This time last year the Buffalo Bills were touted by beat writers across the country to be the dark horse team for 2012. Unfortunately for fans in Buffalo, that never quite materialized.
2012 Record: 6-10
2012 Season: Week 1 of the 2012 regular season was one to forget for Buffalo fans. One of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Mark Sanchez, threw three touchdowns in his team's 48 point route against the Bills. This is the same New York Jets that averaged only eleven points in the last three games of the season. Part of the problems last year was the team's quarterback play. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continued to play erratically over the course of the season. Moreover Mario Williams' arrival was designed to kick-start the teams pass rush. However a combination of injuries and inconsistencies in his performances meant things didn't quite work out for Williams last season. Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, another season that didn't quite go according to plan.
What they must fix: New head coach Doug Marrone has to fix the quarterback situation if he wants to stay in the job for the long-term. In the 2013 NFL draft the Bills traded out of the 8th position in the first round to the 16th position in order to select quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel is a raw player that needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making. But he's a dual threat quarterback that may turn out to enjoy some success down the line, the team just has to be patient with him. That's not to suggest Manuel is guaranteed to start however. The Bills have also brought in Kevin Kolb in the hope he'll enjoy better success than the season he had in Arizona.
As for the wide receiver position, veteran Stevie Johnson managed to rack up his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. After him however, the rest of the receivers are inexperienced. Selected in the second round was Robert Woods, a player that was considered a sure-fire first round pick once upon a time, but drops and inconsistencies in his last season at USC meant that he slipped in the draft. In the third round, Marquise Goodwin will provide the team with speed, but is still very raw at the position. Da'Rick Rogers and T.J. Graham are the other receivers to watch out for next season.
Mario Williams also needs a big season if the Bills are to improve dramatically this season. If they can keep him healthy and make sure he gets to the quarterback, they have an absolute star on their hands. But will a switch to the 3-4 defense they plan on using next year be a detriment to him?
What they're good at: In truth, not a lot. However they do have CJ Spiller, and will have to rely on him as much as possible as E.J. Manuel learns the position. Spiller should finally find himself becoming the primary running back now Chad Gailey has gone. He's a player that can create something out of nothing and has the ability to go the distance with his lightening speed.
Despite losing guard Andy Levitre to the Titans, they're still strong at three spots on the offensive line. Kraig Urbik did a decent job at right guard last season, Cordy Glenn only surrendered six sacks in his rookie season at left tackle and centre Eric Woods is a solid blocker. Erik Pears, however, is very pedestrian and they will need to compensate for him in 2013.
Dark Horse Player of the Year: Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso is a pretty instinctive player, and will likely be asked to start straight away. Very athletic and very good in coverage, but needs to improve his run blocking skills. Nonetheless, he's a player with huge upside.
What this Means for the Dolphins: As Dolphins fans we shouldn't be scared of the Buffalo Bills, but can't be in the mindset that we'll walk all over them in games. If the team can improve their quarterback play and get Mario Williams back on track, they could surprise a few this season. Lets for our sake hope not.
Season Prediction: 5-11
Do you agree? Lets hear your thoughts.