I’ve resisted commenting on the goings on (or lack of goings ons… cough Dolphins) around the rest of the AFC East until now but it seems like a good point to review the moves made thus far by the Patriots main opposition, and by that I mean Bills and Jets since I have no idea what the Dolphins are doing.
The road to the playoffs goes through the division, and the Patriots have won the division nine of the last eleven years. So what have the Jets and Bills been doing to close the gap?
Let’s start with the Bills. By now everyone knows they’ve signed the big fish Mario Williams, adding him to a defensive line with Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams. Then they added Mark Anderson as the other bookend.
I have mixed feeling about Anderson. He’s like that guy you let stay in your castle and he’s a valued warrior in a couple battles, then the next thing you know he’s taking a buttload of money to go fight for one of your direct rivals. (I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately if you can’t tell). So whatever Mark Anderson, you got paid and that’s fine. Just keep any celebrating you do at the Pats expense to a subdued minimum. You owe us.
On paper, and with a pending 10th overall draft pick, the Bills look formidable. Seems like they’ve seen what the Giants have been able to do to the Patriots and are trying to replicate it, to their credit.
The problem however is the same problem they had last year, and that is lack of depth. The Bills were off to a great start until the injury bug hit them, and then they finished 6-10.
The Patriots off-season has illustrated yet again why they value the middle of their roster as much as the top, and there has yet to be an injury, no matter how major that the Patriots haven’t overcome in the last decade.
So the question is, can the Bills stay healthy? If they’re the rare team that escapes the injury bug they should surely challenge the Patriots. If they can’t keep Anderson, Dareus, K. and M. Williams on the field it could be lights out just like it was last year. And by lights out I mean Sean Merriman who hasn’t quite turned all the lights out since 2007.
I like Ryan Fitzpatrick but it’s all going to have to line up perfectly for him. If the Bills defense stays healthy they should be able to keep Fitzpatrick in a good position. If they don’t, and Fitz is forced to play from behind or “keep up” he will struggle.
The other question is can Fred Jackson continue the kind of dominant performance he turned in last year before getting hurt. He’s a huge key to everything they do on offense and they need a full year from him.
I expect the Bills to get off to a good start, how long they stay on that course will directly relate to how healthy they stay. But for the first time in a long time the Bills games will be ones that Patriots fans circle before the season.
And then there’s the Jets.