2017 NFL Preview: Beware Buffalo in the AFC

About 90%, maybe, 99% of the people who read this are going to disagree with me. But, I must write it because I believe it. As crazy as it sounds, and even writing it sounds crazy, I believe the Buffalo Bills have a huge shot at making it to the NFL Playoffs and possibly even going to the Super Bowl this season.

Buffalo Bills 2017 Preview and Odds

Am I out of my mind? I could be. Buffalo hasn’t been good since Jim “Machine Gun” Kelly was their quarterback. They haven’t been a top team since Thurman Thomas rushed the football for them, and Shane Conlan played middle linebacker.

What makes the Bills a team for everyone else to beware of in the AFC this NFL Season? Before saying I’m crazy, let me attempt to make the case in my Buffalo Bills 2017 preview, for the poor, downtrodden, team from Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo’s Coaching Change is Big

It starts with coaching in the NFL. No, seriously. As with all sports, you need the right players. Don’t get me wrong. But, since the NFL is a league where the skill level doesn’t show vast differences from player to player after the Top 5, an excellent head coach with terrific coordinators can get his team’s players to go above and beyond their skill levels.

Football is a strategy sport. It’s not as perfectly strategic as NASCAR or MLB, but it’s still about strategy. How does your defense match up with your opponent’s offense? How does your special teams match up versus your opponent’s special teams?

The biggest problem Buffalo has had the past few years is that none of their head coaches are strategy guys. Rex Ryan is an old school football coach. He’s more like his dad and Jerry Glanville then he is like Sean Payton and Pete Carroll.

Ryan believed in talent and heart. If he could get talented players with heart to jump onto the gridiron for him, the Bills would win more than they’d lose. In today’s NFL, without a good strategy, talent and heart are meaningless.

That’s why Buffalo’s most important change during the off-season was hiring Sean McDermott as its head football coach.
McDermott is only 43-years-old. But, he’s been a football coach in some capacity since 1998. He started out as a graduate assistant at William and Mary. He went from William and Mary directly to the Philadelphia Eagles where he began as a scouting administrative coordinator.

What has McDermott been up to lately? Since 2011, Sean McDermott has been the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. He’s learned defense under the tutelage of one of the great defensive minds in NFL history, Ron Rivera.
McDermott finally gets his shot at being a head coach. I don’t think he blows it.

How Will Resigning QB Tyrod Taylor Effect the Offense?

Here’s the thing, Tyrod Taylor has the skills to be one of the absolute best quarterbacks in the NFL. By best, I don’t mean he’s going to post Dan Marino like numbers. Best isn’t always about stats. Best is, most of the time in football, about leading an offense.

Taylor can do that. Taylor impressed me by only throwing 6 interceptions last season. What impressed me more is his QB ratings towards the end of the season when it became obvious that Rex Ryan was on his way out the door.

Versus Jacksonville on Nov. 27, Taylor’s QB rating was 114.6. He blew it a week later against the Oakland Raiders. But, he bounced back the very next week posting a 100.1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In Week 17, his 118.4 QB rating against the Miami Dolphins proved that he can get the job done.

It helps that RB LeSean McCoy doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. It also helps that WR Sammie Watkins might be on the cusp of breaking out as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL this season.

Also, the Bills’ offensive line is the best NFL at run blocking. Buffalo averaged 164.4 rushing yards per game last season.

McDermott hired Rick Dennison away from Denver to coach the offense. Dennison is a run first coach. But, he’s also creative enough to keep his QB from becoming a liability. Dennison’s work with Trevor Siemian in 2016 should make Buffalo fans extremely bullish on Tryod Taylor’s performance in 2017.

How Good is Buffalo’s D?

It’s a legit question because the defense lost its top cornerback to the rival New England Patriots last season. Am I worried? Not really. McDermott’s secondary while he was at Carolina played zone most of the time.

His philosophy as a defensive coordinator was to stop the run and pressure the QB. When Carolina’s front 7 could do that, the secondary became a terror. The secondary became such a terror that it could allow a corner like Josh Norman to go to Washington.

Let’s look at Buffalo’s defense for a moment. Reggie Ragland didn’t play much his rookie season because he got hurt during training camp. Neither did former Clemson DE Shaq Lawson. Those are two pieces that McDermott gets to work with.

Another piece to the puzzle is former LSU corner Tre’Davious White, whom the Bills drafted in Round 1. White could excel in McDermott’s defense because he’ll be playing zone. If the Bills front 7 can pressure opposing quarterbacks this season, watch out.

McDermott could sport a Top 5 D in his first season as head coach.

Buffalo Bills 2017-2018 NFL Regular Season Schedule Breakdown

There’s no such thing as a cakewalk schedule in the NFL. You must earn every win in the pro football league. That’s no different for the Buffalo Bills.

In addition to playing their usual AFC East foes, New England, the New York Jets, and Miami, on the road this season, Buffalo battles teams on the road that they might have a shot against. Versus the Panthers in Carolina on Sept. 17 is a winnable game. Cincinnati on Oct. 8 is a winnable game as well.

I also believe the Bills beat the Chargers in L.A. on Nov. 19. Let’s say that the Bills lost both games to New England. So, that’s 2 losses. They also lose to Kansas City on the road on Nov. 26. That’s 3 losses.

They lose to Atlanta in Georgia on Oct. 1. That’s 4 losses. I believe Buffalo loses 3 more games. I think they lose at home to New Orleans on Nov. 12. I also believe they lose at home to Indianapolis on Dec. 10.

Then, I believe Buffalo splits with either the New York Jets or the Miami Dolphins. I don’t believe they split with both. I think the Bills end up with a 9-7 record.

Fair Super Bowl LII Odds on the Buffalo Bills

Is 9 and 7 a good enough record to get into the playoffs this season? I think it should be. After New England and possibly Pittsburgh, it’s difficult to see any team dominating the AFC. To me, Buffalo is in the same category as teams Baltimore, Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Miami.

That makes Buffalo a possible surprise team in the AFC this season. I think it happens. I believe McDermott brings a new NFL football coach’s mentality to a team with a lot of talent. Buffalo’s D had trouble stopping the rush last season. A healthy Reggie Ragland and Shaq Lawson should go a long way in stopping the rush this season.

Buffalo is at +10000 to win Super Bowl LII. I believe they’re a great bet starting at odds of 50 to 1.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

One Comment