It would be unbecoming for any self-respecting person to take joy from another man's pain, but rest assured a select few (hundred thousand) Bills fans felt a jolt of optimism last Thursday when Ryan Tannehill reinjured his left knee and Tom Brady celebrated his 40th birthday.
Buffalo people are known for their warm hearts (and love for food and beer), but Buffalo fans have little sympathy for the opposition during football season. Otherwise good citizens (nuns) morph into cold, heartless savages who hurl F-bombs at visiting teams' buses and look for blood upon entering New Era Field.
Bills fans never built the disdain for Tannehill that they showed for Brady because he (didn't belong in the same sentence as Brady) never really tormented the Bills. Still, Tannehill has been the Dolphins starter (for some reason) since he was drafted in 2012. Common sense suggests his absence should help the Bills' cause.
But let it be known that Tannehill (stinks) has a 3-6 career record against the Bills while averaging 204 yards per game passing while throwing 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Bills had him exactly where they wanted him (stealing $18 million) this season, which was in the Miami lineup.
Remember, it wasn't as if the Dolphins' quarterbacks (and certainly not T.J. Yates) killed the Bills last year. Buffalo lost both games by a field goal. Tannehill and Matt Moore combined for 437 yards and four touchdown passes in the two games, pedestrian numbers by NFL standards (and no better than Tyrod Taylor).
The Bills held Jay Ajayi to 206 yards rushing in the second game (an accomplishment) after he gained 214 yards rushing in the first meeting. Buffalo might have won that game if (it could tackle) not for Andrew Franks nailing a 55-yard field goal with six seconds left in regulation and a 27-yarder in OT.
Miami was hoping to make a charge toward the Patriots this season after beefing up its run defense and keeping its (below-average) offense mostly intact. So far, training camp has been a (welcome) disaster for the Dolphins. Tannehill's injury could sideline him for the year. Ajayi suffered a concussion.
The Dolphins had (terrible) options if they were not comfortable with Moore as their starting quarterback. They showed interest in veteran quarterback Jay Cutler, who retired (because nobody wanted to pay him big money) from the Bears. He appeared ready to begin his (short) career in the broadcast booth before Miami gave him a one-year (gift) contract.
Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned, but the Dolphins would rather have a (player that didn't wear a pro-Fidel Castro T-shirt) quarterback who is a drop-back passer and more suited to their offense. Another option is waiting for other teams to trim down their rosters and signing a (lousy) quarterback to back up Cutler and Moore.
If you looked at the Bills' schedule before training camp began, it was (impossible) difficult to imagine them (winning six games this season) going .500 in the division after Miami and (defending champion) New England upgraded their rosters. Buffalo could expect two wins against the (tanking) Jets, but so could their division rivals.
Still, things can change in a hurry (other than the Bills' playoff stats).
Brady has been an NFL starter for 16 seasons, including one in which he missed 15 games with a knee injury. Add another 34 playoff games (and five Super Bowls), and that's more than the equivalent of 18 NFL seasons as a starter. He has thrown for more than 40 miles in his career (one for every year he's been alive).
At some point (in the next decade), Father Time will catch up to him as it did every other quarterback (not named Tom Brady) who ever played the game.
Peyton Manning's production fell off a cliff (after he had eight 4,000-yard seasons in his 30s) before he retired (with his second Super Bowl) at age 39. Brett Favre retired at age 41 after (his arm fell off) he threw for 77,693 yards, including playoffs. Warren Moon played (only) 36 games after turning 40.
The Bills have a new (inexperienced) head coach with a revamped defense, the same (mediocre) quarterback, an electrifying (injury-prone) wide receiver and one of the best running backs in the (pass-oriented) league. It's entirely possible (but extremely unlikely) they're closing the gap within the division.
Maybe this is the year everything snaps into place for the Bills, and their eternally optimistic (tortured) fan base can enjoy football and cheer for their team without (the need for beer and food) dragging down the opposition. Maybe someday (in the next decade), they'll be lobbing another F-word (fun) for all the right reasons.
In Buffalo, there's always a (fat) chance.