The Bills are coming into 2012 with a bit of optimism. Even though they lost nine of their last eleven games in 2011, they have added a lot of talent both through free agency and the draft. They won’t be anywhere near the Patriots for 2012, but a playoff berth may not be as far out of reach as some think.

Buffalo comes in the NFL odds at +5000 to win the Super Bowl, and +2300 to win the AFC. Although neither of these will likely happen, they could very well be a .500 football team by the year’s end.

The obvious ones of the Bills’ best players are the likes of Steve Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the newly signed Mario Williams. These guys will be the anchors of their respective sides of the ball. There are also several new rookies, including Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn. However, in this piece, I’ll highlight some of the players that will have huge impacts on this season, who are not listed above.

We will start with the running back tandem of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. Jackson was having a career season until getting hurt last season, and Spiller filled in nicely. Both will be seeing time at tail back, and the fact that both will see time hopefully indicates that they can stay healthy.

In his second season, Marcell Dareus will be looked at as a key member of a newly defined defensive line. Both he and Williams will be crucial to the Bills’ success at stopping the run, in which they were ranked 28th last season.

The Bills might surprise a lot of people. I said this last season, and after they started 4-1, it looked true. However, we all know how that turned out.