bill predictions

The Buffalo Bills ended the 2013 regular season with an overall record of 6-10, landing them in the basement of the AFC East for a sixth consecutive season. It was the 4th time in the last 5 years that the Bills finished with a record of 6-10 and their 9th straight losing season overall. It also extended Buffalo’s league-worst playoff drought to 14 years.

With long-time owner Ralph C. Wilson having passed away, the franchise is up for sale and that means everyone’s job is in jeopardy. General manager Doug Whaley didn’t hesitate to make a big move in the draft, knowing that he’s likely out of a job if the Bills don’t at least contend for a playoff spot. Whaley traded Buffalo’s 1st and 5th round picks in 2015 to move up 5 spots to take star Clemson wide out Sammy Watkins.

As for head coach Doug Marrone, who is in his second year on the job, he did an excellent job replacing departed defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, by bringing in former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. Marrone seems to have won over the lockerroom, but he too will likely be looking for work if his team doesn’t show some big time improvements.

Here’s a closer look at what the Bills will be sending to the field on both sides of the ball. Plus, I’ll give my thoughts on where I think this team is headed in 2014.

Last Season
AFC East
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
WR Sammy Watkins, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, ILB Preston Brown, CB Ross Cockrell, G/OT Cyril Richardson
RB Anthony Dixon, WR Mike Williams, G Chris Williams, OLB Keith Rivers, ILB Brandon Spikes, CB/S Corey Graham
QB Kevin Kolb, WR Stevie Johnson, DE/DT Alex Carrington, S Jairus Byrd
2014 Preview
2014 Buffalo Bills Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/7 @ Bears
9/14 Dolphins
9/21 Chargers
9/28 @ Texans
10/5 @ Lions
10/12 Patriots
10/19 Vikings
10/26 @ Jets
Week 9 BYE
11/9 Chiefs
11/13 @ Dolphins
11/23 Jets
11/30 Browns
12/7 @ Broncos
12/14 Packers
12/21 @ Raiders
12/28 @ Patriots
Estimated Wins: 6.31

Buffalo has put their trust in 2nd year quarterback E.J. Manuel, who showed flashes as a rookie but was limited to just 10 games because of injuries. One of the more promising performances from the rookie in 2013 was in a week 2 win over the Carolina Panthers, where he threw for 296 yards and a touchdown. There was also games that he looked lost, most notably in Week 14 where he completed just 18 of 33 attempts for 184 yards with no touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

The Bills are counting on Manuel to make a big jump in year two, but in order for that to happen he has to figure out how to stay healthy. I like his potential and he shouldn’t have to do a whole lot with the way this team figures to be able to run the football. Buffalo ranked 2nd in the league in rushing last year and did so with a hobbled C.J. Spiller. If he rebounds and avoids a big injury, teams are going to have to load the box to stop the ground attack. The Bills have two capable backs behind spiller in Fred Jackson and newcomer Bryce Brown.

There’s no denying the talents of Watkins, but can he produce at the level they need him to in his first year? It’s not uncommon for rookie receivers to take a year before really exploding onto the scene in their sophomore season. With the Bills trading away Stevie Johnson, that leaves them with one of the youngest receiving corps in the league. The other two projected starters outside are 2nd year players in Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. The only real veteran of the group is tight end Scott Chandler. It’s nice to have young talent at the skill positions, but I don’t know that it’s the best thing for young quarterback.

One of the big positives for the Bills on this side of the ball is the offensive line. They return an emerging star at left tackle in Gordy Glenn, former 1st round pick in center Eric Wood and a reliable right guard in Kraig Urbik. Buffalo solidified this group by going out an signing Chris Williams to start at left guard and drafting Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandijo to play right tackle. They also have veteran tackle Erik Pears in case Kouandijo doesn’t pan out.

Some might see the fact that the Bills are shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 as a concern, but this is a rare occasion where the team has the pieces in place to make the transition without much problem. A big reason for that is they used a lot of 4-3 schemes last year in Pettine’s hybrid attack.

The Bills have the looks of one of the better defensive lines in the league with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams at tackle and Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes on the ends, but they have not produced the numbers against the run that you would expect. Buffalo finished with the 28th ranked run defense (128.9 ypg) in 2013, which was a big improvement over the 145.8 ypg they allowed in 2012. Just not the numbers you would expect to see.

It just goes to show you that you also need strong play at linebacker to go with a talent front. Buffalo thought they took a big step in upgrading their linebacker corps when they signed free agents Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers, but that was before they lost Kiko Alonso, who had a team-high 159 tackles and 4 interceptions (tied), for the entire season to a torn ACL. This could be the worst group of starting linebackers in the league and that’s bad news for the Bills hopes of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

The defense will also miss the presence of 3-time Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd. While Aaron Williams showed promise in 2013 after making the switch from corner to safety, he’s not on Byrd’s level. There’s also a big question mark on who will start at strong safety. Buffalo does have a couple of solid corners in Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, but that’s not going to do them a whole lot of good if they can’t protect the deep ball.

Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC
to Win Super Bowl XLVIX
35 to 1
125 to 1
Odds Courtesty of Bovada

I know there’s a lot of people who are optimistic about this team getting back to the postseason, but I just don’t see that taking place in 2014. The offense has a lot of young and talented players who look to have a bright future, but that’s not a great thing to have if you are looking to win now. There’s also no guarantee that Manuel improves. For Bills’ fans I hope they do, because it’s going to be painful if their 1st round pick next year would have allowed them to take either Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

I personally think Manuel is capable of developing into a solid starter in this league, the problem is he’s not going to be good enough in his second year to guide this team to a winning record. It would be one thing if Buffalo was sending out an elite defense that could keep them in games, but the Bills look like they will be giving up a lot of points, which means Manuel is going to have to throw a lot while playing from behind.

Another thing I foresee being a problem for Buffalo is the schedule. They went just 2-6 on the road last year and could find it difficult to top that mark. Outside of their three division games, they have to go to Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Denver and Oakland. Unfortunately the game against the Raiders doesn’t come until Week 16 and by that point the season will likely already be lost. I do think this team has the potential to win some games they shouldn’t, but in the end I see them finishing once again with an overall record of 6-10.

Hard for me to see the Bills being a great team to back against the spread, that is unless the defense is a lot better than it looks on paper. What I will be looking for when it comes to betting Buffalo is the total. I think this team is going to see the majority of their games go OVER the number, especially early in the year before the books adjust.

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