Friday, September 10, 2010

Bills will upset Miami, but after that . . .

Consider me not a purveyor of gloom-and-doom, but rather a realist. Like the meteorologist who forecasts the lake effect snow storm, I’m not the reason it’s snowing. I’m just trying to prepare you for what lies ahead for the 2010 Buffalo Bills so that you won’t feel compelled to jump into the Niagara River once the losses mount and optimism fades. (In other words, please don’t shoot the messenger for what he is about to write.)

I, too, have been encouraged by the progress the Bills have shown in the offseason and during practice games. Chan Gailey appears to be the no-nonsense coach the team needed after Dick Jauron’s kid gloves’ approach. Electric running back C.J. Spiller is a star-in-the-making. Quarterback Trent Edwards appears to have some of his confidence back. And the Bills have a top echelon secondary and a talented corps of running backs to go with two guards in Eric Wood and Andy LeVitre, who could be dependable performers for years to come.

All that said, the Bills won’t be ending their decade-long playoff drought this season. Nor will they be sniffing a .500 record. There still isn’t enough talent on this roster to turn the corner. Plus, their AFC East opponents have improved and Buffalo faces a brutal, front-loaded schedule featuring four of its first six games against playoff teams from last season. I believe the Bills are looking at a 5-11 record and another last-place finish.

But I also believe that new general manager Buddy Nix and Gailey – two football lifers with successful track records – are building a legitimate foundation for the future. With another successful draft and the continued development of the existing young talent, the Bills might be ready to blossom into contenders in 2011 (if the season isn’t wiped out by a strike).

If you’re a Bills fan, you need to hope that Spiller is indeed a thriller; Edwards develops into a legitimate and durable NFL quarterback; athletic, young left offensive tackle Demetrius Bell realizes his football potential; undrafted rookie wide receiver David Nelson becomes the tall receiving threat that the departed James Hardy never became; linebacker Aaron Maybin blossoms into a feared pass rusher; the Bills make a successful conversion to the 3-4 and stop being a sieve against the run, and punter Brian Moorman and kicker Rian Lindell continue to display the consistent excellence they’ve shown for nearly a decade.

Although I don’t see the Bills being upwardly mobile in the standings this season, I do see them opening with an upset of the Dolphins Sunday. I think they will be riding the wave of emotion and confidence built over the summer and I believe Miami’s defense is vulnerable without nose tackle Jason Ferguson (suspended for violation of the NFL drug policy) and defensive end Philip Merling (out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury).

Let’s call it, Buffalo 20, Miami 16.

After that, it will be downhill, with road losses to Green Bay and New England and at home to the New York Jets. That will be followed by a win at home against Jacksonville, losses on the road to Baltimore and Kansas City, a win in Toronto vs. the Chicago Bears, a win against Detroit at the Ralph, a loss on the road to Cincinnati, a loss at home to Pittsburgh (who will have Ben Roethlisberger back at QB), a loss at Minnesota, a victory at home vs. Cleveland (let’s hope these teams put on a better show than last year’s 6-3 yawner), a loss on the road to the Dolphins, a loss at home to the Patriots and loss to the Jets.


Speaking of teams in the rebuilding mode, I was impressed with Syracuse University’s workmanlike 29-3 win vs. Akron last week. I know a victory against a week team like the Zips isn’t cause to run out and make bowl reservations, but when you haven’t won a season-opener in six years, you take whatever progress you can get. Quarterback Ryan Nassib looked good, passing for 229 yards and running for 58 more, but will have to do a better job of protecting the football (interception and two fumbles) this week at Washington. The defense was impressive, limiting the Zips to 166 yards and just a field goal – the lowest point total yielded by the Orange in five seasons.

The Huskies game Saturday night will give us a better measure how far SU has come. Washington features Jake Locker, a strong-armed, mobile quarterback who’s projected to be taken No. 1 in next year’s draft. Second-year SU coach Doug Marrone is a student of football history and big on tradition, but here is one tradition he hopes to discontinue Saturday: Since 1964, the Orange men are just 1-10-1 in West Coast games.

I don’t see them beating a Huskies team that’s sure to be angry after dropping a close game at BYU last week. But if they can be competitive, I think it will be another baby step in the right direction.


Thanks to WROC TV-8 for adding me to their Bills coverage this season. I’m writing a weekly column for their web site - - and will be doing some on-air stuff after home games with my friend John Kucko.
Also, I’m continuing to do the Bills Brothers radio show with John DiTullio, Mike Catalana and Sal Maiorana on WHTK 1280-AM and 107.3-FM from 3-4 on Thursday afternoons.
Finally, I’ll be doing a talk and booksigning at the Barnes & Noble in Webster, Saturday from 1-3 p.m. My new book, Buffalo Bills Football Vault: The First 50 Seasons, continues to do well, ranking 11th on’s list of best-selling NFL books yesterday after rising as high as fourth on two previous occasions.


Congratulations to my good friend and 19th century base ball teammate, Max Robertson, who will be inducted into the Rochester Senior Slowpitch Softball Association Hall of Fame Saturday. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. Tickets remain and can be purchased at the Diplomat Party House. Festivities begin at 6.

No comments: