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A look at the opponents: Buffalo Bills, Weeks 4 and 10

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  June 29, 2012 09:35 AM

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The Bills have something to be excited about with Shawne Merriman projected to be a backup on the team's defense. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Five questions about the Bills heading into training camp with Tim Graham, the beat writer from the Buffalo News.

Link: http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/
Twitter: @ByTimGraham

Date: Sept 30 (Week 4)
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium

Date: Nov. 11 (Week 10)
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium

2011 record: 6-10, tied for third in AFC East
Playoffs: None

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
The defensive line is loaded. The Bills have transitioned back to a 4-3 base defense, and the backup defensive ends likely will be Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay, who started the previous seven seasons. The Bills grabbed headlines by signing free-agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, but the defensive tackles are good, too. Marcell Dareus, the fifth overall pick in 2011, led the team in sacks last year, and Pro Bowler Kyle Williams is back after missing last year with a foot injury.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
The Bills need more consistent play out of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and brought mechanics-oriented quarterbacks coach David Lee to help. Just in case, they improved their backup QB position with Vince Young. The Bills also need tighter coverage from their cornerbacks. They drafted Stephon Gilmore 10th overall, and he almost certainly will supplant touchdown-waiting-to-happen Leodis McKelvin.

3. Players on the spot?
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (if he staggers, VY's presence will loom large), CB and former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin, DEs Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay (if contracts become a concern), P Brian Moorman (two-time All-Pro starting to slip).

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
Fitzpatrick needs to play at least like an average quarterback on a weekly basis. Fred Jackson has to stay healthy. With all the additions, the defense needs to come together and transform from its perennial doormat ranking to a top 10 unit.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
9-7, legit wild-card contender.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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