For the last decade or so, I've thought of the Bills as one of the more "blah" teams in the NFL. Since the end of the Jim Kelly era, they've just sort of existed. Not good enough to make the playoffs, not bad enough to make fun of. They're just there. Filler to make sure the NFL has an even 32 teams.
They threatened to shed that distinction last year when they started the season 5-1, but their unshakeable mediocrity caught up with them, and they finished 7-9. Again. For the third season in a row, in fact.
And then, this offseason, the Bills did the one thing that's guaranteed to make a team no longer "blah." They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I kid. I speak, of course, of Terrell Owens, who brings his show to Buffalo. And while that is a story, and there's always the chance things could go ape-snot crazy at any minute with Owens around, it might not be the real story. The real story might be an explosive Buffalo Bills offense in 2009.
There are reports that the Bills might be going with a no-huddle offense. There's Owens. There's Lee Evans(notes). There's talented rookie tight end Shawn Nelson. There's Marshawn Lynch(notes), Fred Jackson and his new contract, and veteran change-of-pace guy Dominic Rhodes.
Most importantly, there's Trent Edwards(notes), upon whom the Bills are relying on heavily this year. They think Edwards can be a franchise quarterback, spread the ball around, keep Owens happy, and lead the Bills to the playoffs. He's shown flashes. Whether or not he can play consistently at a high level has yet to be determined.
Defensively, I don't see a lot improving for what was a middle-of-the-pack defense in '08. I like Aaron Maybin, but as a rookie, he's not going to solve all of the Bills' pass rush problems all by himself.
No, this is a team that's counting on their offense to carry them. There will have to be some reshuffling of the offensive line, and they'll have to keep Owens happy, but Edwards is the key to everything. If he can bump up his passer rating into the 90 range (which isn't asking a ton, since he was at 85 last season), and run a smooth, efficient offense, the Bills will expect to score a lot of points.
Progress: I like what they've done. Without a drastic move like bringing in Owens, what's the best the Bills were going to do in 2009? Play the Patriots close? Be a "not bad" team? Why shoot for that? Bring in Owens, juice up the offense, and go for broke. There's no reason not to.
Plus 2 games. From 7-9 last to 9-7 this year.