After the last Super Bowl, I made a decision to write more on a national level. Even though I knew something on every team, I realized I had to have in depth knowledge on all of them so I’ve spent the last 6 months analyzing each team.
As many of my new followers are finding out, I think for myself. I’m not a homer and I just don’t go by what others say. I actually try to do research and base my decisions on facts and not hope or any biases I may have. It doesn’t matter if I like or dislike the player or the team; I tell it like it is. In today’s sports world that is rare, and at times not very popular but that’s why people follow me. Be entertaining, be right, and be honest I say.
First off I love history and I LOVE the AFL. It was before my time but I’m fascinated by it and Buffalo was definitely a part of those AFL days. They’ve also put their stamp on the modern game as well. From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson to Joe DeLamielleure to Jim Kelly, the Bills have an amazing tradition. John Madden says to this day if an old AFL team gets into the Super Bowl, surviving members of the AFL will often call them before the game to wish them luck. It still matters.
Even though a dreaded ex is from upstate NY, I’ve learned to really appreciate the people there. Resilient and hearty and they love their football. When it comes to the NFL it’s hard to find better fans. With some of the worst weather in the country, to be a football fan in Buffalo means to be there through wind, rain or snow. I’ve forgiven Scott Norwood but boy I wish they would have won one of those Super Bowls.
When I began looking into the Buffalo Bills 2018-19 season a few months ago, it was amazing for me to see how so many national publications and writers had them doing so badly in 2018. Sports Illustrated was the harshest. They eventually had the Bills going 2-14 and getting the #1 pick for next years draft after being the worst team in the NFL. I read other national publications and they didn’t have much better of a tale. Even biased Bills fans that were writers were not very happy with their prospects. I decided to again, look into the Bills of 2018-19 to see if I had missed something because I never thought they were that bad. Let’s take a look at their position players and see if we can figure out if they are as bad as the experts say and if I dropped the ball on this one.
How to Prognosticate a Teams Season:
The problem with 90% of prognosticators in my opinion is that they only look at how good the team is. I think it’s more complicated than that. I think you evaluate an upcoming season by 3 things; how good is the team, how tough is their schedule, and how tough is their division. Take the Raiders for instance. Two years ago they had the second easiest schedule in the NFL and went 12-4. They won a lot of close games against a lot of bad teams. Last year they had the second hardest schedule and went 6-10. Let’s face it, if you have a bad game it’s a lot easier to beat the Cleveland Browns than the Eagles or Patriots. Now lets look at these 3 things in regards to the Bills.
The Bills signed free agent AJ McCarron. Most feel he’s a stopgap for the Bills and I agree. I see him more as a backup than a starter but he will do in a pinch. I never thought Nathan Peterman was much of a prospect to start in the NFL, but wow I still remember his game at Death Valley when Pittsburgh beat Clemson for their only loss of the year. Tyrod Taylor was never the answer in my mind and the Bills agreed, but is Josh Allen?
There are two camps for Josh Allen; those that think he will do well, and those that think he has bust written all over him. I personally think he was a horrible pick but time will tell. In his last year at Wyoming he was average at best. Three times he threw for under 92 yards in a game and only once did he throw for over 234 yards and that was against Gardner-Webb University. I just don’t get how a QB can be average in a smaller college conference and then all of a sudden be a world beater in the NFL. Again, time will tell who is right. He has a powerful arm and that can’t be debated, but accuracy and reading defenses will be his challenge.
ESPN did a great article showing just how bad the NFL experts and teams had become in drafting players and the position they drafted the worst was quarterback. If you are tall and have a big arm, it seems that you are an NFL QB prospect.
I still remember years ago being kicked off of a large Oakland Raiders website for pointing out how newly drafted Jamarcus Russell was going to be a big bust because he struggled so badly against pro style defenses in the SEC. Three years later that site apologized to me and asked me to come back (always follow people that are right most of the time). That being said I think McCarron handles the QB position for at least part of the year if not most of it. Injuries do happen though and I’m sure Allen will play some this year.
In the last 3 years, Buffalo’s running backs have lead the entire NFL with 4.6 yards per carry. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have to rely on LeSean McCoy to man this offense like he did last year. McCoy is still one of the best in the league. A very underrated signing that Bills writers need to talk more about is the signing of veteran Chris Ivory. He’s a physical runner who makes plays and is a great backup for McCoy.
If Kelvin Benjamin is your third option you have a nice array of WR’s but when he’s the #1 option, you may have problems. The wildcard is Zay Jones who has been a huge disappointment so far and had a bizarre domestic issue to deal with. Tight Ends Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary will definitely get their targets with a very average group of veteran WR’s in the fold.
Here is where most experts say the Bills are in trouble. Some feel versatile Ryan Groy will take over at center if newly signed Russell Bodine doesn’t work out. Bodine didn’t exactly wow the NFL starting for the Bengals. After guard John Miller struggled and was benched, Vlad Ducasse took over at right guard for the rest of the season and played fairly well, but in the spring he’s been at mostly left guard. If Groy goes to center, Ducasse will be a key player at the guard position. Rookie Dion Dawkins played well at left tackle last year. There are still questions on who plays where and the pre season will clear that up.
Now let’s look at the bright spots of the Bills and it starts with the DL. The Bills way overpaid for DL Star Lotulelei, but he’s good against the run and that was a weakness last year for the Bills. Harrison Phillips out of Stanford was a sleeper pick in the third round. As with most Cardinals, he is well coached, physical and makes plays. He’s not much of a pass rusher but he’s excellent stopping the run. I love this pick and with he and Star in the game, running against Buffalo probably just got a lot tougher. Bill’s fans will love Phillips personality as well. He was a fan favorite at Stanford.
Kyle Williams has lost a step but he’s still an excellent player. Trent Murphy has to get healthy but he can help if and when he gets on the field. Shaq Lawson is the key. The hopes are for him to have a breakout season to help the pass rush and I like him to improve his numbers.
Buffalo traded up for Tremaine Edmunds and head coach Sean McDermott has handed the keys of the defense over to the 20 year old. Edmunds was an uber athlete at Virginia Tech with an amazing football IQ. As a kid he actually began breaking down film with his father, ex NFL tight-end Ferrell Edmunds. The Bills hope he will be a mainstay at MLB for years to come. Matt Milano was a pleasant surprise and he will man the left side spot and hope to continue to improve. The right side will be wide open for competition with 34-year-old Lorenzo Alexander hoping to start.
The Bills have excellent versatility with safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer leading the way. They are good in coverage and against the run. Tre’Davious White had a great rookie year and he can only get better. Vontae Davis was signed in the off-season and is recovering from groin surgery which sidelined him for much of last year. With the depth of the Bills DB’s, this will be one of the best groups in the NFL if Davis can regain form.
I like their coaching staff, and if they can stop the run and put consistent pressure on the QB, this could be a really good defense. There are a lot of holes in their offense and that is going to be an issue off and on all year.
Schedule & Division:
Now the bad news. The first 8 games of the Bills schedule are brutal. They will have road games with Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Houston, and then have home games with New England, San Diego and Tennessee. If some how and some way the Bills can go 3-5 or 4-4, they could get into the playoffs. In the final 8 games, they have very winnable contests playing the Jets and Dolphins twice each, and hosting the Bears and the Lions. They will also host Jacksonville and play at New England.
The AFC East scares no one outside of New England and even they are not the same team they once were. The Patriots should win the division but the Bills could sneak into the playoffs with some breaks and a huge year by their offense. These are all big ifs. If Tom Brady gets hurt or breaks down at 41 years old, this division is very wide open.
At 9-7 last year, the Bills snapped a 17-year playoff drought but it wasn’t as magical as some are laying it out to be. The AFC last year was not very good and it took a miracle 50-yard TD pass by Bengals QB Andy Dalton on 4th and 12 with 49 seconds to go in Baltimore for the Bills to get in.
That being said I see a 7-9 season. I think if McCarron plays over his head and they get some momentum in the first half of the season, a miracle playoff journey could happen with a 9-7 record. Worst-case scenario is they tank in the first 6 games and struggle the rest of the way and go 5-11. With this defense I doubt that happens. The Bills are also one of those teams that always seem to have their share of injuries and bad luck so it could get ugly fast if they don’t stay healthy.
That first half schedule though is a killer and you will know what kind of season the Bills will have after week 6. Next year the Josh Allen show will start and you will see what the near future will hold. It won’t be pretty but the Bill’s hope to shock all the experts and grind out as many wins as possible in 2018-19 in the hopes for another taste at the post season. Everyone in the AFC has some sort of issue so there is much hope in Buffalo. This is the NFL kids and even though it may look like a pipe dream, crazier things have happened.