Reasons to Believe
1. Tremendous Off-Season – The Bills had one of the best off-seasons in the league this year, with almost everything going their way. Buffalo landed the second biggest free agent in DE Mario Williams while also signing 10-sack rusher Mark Anderson to pair him with. They also re-signed their top WR Stevie Johnson long term, and even nailed it in the draft, with early reports being very favourable for 10th overall selection Stephon Gilmore.
2. Defensive Line – With Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams in the middle, Buffalo was already in the midst of building a strong defensive line before accelerating the process tenfold with the Williams and Anderson signings. Combine that with solid depth (Chris Kelsay, Dwan Edwards) and the Bills' defensive line will be one of the top units in the league.
3. Fred Jackson Returns – Jackson was a giant surprise for the Bills last season, racking up 938 yards and six touchdowns in just 10 games. Jackson was one of the league's top backs before being sidelined, but the injury did allow C.J. Spiller to break out a little for the Bills (not sixth-overall pick break out, but break out nonetheless). Now the tandem returns healthy in 2012, and could complement each other well.
Reasons to Doubt
1. High Expectations – Buffalo started last year 5-2; then expectations rose and the team buckled. Expectations are even higher now – the only thing that could raise them further would be new backup QB Vince Young dubbing their free agent class a dream team. Will the Bills be better-equipped to deal with the pressure this time around? For their part, they've welcomed the great expectations so far in pre-season.
2. Inconsistency at QB – After Ryan Fitzpatrick's fast start, he was rewarded with a long-term deal that he did little to justify the rest of the season. Fitzpatrick has certainly shown glimpses, but he also led the league in interceptions with 23 last year. With most position groups looking primed for a playoff run in Buffalo, the 29-year-old quarterback could be considered the weak link.
3. Trouble in the AFC East – Buffalo has struggled mightily against the entire AFC East in recent years, and of most concern is their record against the Jets. The Bills, who figure to battle the Jets for second in the AFC East and a wildcard spot, are 0-4 against New York the past two seasons and have just one win against the team since Rex Ryan took over as head coach.
What to Expect
Buffalo enters 2012 as one of the league's favourites to make a splash, but the Bills are still in the same division as the Patriots, so the Wild Card is a more attainable goal. The good news however, is that with a strong running game, a solid defence, and a quarterback that could put up big numbers, fans in Buffalo can finally expect a legitimate shot at the post-season.