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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Around here all is doom and gloom about the prospects for the Bills' season, but I am not so sure I see it that way. There are a few things that I think may make a difference this year, and the way I see it there are a number of intangibles that go the Bills way. First, let's start with King Kaufman's observation that the default presumption of fans and experts is that this season will shake out the way the last one did. As Kaufman notes, that's not how it goes in the NFL. Really, week to week you never know. Second, Mike Mularky instead of Gregg Williams is a huge step up. There aren't a lot of NFL coaches that are worse at making game situation decisions than Williams proved himself to be, so that's an improvement that not enough people have taken into account. The local media is making much over a running back controversy, but Aaron Schatz makes a case for running back by committee that makes sense to me.

Then look at the rest of the division. They almost declared a municipal holiday in Buffalo when Ricky Williams decided to hang up his cleats, but Miami's big Achilles heel has been having to play crucial games against Buffalo and New England in December. They get those games out of the way in October this year, and that could be an issue-- my hunch is that it is more of an issue for the Pats. The Jets are the Jets. That's all that ever has to be said about them.

When New England swapped Bledsoe to the Bills for a first round choice my thought was that Belichick was essentially betting that he could do better with a future pick than a guy that looked to me like a Hall of Fame QB. Now I'm not so sure that Bledsoe was ever all that, and I can't put my finger on why exactly. Not a lot of QBs move to different teams and get better-- Joe Montana was Joe Montana, but not in a Chiefs uniform. On the other hand, it looks to me like the Bills reckon Bledsoe still has it-- the market in QBs was great for buyers this off-season, and they didn't budge. I have learned to respect the Bills front office as talent evaluators, and I'll go along with the theory that they know more than I do for the time being.

The games outside the division aren't as scary as all that: Jax at home for the opener; on the road against Oakland (whatever happened to Oakland?); away at Baltimore (I'll put that one in the "L" column in my mental chart right now); Rams at home; Seahawks at Seattle (another "L", I think); St. Louis at home; Cleveland, Bengels, 49's and Steelers to finish up. I can get to 10 wins-- the question is whether that's enough. The tricky part is that they won't be able to help themselves by beating division rivals after the road trip to Miami on December 5. They need to come on strong right out of the box, and hang on tight after that.

It can be done, I think. Let's say Bills, Miami, New England, Jets.

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