team wins or not.
Now Flutie, on the other hand? He's a crafty little devil, and some (especially fans of the Miami Hurricanes) might call him a fiend. But I don't think he's a practicing warlock with mystical powers, so he's out too.
As is Rochester, unless garbage plates have become the team's pregame meal.
No, the Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999 mostly because the teams since then have been mediocre at best and terrible at worst, at a time that coincided with the arrival of a certain coach and quarterback in New England.
And in all honesty, not many people really expected that drought to end this year. After all, this is a team that switched to Kyle Orton at quarterback in search of a spark. That's like trying to start a fire with almond milk instead of gasoline.
The Bills had exceeded expectations to this point, but it was a team with very little margin for error.
Perhaps that's what makes this all seem so cruel, though. From my interaction with Bills fans this year, they had no great illusions about the season. Nine or 10 wins and a one-and-done playoff appearance would have been fine—they just wanted a taste, a glimpse of how the other half lives.
A loss to the Jets would all but end those dreams, largely due to circumstances beyond the team's control.
And in that respect at least, while the Bills themselves may not be hexed, you can hardly fault the fans for wondering if they are.
Stay strong, Buffalo.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.