The Buffalo Bills are coming off a disappointing 8-8 season in their first year under Rex Ryan. Many thought Ryan would take the team to the next level. They certainly didn’t think the Bills would regress from their 9-7 finish in 2014.
On the bright side, they have posted back-to-back seasons of .500 or better. Something they hadn’t done since the late 1990’s. There’s also reason to believe the team will be better in year two under Ryan.
The biggest positive from last year was the play the Bills got out of the quarterback position. Tyrod Taylor came out of nowhere to put one of the best seasons for a signal caller in Buffalo since Jim Kelly. That more than anything is why Bills fans are optimistic they are headed in the right direction.
The Bills believe they have an outside shot at winning their first AFC East title since 1995. A big part of that has to do with Tom Brady being suspended for the first 4 games in New England. However, most still don’t see Buffalo as a real threat to the Patriots.
Chances are the Bills will need to take down one of the two Wild Card spots to make the playoffs. Something they haven’t done in a NFL-record 16 straight seasons.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|DE Shaq Lawson, ILB Reggie Ragland, DT Adolphus Washington, QB Cardale Jones|
|C Fernando Velasco, OLB Zach Brown, CB Sterling Moore, S Robert Blanton, S Colt Anderson|
|WR Percy Harvin, G Kraig Urbik, DE Mario Williams, OLB Nigel Bradham, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Ron Brooks|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 7.95|
Coming into last season, most would have assumed it would be the offense to blame for a bad year. That wasn’t the case at all. The Bills made considerable strides on that side of the ball. Buffalo was 13th in yards gained (360.9 ypg) and 12th in scoring (23.7 ppg). Quite an improvement over 2015’s 318.5 ypg and a 21.4 ppg.
Taylor was a big part of the success. He competed just under 64% of his attempts for 3,035 yards with 20 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. Not to mention he was a force on the ground with 568 yards and 4 scores.
What made it so special is it came in his 5th year in the league. Now comes the difficult part of backing it up. Given what the Bills were able to do on the ground last year, you have to like his chances.
Buffalo led the league in rushing at 152.0 ypg. They did so without a 1,000-yard rusher. LeSean McCoy led the way with 895 yards, while rookie Karlos Williams had 517 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Williams has been suspended for the first 4 games and has been reported to be overweight. That’s not a horrible sign for him producing at the same level in 2016. It’s likely why the Bills went out and signed Reggie Bush right before camp. Also in the mix are Mike Gillislee and rookie Jonathan Williams.
You can’t lead the league in rushing without a strong offensive line. Buffalo featured one of the better units last year and should be just as strong this season. The Bills have 3 really good players up front. Those being left tackle Cordy Glenn, guard Richie Incognito and center Eric Wood. John Miller returns at right guard and Jordan Mills has the edge at right tackle. However, Mills wasn’t great and could be pushed by Cyrus Kouandjio and Sentreal Henderson.
Buffalo struggled to get No. 1 target Sammy Watkins involved early in the year. He had just 25 receptions through his first 7 games. He ended up with 60 catches for 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns in just 13 games. He’s a bit of a question mark this year coming off a broken foot and that’s a major concern. Though they are hopeful he will be in the lineup for the season opener.
Without Watkins the Bills don’t have a whole lot else to get excited about. Robert Woods is an average at best second option. Tight end Charles Clay has potential, but disappointed in his first season in Buffalo. There are numerous other options on the roster, but none that really stand out.
Buffalo’s decline on defense offset the strong play of Taylor at quarterback. Most just assumed the Bills defense would be dominant under Ryan. Keep in mind they had just finished 2014 in the top 5 both in scoring and total defense.
Buffalo ended up finishing a mere 19th in total defense and 15th in points allowed. A major disappointment to say the least.
Part of the problem was not everyone bought in or was a great fit in Ryan’s scheme. The biggest culprit being defensive end Mario Williams. He essentially didn’t even try and that impacted the entire unit.
Buffalo got rid of the bad apple in the offseason. Williams will be replaced by either Corbon Bryant or 3rd-round rookie Adolphus Washington. Both could end up starting if veteran Kyle Williams struggles again. Williams has been a great player for a long time, but showed major signs of decline last year.
The anchor up front will be Marcell Dareus. Though he too needs to show more in year two in Ryan’s schemes. Dareus went from registering 10 sacks in 2014 to just 2 last year. Note that Buffalo as a team only had 21 sacks (31st) after leading the league with 54 the previous year.
The Bills addressed the problem with their 1st round pick of Shaq Lawson out of Clemson. He’s expected to start right away at outside linebacker opposite of Jerry Hughes. It was worth mentioning that there’s differing rumors on his shoulder injury. Some say it’s more serious than people think. Others say it’s not something that will need to be addressed until after the season. If he misses any time, veteran Manny Lawson will take his place.
Buffalo also upgraded at inside linebacker in the draft. They used a 2nd round pick on Alabama’s Reggie Ragland. A player many thought would go in the 1st round. Ragland will replace the departed Nigel Bradham, who was a bad fit in Ryan’s scheme. Starting next to Ragland will be 3rd-year linebacker Preston Brown.
The strength of the defense is the secondary. Buffalo has one of the better cornerback duos in the league with Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore. Darby’s play as a rookie was a pleasant surprise, as not a lot was expected out of the 2nd round pick. The unit should be even better with the healthy return of safety Aaron Williams. He missed 10 games last year with a neck injury. The other starter at safety figures to be Corey Graham.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC East
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Buffalo is a difficult team for me to predict. Given what we saw last year, there’s reason to think they will be better in 2016. At the same time, a lot of that hinges on a quarterback who could just as easily regress. If Taylor stumbles, so will the Bills.
I’m giving Buffalo and Taylor the benefit of the doubt. If the offense can just be close to what it was last year, this team is going to surprise some people. I’m confident the defense will be much better, but they have to be able to score points to close out games.
I have the Bills going a respectable 9-7, which has them tied with the Jets for 2nd in the division. One big positive for Buffalo is they get to face the Patriots when Brady is suspended. If they can go into New England and win that game, this team could push for a division title. However, the overall schedule isn’t all that favorable. The AFC East has to play both the NFC West and AFC North.
AFC East Finish
Win Total Prediction
Bills 10-Year Recap