Buffalo Bills Over/Under: 12 team interceptions

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Buffalo Bills finished the 2016 season with 12 interceptions as a team. Should we expect more or less in 2017?

The Buffalo Bills ranked around the middle of the league when it came to interceptions last season, finishing with 12. That number had them tied for 18th in the NFL — with the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans also finishing with 12.

That number is a little deceiving, though. Stephon Gilmore led the team with 5 interceptions, but even those weren’t very impressive. His first two came against the Cardinals, both of them coming in garbage time. His next two came vs. the Bengals, both of them coming in the second quarter. The first one was an underthrown pass by Dalton and the second was right before the half on a bobbled catch by the WR.

His final interception came vs. the Steelers, which was the only real important one he had. Down 14-0, his interception led to an easy touchdown.

Really, I’m just trying to discredit Gilmore as much as possible. Back to the point…

The Buffalo Bills were average when forcing interceptions last season, but I can see that changing with Sean McDermott in town. Of course, a few young players and new veterans will have to step up to the plate, but McDermott has been known to bring out the best in his defensive backs.

Teams that did worse than the Buffalo Bills last year were: Seattle (11), Houston (11), Cleveland (10), Detroit (10), LA Rams (10), San Francisco (10), Dallas (9), New Orleans (9), Chicago (8), Indianapolis (8), Jets (8), Jacksonville (7).

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Teams that did better than the Buffalo Bills last season were: Washington (13), Pittsburgh (13), New England (13), Arizona (14), Minnesota (14), Denver (14), Philadelphia (16), Miami (16), Oakland (16), Carolina (17), Tampa Bay (17), Giants (17), Packers (17), Bengals (17), Baltimore (18), Chargers (18), Chiefs (18).

McDermott’s squad last season finished with 17 interceptions, spread out between 10 players. 4 players finished with multiple interceptions on the season: Kurt Coleman (4), Thomas Davis (3), James Bradberry (2) and Tre Boston (2). Coleman and Boston are safeties, Davis is a linebacker and Bradberry is a cornerback.

Expect interceptions from all over the field this season, if players are ready to step up.

Here are my keys to getting it done:

Ronald Darby

This is Ronald Darby’s year to make a big name for himself. He will be given the spotlight against a lot of the best receivers in the game and will have a shot at earning a payday in the next few years. If not, he will be put in a similar situation that Gilmore was in.

Darby needs to bring the heat and come down with the ball often this season. After finishing with 0 interceptions last season, he’s got a lot to make up for.

New Safeties

Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer look to be the favorites to line up at safety this season. Both new to the team and on multi-year contracts, they will have a lot to prove to a new coaching staff. Hyde has had a better career to date, totaling 3 interceptions last season and 8 in his 4-year career.

Poyer’s only two interceptions in his four-year career came in 2015.

CB Depth

I’m sure the Buffalo Bills will use several different cornerbacks this season, giving plenty of players a shot at an interception. Tre’Davious White will need to come out strong in his rookie season, but players like Kevon Seymour, Shareece Wright, Leonard Johnson and Greg Mabin will have to make use of the snaps they’re given.

Linebacker Help

Switching to a 4-3 defense this year, linebackers will be used in coverage more often in 2017. This opens the door for Lorenzo Alexander, Reggie Ragland, Preston Brown and Gerald Hodges to chip in with a catch or two. Alexander had one interception last year (vs. Steelers) and Hodges had two interceptions for the 49ers.

Final Take

I don’t think it will be a huge improvement, but I think the Buffalo Bills will find a way to get 14 interceptions this season. The 4-3 defense will put more pressure on the quarterback in the pocket, which will translate to forced throws and missed targets. It’s just a matter of having a player in the right spot at the right time.

I trust McDermott to make sure that happens.

I think it’s possible for Darby and White to combine for 5 interceptions. The cornerback depth can pitch in for another 3 interceptions. Poyer and Hyde can combine for another 3, while the linebacker group can find a way to get 3 on top of that — bringing my total for the season at 14.

In case you missed the rest of the Over/Under series, check them out below:

Over/Under: 3,250 passing yards

Over/Under: 29 rushing touchdowns

Over/Under 39.0 sacks

Next: 5 reasons the Buffalo Bills will have a top-10 defense

How many interceptions do you see the Buffalo Bills getting in 2017? Leave your predictions below!