So what if they win?
What if the Buffalo Bills actually beat the Carolina Panthers Sunday?
Everything changes, right? The building-for-the-future talk suddenly gives way to a discussion of the here and now, doesn't it?
No longer would the Bills have the look of a team that supposedly gave up on this season. Maybe not to the degree of the New York Jets, who provided the Bills with almost no resistance last Sunday, but all of those predictions that have them winning somewhere between four and eight games paint a clear picture of a team again going nowhere. Or even backwards, thanks to moves that were perceived to have weakened a roster already mired in mediocrity.
All of the eggs are in baskets marked "2018" and beyond.
They still are. They still can be.
But a win against the Panthers will add, at least for a week, a new dimension to how the 2017 season is viewed. It will bring, at least for a week, greater relevance to the present. It will create, at least for a week, a sense of hope that otherwise has been as far from the grasp of the fan base as it has for a long time.
Remember, the Bills' opening-day roster was the second-oldest in the NFL. That means they're loaded with veterans who don't necessarily see themselves as having long-term futures with a team that has stocked up on all those extra draft picks for next year. That means they have a bunch of guys whose pride and self interests are absolutely attached to Sunday's game and the 14 that follow it -- and nothing more.
They consider tank talk ridiculous. They'd like to make everyone who mentions it in regards to the Bills choke on it.
I'm not suggesting the Panthers are the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers or any other team with elite status.
I am saying, with a highly talented quarterback in Cam Newton and with other quality players on both sides of the ball, they're a far more legitimate opponent than the Jets and they'll provide the Bills their first genuine test. If they pass it, as they very well could, Sean McDermott's credibility as a coach will soar. So, too, will Brandon Beane's credibility as a general manager. So, too, will the confidence of all the players. So, too, will the confidence of the fans.
Yes, one game could do all that … at least for a week.