Small market teams are usually considered the underdogs but their fans are probably some of the most die hard out there. It might be because of their awesome uniforms, or the sympathy they carry after the soul crush start to the 90’s….the Buffalo Bills have some of the most loyal fans no matter the reason.
Like much of the rest of the AFC East, the Bills have been in a decade long maximum security prison due to Tom Brady’s highlight package. Throughout that period they have attempted breakouts with the likes of J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, and Kelly Holcomb. The new file in the proverbial cake is now E.J. Manuel, the first quarterback drafted in the 2013 class and a sure fire bust if you have listened, well, to anyone. But a funny thing occurred during the season last year, Manuel, while acting rookie like on plenty of occasions, was quite impressive at times. And it’s a good thing too because Veteran Kevin Kolb was a strong winter breeze from being concussed. Jeff Tuel was more or less a practical joke shoved onto the storm by the coaching staff and i have yet to figure out if “The Thad” Lewis is even a real person or just a hologram made necessary by all the injuries.
If E.J. can stay healthy, the 2014 season might just be a good one in Buffalo. Mind you this is not about hope or optimism so start circling the warns and get your pen and paper ready for this 2013 Buffalo Bills retrospective.
The easy answer would be to name the victory of the reigning Super Bowl Champs, the Ravens, as the highlight of the year but we learned through out the season that the Ravens where just in the middle of the pack ready to pull a Giants. By that i mean a complete reversal and implosion following a Super Bowl victory just to be clear and because of that i think week two deserves the nod.
The Bills were down by six points against the Carolina Panthers and E.J. drove his team down the field for 80 yards before capping it off with a touchdown to possibly future hall of gamer Stevie Johnson as time expired. To really put that game in perspective one must realize how impressive that drive was because the Panthers ended the year with the top 3 defense in nearly every meaningful category. Just look at their record, Carolina would only lose just two more games the rest of the regular season.
With a rare primetime showcase against the Cleveland Browns in week five, the Bills were 2-2 and a filed goal was all that stood in their way of a 3-2 season start. What made the 13 point loss even more painful was the fact that Manuel suffered a relatively serious injury. Enter Jeff Tuel…He went 8 of 20 for 80 yards and one interception, leading to Buffalo fans all over the world to set a world record for player name puns.
With not a single exception that i can recall, every historically great defense had a great middle linebacker in the midst. Well, the Bills are not quite there yet but Kiko Alonso is one heck of a building block.
Even though i consider most football writers in America to be self centered blowhards, the fact that Kiko was named defensive rookie of the year is still worth mentioning. He tied for the lead in interceptions, led the team in tackles and pretty much has one of the best names in football.
Believe it or not, this is a 6-10 team that has very few needs. Right now, provided no mats get in his way, the team seems to have the quarterback position locked up. They have two running backs that are style compliments of each other, some talented corners, a solid offensive line, and a few dynamic pass rushers. The two areas that concern me the most are the wide receiver position and linebacker position. Stevie Johnson’s numbers fell off this year due to the new system and Kiko really needs a sidekick to make him even more dangerous. Scott Chandler (TE) is the only key free agent this offseason but i would bet the Bills will let him walk to try and upgrade the tight end position as well.
Way Too Early Prediction
The Bill brass earned pretty darn good grades in the draft last year and brought in some key free agents along the way from the year before. They will certainly improve their roster this year but i still feel they are a year away from being a serious contender for a playoff spot, 8-8 looks to be the number for 2014, but hey, still better than last year.