In all of the four major professional sports leagues, what franchise has gone the longest without making the playoffs? Most folks would probably guess teams like the Cleveland Browns, the San Diego Padres, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Cleveland Indians, the Miami Marlins or the Miami Dolphins. But no. It is the Buffalo Bills.
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Football fans because so used to seeing the Bills play in the playoffs and the Super Bowl that it is hard to believe they have the longest drought in sports. But they do. Of course, like the Dolphins and New York Jets, they have been relegated to fighting for a Wild Card for this century so far because they have the misfortune of being in the same division as the New England Patriots during the Belichik-Brady regime. But you would think they could at least get a Wild Card once in a while. But they have not been to the playoffs since 1999. That's 16 years without a playoff berth. They are three years longer than the Oakland Raiders, the next longest drought in the NFL.
So what are the chances the Bills make it this season? At billsinsider.com, we feel it is very good. Here are a few reasons why:
The Bills get the Patriots in the first four weeks. This means no Tom Brady at quarterback. If you are going on the road to Foxboro, not having to play Brady is a good equalizer. If the Bills can steal the road game then they also have a shot to steal the home game as well because they play the Pats again after Brady has only been back for a few weeks. While he is still in his “pre-season” the rest of the players should be in mid-season form.
Another reason is two of the three teams in the AFC East are in rebuilding mode. Both Miami and the Jets have fairly depleted rosters. Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 NFL rosters and they have Miami at #26 and the Jets at #23. They have Buffalo ranked at #14, seventh if the AFC. Six teams will make the playoffs from the AFC, so that tells us that they have people who study NFL rosters for a living who think they have playoff caliber talent.
Another reason we think the Bills could make it is that they will have Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback for his second season. The biggest improvements that starting QBs make is usually between the first year and the second year. One of the teams ranked ahead of the Bills is the defending champion Denver Broncos. But not only does Denver have the big target on their backs, they will be doing it with a first year quarterback. So the Bills finishing ahead of Denver should not be a surprise to anyone.
Another reason we like the Bills to get to the postseason is their schedule. They have two games with the Dolphins and Jets besides the two with the Patriots. They will also play the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Rams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns. If 10 wins gets them to the playoffs, and possibly nine could do it, that looks like at least eight wins already. The Bills will also play the Seattle Seahawks at home, the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Baltimore Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals. If the Bills can steal one or two of those, and there is no reason to think they have no shot in any of these, then they are looking at a playoff berth.
It is there for the taking for the Bills this season. The roster looks good. The schedule is favorable. Head Coach Rex Ryan has taken the Jets to the playoffs and this is a similar situation. If you want to place a good futures wager on a long shot team to get to the Super Bowl, the Buffalo Bills would be a good bet.
We know many of you are skeptical. We get that. It's been 16 long years. In some if not all of those summers, we heard that the Bills had a great shot this year, and of course, it never panned out. It's hard to be optimistic after all of those disappointments.
But think about this. Tom Brady isn't getting any younger. The Jets negotiations with Fitzgerald are both sad and comical. This does not bode well for them. Ryan Tannehill is a bust. So is Suh. Everyone ion this division has some negatives going into the season.
Also, think about this. Before the Marv Levy-Jim Kelly-Thurman Thomas-Bruce Smith-Andre Reed era, the Bills were pretty bad then too. But they eventually got it together and became the best team of the AFC for four straight years. So at some point, the Bills will break through. So why not now?