Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. This year we want your opinion on what the most likely answers to these questions will be. After reading each daily installment as the Bills get set for Year 1 under head coach Doug Marrone, go to the Bills daily fan poll leading up to report day at training camp and vote. You could be eligible to win tickets to night practice. Here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and the Sept. 8th home opener.
Year after year it appears to be the tipping point between playoff teams and non-playoff teams. A points per game scoring average of 24 almost assures any NFL team of a ticket to the postseason. In 2011 nine of the top 12 scoring teams in the league qualified for the playoffs. In 2012 10 of the top 12 scoring clubs reached the postseason. Those 10 averaged better than 24 points per game. The only two that didn't (Minnesota – 23.7 ppg, Indianapolis – 22.3) weren't far off.
By no means is a scoring average of 24 points the only prerequisite for a playoff caliber team. There are exceptions, but every year the dividing line between playoff teams and non-playoff teams often lands on or hovers around 24.
Not surprisingly, Buffalo's 2004 season was the last time they averaged 24 points or more per game. That season they averaged 24.7 and were a final week victory from the postseason. The closest they've come since were the past two seasons when they averaged 23.3 and 21.5 points per game.
One might wonder, why with an average of 23.3, so close to the magic 24-point average, was Buffalo still just 6-10. The reason why was the Bills gave up 27.2 points per game, third-most in team history. It barely trumped their 2011 points allowed average of 27.1.
So is 24 points per game possible for the Bills with a new scheme to execute?
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is aware of the apparent 24-points per game tipping point for playoff teams, but as in most cases his mind views scoring differently. He doesn't put a number on his grease board as a goal for his team each week. The message is simple. Just keep scoring.
"Score as many points as you can at all times," Hackett told Buffalobills.com. "That's just my mentality and that of all the other offensive coaches in this office. To put it right on one specific landmark is not how we do it. We just want to put up a lot of points on the board any way we can."
Knowing Hackett intends to move the offense at breakneck speed, logic says the offense will run a lot more plays per game than the 61 and change they ran in 2012. Hackett and Marrone's offense at Syracuse last season ran just over 79 plays per game. More plays per game mean more opportunities to score.
Granted production from the college game doesn't always transfer smoothly to the NFL, but Hackett's offense averaged 30 points per game including 17.7 over the final two quarters and had a 61 percent success rate in the red zone.
Knowing Buffalo was just a couple a points per game away from averaging 24 per outing it would seem an up tempo scheme with a track record of success could push the Bills offense over the hump even with a new starting quarterback and a young wide receiving corps.
"We all know that consistency in this league wins so we've got to make sure we're really consistent," said Kevin Kolb. "Our intensity and tempo is there, the system is there and the players. So we have to make sure we're consistent with our mental preparation. That's something we'll continue to address with the team and keep getting better at."
No matter who he has on the field or what the time and score might be Hackett sounds committed to maintaining a pace that wears opponents out.
"When it's a four-minute situation I'm the guy that's getting yelled at to slow it down and I just want to keep going," Hackett told Buffalobills.com. "That's what we want to create. We want them to always be relentless and keep putting up points and never be taken out of the game. Obviously you want to more points than the opponent. That's the key to the game, but for us we're always going to want to put up as many points as we can."