Believe it or not, the Buffalo Bills franchise holds a record. The franchise currently holds the longest streak for non-appearances in the post-season among all teams. For the twelfth consecutive year, the Bills failed to reach the playoffs.
Early in the 2011 season, however, the Bills looked destined to break that streak. In Week 1, Buffalo annihilated the Kansas City Chiefs 41-7 at Arrowhead Stadium. That win was solid, but didn't raise any eyebrows.
In Weeks 2 and 3, the NFL took notice.
The Oakland Raiders visited the Bills in Week 2 and Oakland took a commanding 21-3 lead at halftime. The Bills rallied against Darren McFadden and torched the Raiders in a memorable fourth quarter. The Bills won the game with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to a wide open David Nelson with :14 remaining.
In Week 3, the Bills cemented themselves as a legitimate playoff contender after overcoming a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter against the New England Patriots. Fitzpatrick, again, led a fourth quarter arial assault to allow kicker Ryan Lindell to punch in the game-winning field goal as time expired in regulation.
Over the first eight weeks of the season, Buffalo was entrenched in the playoff race. The Bills went 5-2 over that span with a bye week in Week 7. Fitzpatrick was leading his team with the playoffs in sight.
In Week 8, the Bills defeated the Washington Redskins, but according to wide receiver David Nelson, Fitzpatrick took a shot from linebacker London Fletcher that left the quarterback with cracked ribs. We tend to believe Nelson.
In the Bills first seven games, Fitzpatrick had a 97.8 passer rating. He tossed 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions in those first seven games. After cracking his ribs in Week 8, Fitzpatrick notched a 10:16 touchdown-interception ratio over the remaining nine games. By seasons' end, he led the league in interceptions (23).
Many speculated that Fitzpatrick's job was in jeopardy after the Bills acquired Vince Young. General manager Buddy Nix quickly put that thought to bed.
To make matters worse, running back Fred Jackson broke a bone in his right lower leg in Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins and was placed on injured reserve. Jackson was having a Pro-Bowl caliber year prior to the injury.
Following the Redskins game in Week 8, the Bills went on a seven-game skid and won just a single game (Denver Broncos, Week 16) to finish out the disappointing season.
But with the offseason, comes much needed healing from Buffalo's three key players: Fitzpatrick (ribs), Johnson (groin) and Jackson (leg). All three impact players will opening training camp (Thursday, July 26, 3:00 p.m.) healthy and eager to pick up where they started the 2011 season.
If the trio remains healthy throughout the 2012-13 season, the Bills will most assuredly enter the post-season and snap their playoff non-appearance streak.