When will it end?
While the Buffalo Bills weren't expected to end the New England Patriots' first-place reign in the AFC East in 2012, some were anticipating the team making a move up and possibly challenging for a playoff spot.
Instead, it was bad business as usual for the Bills, who split their first six games, then won just three times the rest of the season. The 6-10 finish marked the team's eighth straight losing season.
Still, there are changes once again, starting with new head coach Doug Marrone.
And since anything is possible, the Buffalo Bills will be in the playoffs for the first time since 1999…
If: New quarterback Kevin Kolb looks like the player we saw on occasion with both the Eagles and Cardinals. Of course, when you're sacked 27 times in six games with Arizona last season (the Bills gave up just 30 sacks all season in 2012), that would take a toll on any player. And consider that Kolb will have a much better support system in terms of the running game. Last season, C.J. Spiller ran for 1,244 yards with the Bills. The Cardinals as a team rushed for 1,204 yards this past season.
And: The Buffalo defense can develop a little consistency. In six victories last season, the Bills gave up just 88 total points (14.7 points per game). But in the club's 10 setbacks alone, the wagons were not only circled but toppled over as the team surrendered a whopping 347 points, more than the 13 teams in the league did all season. And that improved pass rush featuring defensive end Mario Williams (who wasn't healthy early in the season but still managed 10.5 sacks) came up with 21 sacks in those six wins and only 15 sacks in 10 losses.
But: If the Bills can't match up with the teams in the AFC East, they'll continue to come up short in a division in which they have finished in last place each of the last five seasons. Dating back to 2008, Buffalo is just 6-24 vs. their divisional foes. To put that in perspective, the Patriots were 6-0 in the division last season alone. Until this team can consistently compete against their AFC East brethren, reaching the playoffs remains a near impossibility.
So what do you think? The Bills' playoff drought is the longest current active streak in the league. But is it indeed possible that everything finally comes together this season for this club? That may be asking a lot with the powerful Patriots and the Dolphins making a lot of moves this off-season. But is this the year Buffalo makes it possi-bill?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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