As many of you know, I've correctly predicted the Bills record for 3 years running. As usual, this year I will once again paste the link into my sig.
A lot has changed in the past year. Gone are guys that I've been quite critical and vocal about -- Poz, Whitner and Evans. In the 2011 draft, Buddy Nix selected what I hope will be an outstanding player in Dareus. We've upgraded the LB core with the addition of Nick Barnett and now have a "healthy" Shawn Merriman to hopefully help bolster that group. Our corners remain suspect, with nobody striking fear into the mind of an opposing quarterback. Hopefully Byrd rebounds from the 2nd year slump and anybody is better in coverage then Whitner, so I'm pleased to see Wilson given a chance to prove he can play in this league.
Sadly the changes stop there. On offense, out is Brohm, in is Thigpen. While an upgrade, I'd hardly consider it to be earth shattering. The RBs remain the same, Spiller still can't pass block or chip, and Jackson is among the most underrated players in the NFL. Our WR core had a little bit of a shakeup with Buffalo finally realizing that Lee Evans isn't a good route runner and only excels in deep pass patterns -- things that take time to develop. I like our young WR core but do feel as though they could struggle. They also seem to have a bit of the "drops" which I'm sure has a lot to do with lack of concentration. I feel as though the young guys are looking to make a play with the ball more so then worrying about actually catching the ball. This is often the case of young WRs and hopefully they'll figure it out. The Offensive line is still a complete disgrace. There is absolutely no depth on the unit, and quite frankly the starting 5 are laughable. I actually feel bad for Eric Wood. Any sort of injury to the group will spell disaster. There were older veterans out there, Buddy decided a temporary solution isn't a viable one and elected to completely ignore the unit. Oh, and we still do not have a tight end.
I look back at the 2010-11 season and simply cannot forget all the games where Buffalo looked completely inept. Sure there was the game against the Ravens and Steelers, games we could have pulled off an upset, but there were more games like the Jets, Vikes, Pats (2nd time), and Packers. All these games really highlighted the weakness of our offensive line, inability to move the football, and inability to stop anybody on defense.
After watching the preaseason, I see and hear excuses for poor play. Sorry, I don't buy that. This is just not a good football team. This team looked inconsistant in 3 out of 4 preseason games. They refused to run the football, which I think will once again be a theme. Gailey is a pass happy coach.
I honestly believe that in 2011-12 this team will be more competitive. I don't think we will get blown out as often as we did in 2010-11. Instead of being among the worst defenses in the NFL, I see Buffalo moving up to the 20-25 range provided Merriman and Barnett are able to stay healthy. In the event of an injury or two, all bets are off though. Depth on this entire roster is a serious issue. On offense, I expect the team to be inconsistent. I think a lot of that will be because the offensive line is a disaster, Gailey abandons the run, and Fitz simply isn't a consistent quarterback.
Looking at the schedule, there are some games that aren't winnable and some games that Buffalo should have a chance:
Buffalo has no chance against New England (x2), Philly, SD, and I'd put the Jets (x2) in that group. *** Side note, I don't think the Jets will be world beaters, but I believe their pass rushing LBs will simply destroy us ***
I'd give a strong edge to teams like the Cowboys, Giants and Tenn, whereas I'd give a slight edge to the Chiefs.
I think Buffalo can compete/win against the Dolphins (x2), Raiders, Cincy, Washington and Denver.
So, you've read this long, what's my prediction:
Well, I believe Buffalo's offense will be in trouble. With a disastrous offensive line and lack of depth, coupled with Chan Gailey's refusal to commit to running the football, Buffalo will simply be inconsistent on offense. With past injury issues with Merriman and Barnett, I question their ability to stay healthy and know that our LB depth isn't that good. While the pass rush should improve with the addition of Dareus, I do believe that he will struggle at times in his rookie year.
We could win as little as 3 games, or as many as 7. I say we win 5. They are better then a year ago, but still not very good. We're a couple of years away from competing for a playoff spot.
I predict Buffalo will finish 5-11
We're too 'good' to get Andrew Luck, and instead of drafting a QB spend the 2012-13 draft focusing on offensive line and LB depth. I'm okay with that. If Fitz shows he's not the answer, bring in Orton and fix the O-line in the draft. I think Orton could take us to the playoffs if we could build a good team around him.