ORCHARD PARK - If the Buffalo Bills are going to make the playoffs this season, they are going to have to start beating their AFC East counterparts, something they haven't been able to do for the better part of a decade.
Since, 2002 - and including their season-opening 48-28 loss to the New York Jets - the Bills are 21-40 against their divisional opponents. The last time they had a winning season against the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and the Jets was in 2007, when they went 4-2.
"It's 2012 now and that's the only thing I'm worried about," Bills' defensive end Mario Williams said. "I don't care about past numbers or stats or whatever. We'll take it one game at a time and go out here and chip away at it and make things happen. That's the biggest thing we're all focused on."
In 2002, when every other team in the AFC East finished 9-7 and the Bills 8-8, two more wins in the division would have given the Bills a playoff spot, and a division crown, something they haven't won since 1995.
A win against the Jets in Week 5 would have gotten the Bills into the playoffs in 2004, and Bills' fans wouldn't be stuck having to relive the season-ending loss to a group of Pittsburgh Steelers' third-stringers.
In 2008, if the Bills went 4-2, rather than 0-6 in the division, they would have been in a three-way tie with the Jets and Patriots for the top spot. Who knows how that would have played out?
And then there was last year, when the Bills were 1-5 in the division, finishing 6-10. We all know what happened last season, as it is still fresh in our memories. However, a winning record in the division and a win over the Cincinnati Bengals would have gotten the Bills into the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Bills' fans, hindsight is usually pretty gruesome. If they would have played better against the AFC East, the last decade may not have been as depressing.
But 2012 marks the beginning of a new decade, sure the Bills aren't off to a great start in the division, but that doesn't mean they can't begin to turn over a new leaf, beginning today against the Patriots, a team looking to recover from a 1-2 start.
"History you learn from," Bills' head coach Chan Gailey said earlier this week, "but it is not a predictor of the future. Every year is a new year and they are a totally different defense than they have been since I can remember. Forever. They are totally different and playing better, to be honest with you."
With the departure of punter Brian Moorman this week, defensive end Chris Kelsay, place kicker Rian Lindell and defensive back Terrence McGee are now the longest tenured Bills, all coming to the team before the 2003 season, and Kelsay for one, thinks the Bills are on the right track to getting more wins inside the division.
"We absolutely have the ability to do that," Kelsay said. "But again, it's easy to talk about it, we've just got to go out and do it. We've got the people in this place to get the job done, now it's on our shoulders to go out and do it."
They'll have their chance to get to .500 through their first two AFC East games this afternoon at The Ralph against the Patriots, a team they have beaten twice since the start of the 2003 season.
"We know that every time we play them, they are a good team," Bills' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "They are the ones that have owned this division for a lot of years now. The division always goes through them. For us, regardless of the record they have lost two very tough games. We know that this is a very good team, one of the best in the NFL. We have to come out and play our very best game in order to compete."
Not only will the Bills have to play a nearly flawless game today, it would also benefit them to have a healthy Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the field. Both running backs are looking to get back into the lineup today, as Spiller left last week's 24-14 win over the Cleveland Browns with a shoulder injury, and Jackson is still recovering from a sprained right knee he suffered in the Bills' season-opening loss to the Jets.
"It's one game for us, but it's a big game for us," Jackson said. "We get an opportunity to go up on a team two games, that has been known as the champion of this division for a long time. So it's a big game for us, we know that, we know they're going to come in and not want to be in that situation. So they'll come out and be ready to play, so we've got to come out and match that and feed off the crowd and make some plays."