Great fans. Great atmosphere for football. Now if only it could come close to putting out a great football team.
The days of Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, and Jim Kelly are long gone. And those cold Buffalo winters have seemed even colder ever since. Since Smith and Reed left Buffalo in 1999, the Bills haven’t made a single playoff appearance, and only have one winning season (9-7, 2004). They haven’t topped six wins since 2008.
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But is there any hope for the other, other, other team from New York? Maybe not this season, but the future looks brighter.
The Bills appear to be moving in the right direction, and that’s due to a number of recent acquisitions and young talent. The Patriots pose the biggest threat in the division, with the Dolphins thought to be the No. 2 team. But Buffalo can make noise by giving the ’Fins a run for their money, and leaving the Jets in the dust.
Here are three players who could a big part in that:
QB EJ Manuel
It wasn’t announced until Wednesday who the Bills starting quarterback would be Sunday (1 p.m., CBS), and there was a chance that undrafted rookie QB Jeff Tuel would get the nod. Luckily for the Bills, Manuel, who has been dealing with a sore knee, proved he was fine. Manuel may not find much success in his first NFL game, but being the first QB off the board in the 2013 Draft (16th overall), the Bills have high hopes for him. Still, look for Manuel to keep the Pats D-line busy, as he has shown ability to be effective outside the pocket.
RB CJ Spiller
The Bills’ biggest offensive threat is on the ground, and his name is CJ Spiller. Spiller broke out last season for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 6.0 yards per carry. With an inexperienced QB, look for the ball in Spiller’s hands more.
“He has good vision, he has good speed, good balance. He can run inside, run outside, he’s an excellent receiver,” Bill Belichick said.
DE Mario Williams
Williams has been nursing a foot injury over the preseason, but is deemed good to go for Sunday. That’s not the best news for the Patriots – and especially Tom Brady – as Williams can be lethal coming around the edge. You can bet Brady will keep an eye on his whereabouts.