The Buffalo Bills earned their first playoff berth in 17 seasons last year, ending the longest playoff drought in the league. However, they subsequently traded away their starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, for the 65thpick in the 2018 draft. Taylor went 8-6 as a starter in 2017. He will play for Cleveland this season, and the Bills acquired two new quarterbacks to battle for the starter’s job. They signed longtime Cincinnati Bengals backup A.J. McCarron and they sent two second round picks to Tampa Bay in order to move up and draft Josh Allen from Wyoming.
Allen impresses during the preseason and wins the starting job off the bat. His outstanding arm strength allows him to make impressive throws down the field throughout the season and he becomes a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Additionally, LeSean McCoy bounces back after a down year. In 2016, McCoy was stellar, averaging 5.4 yards per-carry with 13 touchdowns. He took a step back in 2017, rushing for just four yards per carry and six touchdowns despite playing an additional game. He improves with the help of a younger and more athletic offensive line now that veterans Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito have left in free agency.
Ideally, Kelvin Benjamin connects well with Allen and recreates the magic of his first season in 2014. As a rookie that year, he had his current career-high in catches, touchdowns and yards. Alongside Benjamin, second-year receiver Zay Jones shakes off a rough rookie season and shows why the Bills used a second-round pick on him.
Defensively, the additions of veteran linemen Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy help improve Buffalo’s 28thranked run defense from a year ago. First round selection Trumaine Edwards from Virginia Tech steps into a starting role and quickly becomes a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. With a solid frame and quick legs, the first-rounder leads Buffalo’s linebacker core in tackles.
In the secondary, 2017 All-Rookie Tre’Davious White continues to impress after a promising first season. He was second on the team in interceptions with four. Micah Hyde, 27, contributes well after being selected to the All-NFL Second-Team in 2017. Last year, he intercepted the fifth-most passes in the NFL. The additions of former Chief Phillip Gaines and former Colt Vontae Davis create beneficial veteran depth to help a passing defense that gave up the 13thmost yards last year.
With Allen as quarterback and with a couple of young gems on defense, the Bills improve upon last season by winning four division games as opposed to three. They manage to go 10-6, even with a difficult schedule, and they even get past the Wild Card round of the Playoffs.
Josh Allen is erratic and he gets benched for his first season. McCarron has thrown just 14 passes in two years, and that lack of exposure to NFL defenses costs him. He proves to be a downgrade from Taylor and the Bills front office longs for their former quarterback. LeSean McCoy gets suspended for assault allegations against him. When he returns, his game continues to diminish as he is now a 30-year-old rusher and dealing with off-field legal issues. The younger line fails to make up for the loss of Incognito and Glenn, and McCoy and McCarron take beatings in the backfield. Zay Jones looks more like a bust than a promising player, leaving McCarron thin in reliable targets.
On the defensive side, Lotulelei’s impact continues to drop as his production in tackles and sacks has gone down over the past two seasons. Kyle Williams’, 35, game heads in the wrong direction again as he had one of his worst seasons last year. This results in opponents being able to run all over the Bills, which in turn, costs them games against Melvin Gordon and the Chargers, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings, Jordan Howard and the Bears and Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars.
In the division, Tom Brady’s Patriots sweep Buffalo, and the Dolphins and Jets take three of four against the Bills. Their rough schedule buries them and as a result, the Bills take a big step back and prove that 2017 may have been a fluke by finishing 5-11 and earning a top-10 pick.
Final Prediction: 6-10