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Up first is the Buffalo Bills, who finished the 2011 season 6-10 after winning four of their first six games.
Bills play-by-play man Mark Kelso joined T&R on Thursday, and said hopes are high in Buffalo as the 2012 season is just a few weeks away.
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While winning the division may be a reach, Kelso thinks the Bills are the second best team in the AFC East, and should end their playoff drought this season.
“Do I think they could split with New England, yeah? Can they challenge for the division? Looking at the schedule I’m looking at possibly a 10-win season for the Bills,” he said. “They’re going to have to win a couple of division games to do that.”
“There’s plenty of optimism in Buffalo, but I think the Patriots are still the class of the East. I think the Bills are tucked in that at number two,” said Kelso.
The Bills made a big splash in free agency this offseason, signing defensive lineman Mario Williams to bolster an already-dangerous pass-rush.
“On paper, by virtue of the offseason signings, the defensive line looks like it’s going to be a considerable strength this year,” said Kelso. “With Mario Williams and taking Marc Anderson from you guys in Boston, that’s going to make for a really formidable front four.”
Kelso is also expecting a good bounce-back year from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“I think part of that was the rib injury he was dealing with part of the year. He was pressing a little bit, and I don’t think the defense was holding up quite as well as they would have liked,” said Kelso, noting injuries to Buffalo’s offensive line. “He had to ad-lib an awful lot and move out of the pocket quite a bit dealing with that injury. I think he has tremendous assets as a quarterback; he has a great internal clock and read defenses really well.”
“He has great leadership ability and he makes the guys around him better,” he said of Fitzpatrick, who threw 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 2011. “I think he has a lot of attributes and I think he’s the kind of guy that can take this team to the playoffs.”
Also, what does Kelso think of receiver Stevie Johnson’s contract extension? And will the Buffalo offensive line bounce back after a tough 2011?