During the Buffalo Bills improbable run to four Super Bowls and becoming the dominant team of the late 1980s and early 1990s in the AFC, so much was made about the explosive offense, led by Jim Kelly, which propelled them to victory after victory. Aside from Bruce Smith, you seldom heard about other defenders who stood up and took their opponent’s best shot.

Today, the Bills defense is getting the respect it deserves, so much so that other teams in the AFC are talking about emulating the success this team has experienced in the last two seasons.

Not bad for a team that was a bottom feeder only a few seasons ago.

Brandon Spikes is one of those players who is hoping this is the season where the Bills put it all together.

Instead of expecting one player to have a “break out” season, why not look toward the defensive unit, with all its talent and youth, as an up and coming threat in the NFL? Last season it appeared the Miami Dolphins were the trendy pick to make the playoffs – a team with a solid defense. Why can’t it be Buffalo this season?

Brandon Spikes spent four years watching the rapidly maturing Buffalo Bills defense from afar.

To be honest, Spikes prefers his current view, the one that lets Buffalo's newest middle linebacker work behind one of the best front four in the NFL.

Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes combined for 41 sacks last season, most than all but a dozen teams in the league.

Asked how to stop a group that produced three Pro Bowlers (with Hughes and his 10 sacks the lone exception) Spikes just shrugged his shoulders.

''If you can get at those guys you might have a chance,'' he said. ''But if you let them do what they want to do then you're going to have a long day.''

Williams, who signed as a free agent three seasons ago, has become the catalyst, with the others on the front line following suit. The Bills may have lost Kiko Alonzo to injury and Jairus Byrd to free agency, but there is depth to build from and replace these stars.

Now, with solid puzzle pieces in place, teams want to be like the Bills, as it they are the chic team of 2014.

That can only mean the NFL is taking notice of the team in northern New York once again.

And it’s the defense these franchises are interested in first.