The 2014 season ended in a familiar way for one, and in unknown territory for the other. Then the off-season began, and the fanbases began to dream big. Rightly so? or just more unrealized dreams?
The chase for La’el Collins out of LSU is the latest in what appears to be a two-way battle to unseat the constant Patriots. As soon as the draft ended the Bills new HC Rex Ryan flew to Baton Rouge to meet the young man, and the Dolphins sent ex-LSU teammates to persuade the un-drafted Collins. I have to wonder, if you really wanted him, why not invest a 7th rounder? Worst case scenario you cut him at a minimum loss. Saving face by not drafting him makes you look even worst when you chase him later……But hey, I’m just a wannabe writer for the best Football Talk website today.
Back to discussing this battle between fanbases that has spread every where. Even in other blogs I have read Bills and Dolphins fans cheering on Jets fans to have their team beat the other. What has prompted this?
- Buffalo Bills – Have built through the defense for a few years, yet that 6-10 had remained a staple. Finally, last season, led by HC Doug Marrone and Recycled QB, Kyle Orton, the Bills not only ended the 6 wins stigma, but finished with a winning record, 9-7. The season began with first round pick EJ Manuel at the helm and fans favorite, nicknamed The Legend of Kiko out for the season. It was the Buffalo strong defense that led them to 9 wins, because offensively they were as bad as, if not worst of the worst teams in the league. That defense has the fans dreaming big! … Then the shocker!!! Doug Marrone leaves town, taking advantage of a clause in his contract. He was expecting teams to throw boat loads of cash his way. His agent started so many rumors of teams wanting him, one wonders if the dude has a future in politics. Marrone is now carrying a clipboard somewhere in hell. But, the strange thing that happened wasn’t his leaving, but the fans reaction to it. Suddenly Marrone, the man that led them to their first winning season in a very long time, he was the culprit of everything. But of what? Did the fans believe the team could have gone 16-0? To be fair Marrone had the audacity to bench EJ and play Orton. A move I thought to be nuts, because it was taking away experience from the kid. Yet, the move is why the offense was anemic enough to muster 9 wins… With Marrone gone, fans were dreaming of all sorts of big names to fight their way to the HC position in Western NY. Last moment, the man the fanbase hated for 4-5 years, the one they made fun of, suddenly appeared as the new hero! In comes Rex Ryan from the hated Jets! ,,, The off-season gets started with a trade for one of the most talented RBs in the league, and the dreaming was born. Rex is no stranger to creating excitement, and the fanbase in Buffalo has fallen as we all did in NY, fallen very hard. When he took over the Jets, the team had a similar defense and offense, and he took them and the rookie QB to the AFCCG. A game that meant nothing to Bills fans everywhere. In fact they dubbed it the “Backing in Playoffs”. You can only wish to get to the AFCCG this year!
- Miami Dolphins – The Fins have become the poster children of mediocrity in the NFL. HC Joe Philbin has had this team at below or .500 each of his coaching years, yet, here we are, dreaming of a playoff birth or possibly a divisional crown. Why? Let’s go back a little, because maybe there is some merit. The team has survived scandals, sleeping HCs on the sidelines, and signings that have wasted more money than the US budget. But, they have done one thing, and that has been bringing along and sticking with QB, Ryan Tannehill. Let’s not crown the kid a savior just yet, but he has made strides forward, and he is something the Jets and Bills do not have, yet! Somehow, Philbin survived last season, and is still the HC of this team. A team built with many pieces, but many holes. Good against the pass, crappy against the run; decent in the passing game, crappy running it; good at getting QB pressure, crappy protecting their own QB. Hickey was brought in to fix those problems, he did not. So this off-season, they too reached into those famous Jets AFCCG runs, and signed Mike Tannenbaum. All Fins fans, a la Bills fashion, made fun of Tannenbaum and that AFCCG, they too can only wish that, that magic appears in their facility this season… The off-season gave the Dolphins the unexpected, the biggest prize in free agency, Ndamukong Suh. The cost was steep, and many bodies were bagged and shipped out of town to accommodate the big man, but this has the fan base believing and dreaming. Other moves were made, replacing Wallace, the culprit of all of their offensive problems, should be a huge step forward. The Fins had a much better draft than their counterparts, the Bills. This too, has them dreaming!
So early to decide this, but I do, shockingly, have an opinion.
In Buffalo, the pieces are in place defensively, and Rex will get that unit to play harder than ever before. Offensively is where the problems still exist. Rex will want to ground and pound, every game, but he will let his QB test the waters occasionally. In the past that has hurt his teams (Sanchez, Geno). In my opinion, a great defense can win you 8-9 games all by themselves. Rex has done this twice with NY. If the Bills want to repeat or improve on the 9-7, and finally make the playoffs, he must find a QB he can trust. If he starts EJ, he has to trust him enough to make a difference. If instead he keeps tight reigns on EJ, the way he did to Sanchez; only allowing him to really throw on third and long, then the Bills will be an 8-9 win team. If he lets EJ get confidence, and EJ can deliver, this team can win 8-11 games.
The Dolphins have to stop the run first. Their offense scored enough to win games, but as the season wore on, teams learned to run it down their throats to keep Tannehill off the field. Can Suh do this alone? Wake is a great athlete, but a one-trick pony. Run right at him, and you better have a LB behind that can diminish the carnage. Tannehill must take the next step, and become the one the team leans to. He has to carry this team on his back. If these things happen, the Dolphins can win 7-9 games. If the team actually keeps Tannehill upright for a change, and allows him to use his legs more. And, if the WRs actually catch some deep balls, while Landry doesn’t have a sophomore slump, then this team can win 7-11 games as well.
But, let me make my self clear, neither team beats the Patriots for the division.