Can you feel the excitement? Do you have that low-level flow of adrenaline coursing through your body? Do you have the elevated heart rate, light butterflies in the stomach and restlessness? You probably do, because the start of the NFL season is upon us and if youíre reading Bills Daily before the first down has even been played chances are pretty good youíre a serious football fan (I define a serious fan as one who understand the sanctity of Sunday afternoons and wouldnít dream of scheduling anything during that time for the next 17+ weeks).
Hard to believe it, but I have all of the above feelings Ė Iím excited. I donít really know why Iím excited. After years of being a Bills fan Iíve tried to seriously temper my expectations for football season. Itís hard to keep telling yourself season after season, ďthis is the yearĒ Ė I stopped thinking that long ago. Iíve been through so many player, coaching and management changes that even fresh faces across the board donít warrant the thought that things are going to be radically different THIS season Ė Iíve told myself that too many times as well.
And yet Iím still excited Ė you are, too. My excitement isnít optimism Ė Iím not much of an optimist these days Ė you have to show me before I believe it. As best as I can tell, my excitement comes from the same well that is drawn upon during the selection of numbers when Powerball gets to dizzying heights Ė even with the odds of someone having all the right numbers being 175 million to one it COULD be me Ė wouldnít that be great?
Donít get me wrong Ė the odds of the Bills having a fantastic season arenít 175 million to one (if they were Iíd surely lay a ten-spot on that in Vegas). The odds are actually much lower, but vary according to your definition of ďfantastic seasonĒ. Is it a Super Bowl win? Playoffs? Winning season?
I like a lot of what Iíve seen so far this offseason (but Iíve done that in years past, too). I like the young head coach and what Iíve seen of his attitude and style. I like the coordinators with fresh ideas and endless enthusiasm. I like the tempo of the offense Iíve seen so far Ė the last up-tempo Bills squad I saw had quite a run of success. I like the attacking of the defense Ė I think I saw more blitzes from the Bills this preseason than I did from the team throughout the entire 2012 season.
I like the players Iíve seen play so far. EJ Manuel is quite a physical specimen Ė tall, athletic, muscular and mobile Ė he has a presence about him. From what Iíve seen heís made some pretty good reads and some pretty good throws, and thatís without seeing any attempts to go deep. C.J. Spiller looks great Ė quick, good vision and the ability to break one whenever he touches the ball. Robert Woods looks polished and Marquise Goodwin looks fast enough to peel the paint off his helmet. On defense Mario Williams looks like he could put up good numbers, Kiko Alonso looks like he could be a real defensive playmaker and Jerry Hughes looks like the Bills got a steal when they traded Kelvin Sheppard.
After the first two preseason games I started to feel that the Bills might really take a major step in the right direction this season Ė not out of the question to have their first winning season in a decade, and dare I think it Ė playoffs? Yep Ė daydreaming again, the way Iíve also thought of what Iíd do with the $250 million Powerball winnings if I won. Daydreaming isnít a bad thing Ė itís what keeps us going sometimes Ė but it isnít reality.
Sadly, reality set in pretty quickly. While Jairus Byrd finally rejoined the Bills, heís injured and the injury could linger. A nagging injury coupled with unhappiness with the Bills organization could see Byrd ride the bench for quite some time. I hope we donít find that the Bills paid franchise money to a guy who sat on the bench and may very well be elsewhere next season and realize that it would have been better to save a guaranteed $6.9 million and watch him sit on someone elseís bench. Stephon Gilmore, the only real NFL starting quality cornerback on the team is injured and will miss several games. Chris Hairston, an offensive line starter last year, is gone from an offensive line that had already lost Andy Levitre to free agency. Kevin Kolb, the only veteran at quarterback on the roster wonít play this year and very likely will never play a regular season game as a Buffalo Bill. Dustin Hopkins has a groin injury that could linger Ė seriously, the kicker gets hurt right before the season starts!
Itís not that I didnít expect the Bills to suffer injuries this season Ė we all knew that wasnít going to happen. The problem is that the injuries suffered by the Bills are in places where they could least afford them Ė defensive backfield, QB, offensive line, and they came before the season even started. A young team like the Bills needs some momentum and I fear getting off to a slow start could really hurt them. Facing a healthy New England team while banged up is never fun (trust me Ė I live in New England).
And yet I still have the adrenaline, butterflies and restlessness Ė real football starts on Thursday and Sunday is just days away. I want to see the Bills go out and show something positive on Sunday. I want to see that Manuel is the future, that Spiller could take the NFL rushing title, and that the defense really is much better than they showed last season. I want to see the Bills coaching staff be dynamic and exciting, leading the way and innovating. I want to see exciting football. I want to see progress. I want to see Bills football. I want to see the clock read 1PM on Sunday.