Superbowl Sleeper: Buffalo Bills

(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

The Superbowl Sleeper series is a look at five teams that finished below .500 in 2011 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and the Buffalo Bills) what it would take for them to get to the Superbowl in 2012.

What happened in 2011?
The Buffalo Bills were the early surprise in the league, getting off to a 5-0 start.  Then tailback Fred Jackson missed the final six games due to injury, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play declined sharply, and the secondary fell apart.   The Bills finished 6-10.

The Good
The Bills are talented and deep on the defensive line featuring DTs Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus and DE Mario Williams.  Wide receiver Stevie Johnson and RB Fred Jackson are good cornerstone players on offense.

The Bad
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s  inconsistent play after signing a lucrative, long-term contract is a concern for Bills management.   Is there a receiver on the roster that can draw coverage away from Johnson?  The defense allowed opposing QBs to complete 63% of their passes and 30 passing touchdowns in 2011.

Blueprint to get to the Superbowl

Buffalo’s  defensive up grades along the defensive line ( free agent DEs  Mario Williams and Mark Anderson) and in the secondary ( rookie CBs  Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks) create turnovers and field position for Fitzpatrick.  One of the receivers not named Stevie Johnson (David Nelson perhaps?) steps up and brings balance to the passing game.

Outlook

I am bullish on the Bills (pun intended).  Their defensive line matches up well with the lack of pass protection in the AFC East.  Plus the return of Fred Jackson will put the offense back on track.  The Bills will not beat out New England for the division but will secure a wildcard and be a legitimate threat in the AFC.

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