Buffalo Bills 2011 Season Preview: Can Bills Compete In Tough AFC East?

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 27: Rian Lindell #9 of the Buffalo Bills is congratulated after kicking the game winning field goal in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ralph Wilson Stadium on August 27, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York .Buffalo won 35-32 in overtime (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

SB Nation is previewing the 2011 season for all 32 teams and up today is the Buffalo Bills. Check out all of our 2011 NFL season previews.

The 2011 NFL season is almost here which means it's time to preview every team's chances this year. SB Nation's Buffalo Rumblings gives us the scoop on the Buffalo Bills.

Record prediction

The Buffalo Bills have a degree of continuity that many teams do not, and they get a bit of a schedule break this year facing a beatable AFC West in four games. That said, they also get the ultra-competitive NFC East, and they play in a very tough division, as well. Improvement is expected, but not so much that they won't be near the bottom of the league's standings. Let's go with 6-10.

Best game on the schedule

The Bills get the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4 - which is fortuitous for two reasons. For one, the Bills will not yet be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in Week 4. More importantly, the Bengals are a team that the Bills have a strong history playing against. In fact, the Bills haven't lost to the Bengals since 1988, and are 10-0 against them in that 23-year span. We're hopeful that the streak continues, as it'd really be a bummer to start 0-8 again. We're even more hopeful we have not jinxed the Bills by pointing this out.

Player who takes a step back this year

It's hard to envision a scenario in which, at least statistically, Stevie Johnson is as proficient as he was in 2010. The Bills can spin the trade of Lee Evans as much as they want, but the fact of the matter is that Johnson was a break-out star last year because defenses were still rolling coverages to Evans' side of the field. Now they'll be rolling coverage toward Johnson, daring the duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Donald Jones to beat them. That said, Johnson has looked fantastic this summer, and may be ready to produce despite the added attention he'll receive.

Breakout player candidate(s)

The popular pick here is C.J. Spiller, for obvious reasons, but we'll go with second-year defensive lineman Alex Carrington. Last year's third-round pick out of Arkansas State has added about 20 pounds to get up to 305, and the coaching staff rewarded him - believe it or not - by moving him to outside linebacker. This is a very big, very strong kid that moves quite fluidly for his size. He may not be a difference-maker necessarily, but between him and the team's two stud defensive linemen (Kyle Williams and rookie Marcell Dareus), the Bills have three massive individuals with a ton to offer in athleticism and versatility.

Best Bills player others have never heard of

One of the biggest reasons the Bills were so willing to let former No. 8 overall pick Donte Whitner walk as a free agent was the presene of veteran safety George Wilson. Stuck as a reserve behind Whitner and Jairus Byrd over the past two seasons, Wilson has still found a way to make plays, recording 138 tackles, two sacks and six interceptions as a part-timer. He's 30 years old, a former wide receiver and entering his first season as a starter at any position, but Wilson is a very good player - and Bills fans aren't likely to miss Whitner at all.

NT Kyle Williams is rated just right

You don't have to pay attention too closely to hear a lot of talk about just how good Kyle Williams is as the linchpin of an admittedly bad defense. Despite Buffalo's proclivity for giving up gobs of rushing yards and points, Williams is wisely considered among the very best at his position. He made the Pro Bowl a year ago (albeit as an alternate) and has really blossomed in his last two seasons, recording 142 tackles and 10 sacks in that span. Pay more attention to this player, general football fans. He is outstanding.

Fantasy Football Outlook

There's not a lot to see here. Stevie Johnson is a worthy starting receiver. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will be occasionally useful running back plays, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is a very safe bet as a backup quarterback, as he'll be throwinga lot in Chan Gailey's offense. Keep an eye on Roscoe Parrish, David Nelson and Donald Jones as waiver adds - but don't think about adding the defense unless Shawne Merriman can stay healthy and key Buffalo's pass rush.

Best media personality in the Buffalo market

We were very partial to Tim Graham, the former ESPN AFC East blogger who has since left ESPN to pursue an enterprise reporting gig with The Buffalo News. We still get Bills tidbits from him on Twitter from time to time, but insofar as guys who cover the team full-time, it's tough to beat the coverage that WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia provides.

Best players to follow on Twitter

Stevie Johnson is a very famous tweeter thanks to a rather prominent overtime drop last season; he's worth a follow for general football fans because he's a highly contagious personality. Fellow receiver David Nelson is very involved with fans and one of the most genuinely nice guys you'll encounter in the sport. Drayton Florence is very good with fans, as well, and can be prone to some refreshingly frank commentary. Nick Barnett is a very popular follow with Bills fans, as well.    

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