What does a good year mean for the Buffalo Bills next season?
Well, I am sure the correct answer to that question is a playoff appearance, in any fashion. Looking at the question realistically, this possibility is not that far fetched.
Since the Bills’ last playoff appearance in 1999, the best record the team has posted is a mediocre 9-7 (2004). During this 14 year drought the Bills have posted a hodgepodge of wins, including:
· 6-10 (5 times, and past 3 seasons)
· 7-9 (3 times)
Since the 2011 season, the Bills have been steadily “improving” with their consistent top 10 draft picks, and have been attempting to solidify a new foundation of strong players in Buffalo. This improvement period was stalled in its start, as the Bills and their fans have not witnessed any improvements in the win loss column, enduring three straight 6-10 seasons.
Some names through the NFL draft that have joined the Bills family during this rebuilding process are: CJ Spiller, Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Chris Hairston, Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, EJ Manuel, Robert Woods, Kiko Alonso, and Marquise Goodwin.
When thrown together with some Veteran Bills names like Fred Jackson, Leodis McKelvin, Stevie Johnson, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Eric Wood, there seems to be a base that has been molded in Buffalo over the past few seasons. Not to mention a resigned kicker coming off of one of the best seasons ever by a Bills kicker in Dan Carpenter tops off the list of names.
I am not just listing the top Bills players on their roster, I am reiterating the fact that there truly is a foundation of good (and some great) football players in Buffalo and it’s looking as if things are finally taking form. With the addition of Coach Doug Marrone at the top of the pyramid, we have a guy with toughness that is here to stay, something we have been missing since Marv Levy put the headset down.
With yet another top ten pick this year, the Bills have a huge opportunity to reel in the highest tier in talent for whatever position they feel needs to be addressed first. The rest of the draft class this year contains some of the highest potential that scouts have documented in recent years, offering the Bills and the other NFL squads a chance to beef up their positional competition this camp.
One thing that always remains true after each NFL draft is the following season contains some surprises, some disappointments, and some average players from the respective draft class. All the fun lies within which guys rise to the occasion and which do not, and critics like me try and figure out why it didn’t work out the way it should have. Who cares, Bills fans want to know what we will be able to do next season- right now.
Starting with last years 6-10 record, put the house on it that the Bills can match this record even if they bring in the worst draft class in team history. The Bills will relatively have the same roster next season, and their record last season truly did not reflect the amount of success the Bills franchise had last season.
Out of the 10 losses, the Bills lost by a touchdown or less in 4 of those games. Including a loss to New England on a last second field goal, an overtime loss to the Falcons due to late turnovers, and a 7 point loss to the Jets where the Bills had every chance to win the game but could not keep it together. The other OT loss to Cincinnati included a valiant effort by backup QB Thad Lewis in his first start, but the Bills were lucky to even force that game into overtime.
EJ Manuel posted a 4-6 record as a starter, and his fellow QB’s (both Tuel and Lewis) combined for a 2-4 record in his absence due to injury. If EJ can remain healthy, and hold true with his offseason dedication to excellence, his improvement alone can transform at least four of those prior losses into victories for the Bills.
If the Bills came out on top in both of their OT appearances alone, they immediately impact their record going 8-8. The Bills can even knock off the dying dynasty of the Patriots at least once next season, creating some middle ground in the AFC East for each team in the division. Manuel making the leap into his sophomore season can provide this jump in production, as he will produce better numbers if he is actually in the lineup.
10-6. it is not that crazy to say that the Bills can reverse their win and loss column from last season, and improve their record by four victories. Hell, they almost did it already last season. Here lies the problem though, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. If the Bills cannot reach this goal, or get extremely close, they are in danger of losing more bricks in the aforementioned foundation of the team, something that the Bills front office has done a pretty good job in building the past 4 seasons.
As far as the playoffs go, it will be one game at a time as usual for the Bills next season. But if they can scrape 10 wins together next season then it would be just enough to slide into the playoffs with a Wild card spot (last years 6th seed team was the Chargers at 9-7). Now, 10-6 has not been good enough to earn a playoff berth in the NFL plenty of times before, but the way the AFC has been the past few years it should be plenty good for a 6th or possibly a 5th seed.
In conclusion, the Bills will finally break double digit wins for the first time in 15 years this upcoming season. Although many may believe it is a bold prediction, it is more of a strong inference being made on a few simple facts from the past few years. It is right in front of their faces, well see if they can grasp it.