PORTLAND, ME - Thanks to an improbable game from Keith Byars in the Western Division championship game, the Burger Buddies vaulted themselves into the first YFFL Super Bowl in 1993 and became the first team to bring home a championship. Despite his heroics, Byars was shipped out of town after the season and the Buddies have never won another title despite appearing to have the best team on paper during a number of seasons. In fact, because of the freak nature of these seasons (Vick blowing out his knee in preseason, Kurt Warner suddenly looking more like Kurt Kittner, the infamous Sterling Sharpe stinger), Dan Shaughnessy wrote a small book a few years ago named "The Curse of Keith Byars" and the media has run with it ever since. The rest is history.
Buddies fans are some of the most passionate you'll find, and they have plenty of reasons to be hopeful this year. With the deepest WR corps in the league led by new Raider Randy Moss and the incomparable Michael Vick at quarterback, the Buddies could air it out all season and put up huge numbers - and that's not even mentioning Corey Dillon coming off his best season yet and the underrated Warrick Dunn who may have benefited the most from the scoring changes of a few seasons ago. However, as Marshall Faulk said in the 2001 Super Bowl against the Buddies, "wait around long enough and the ghosts will start to come out". Will they materialize again this year? Buddie fans are "cautiously optimistic" they won't.
Biggest Question Facing Owner Mike Kinsman
Can Michael Vick make "the leap"? Certainly one of the most dynamic, game-changing players in all the NFL, the Buddies are still waiting on Vick to put it all together fantasy-wise. His 100 points last season ranked 9th among quarterbacks and in his best season he hasn't even cracked the top 5 at his position. The Buddies will be thrilled if they get a season like that of one their former quarterbacks - Kordell Stewart, who registered a possible 152 points in 1997.
Drafting 11th and with excellent depth at the RB and WR positions, the Buddies will be looking to take the best player available. Their great draft history has produced such finds as Torry Holt, Bubba Franks and Chris Chambers with late picks and there's no reason why the Buddies can't duplicate that success again this year. The logical pick would be for the Buddies to find a backup for Michael Vick as a quickly aging Kurt Warner plays out the string in Arizona, but Mike Kinsman has never been an owner that plays by the numbers so anything could happen. The Buddies could roll the dice with a project back like Ciatrick Fason, a high-risk, high-reward guy like Matt Jones or pair Roddy White with Vick - the only thing for certain will be that Kinsman will be looking to make a splash with the pick.
Vick, Dillon, Dunn, Moss, Holt, Franks, (Draft Pick), Williams
The Buddies have all the pieces in place for a championship run. Vick has the tools to become a fantasy superstar, Moss will be determined to put up huge numbers in Oakland, and Dillon will continue to get a heavy workload in New England. Sounds like a can't miss right? Well, this is the Buddies and something funny always happens along the way. The only question is, what will it be this year? Maybe it will be Torry Holt blowing out a knee, or perhaps Dillon punching out one of the colonial Patriots hanging out in the Gillette end zone, or even Bubba Franks taking a Lambeau leap onto an unsuspecting butterfly knife - anything seems possible given the Buddies' history. With that said, the Buddies are just good enough to win more than they lose despite being in the top 3 in league scoring and it's "wait 'til next year" for their fans yet again.
7-6; 3rd AFC West