Many members of both the national and local media community are expecting a bad, if not awful, season from the Buffalo Bills.
ESPN has the Buffalo Bills pegged as the No. 32 overall (worst) team in the NFL in its initial 2018 regular season power rankings.
Much of this same chatter was being heard prior to the 2017 NFL season and the Bills ended up ending their 17-year playoff drought and had a very memorable season. Still, that is apparently not enough to keep the media vultures from circling overhead as we head into the 2018 season.
Is there reason for concern as the Bills head into the 2018 campaign? Yes, of course. But every team has areas of concern and no team is without their own faults and warts. It just seems to be that the Buffalo Bills are once again an “easy target” for the media to take shots at and predict total gloom and doom for. We heard all these claims last year too.
The biggest reasons to be concerned about the Bills as we get ready for the season to kickoff on Sunday all seem to be concentrated on the offensive side of the ball. The Bills quarterback depth chart contains a totally unproven rookie and a second-year, fifth-round pick who threw five first-half interceptions in his first career start.
The wide receiver depth chart is filled with unproven players after Kelvin Benjamin. The offensive line is filled with turnstiles. And the offensive coordinator is unproven. Does that about sum it up?
I still don’t think that is enough to prevent the Bills from exceeding expectations and even surprising the sports world again and sneaking into the playoffs.
People seem to forget that last year the Bills featured one of the, if not the worst, offensive units in the entire NFL. In 2017 the Bills finished 31st out of 32 teams in passing offense, and 22nd out of 32 teams in points per game. The play-calling was a disaster and they were hamstrung by a quarterback unwilling and/or incapable of passing the ball consistently. These factors are what contributed to the Bills drafting Josh Allen and firing offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and replacing him with Brian Daboll.
Even with all of the Bills offensive struggles in 2017 they still managed to sneak into the playoffs. What’s to say that the same thing could not occur in 2018? What would have to happen in order for that to occur?
Get equal or better quarterback play. The ineffectiveness of Tyrod Taylor as a starting quarterback has been well documented by now. The majority of Bills fans were ready to move on from Taylor long before the team did due to his limitations passing the football. The national media doesn’t quite get that just yet, but give it a few weeks in Cleveland and maybe they will begin to come around.
Regardless, if the 2018 Bills are able to get at least the same level of quarterback play out of Nathan Peterman or Josh Allen or a combination of both then they could certainly find themselves back in the playoff hunt.
The biggest question mark outside of the offensive line may be what the Bills will get from behind center in 2018. Is Nathan Peterman the same player we saw in the preseason this year who looks ready to play serviceable football or is he closer to the player we saw flop in Los Angeles last season?
Will Josh Allen see the football field and if he does will he be a raw rookie or will he be ready to play solid football and grow along the way? These questions will soon be answered, but if the Bills can get AT LEAST equal play out of the quarterback position then they should be in the playoff hunt. Considering that they finished 31st in passing offense last season, it does not really seem to be a big hurdle to clear.
Play good defense. In 2017 the Bills played good defense as a whole outside of the three-week stretch in November when they were absolutely crushed (primarily on the ground) amidst a three-game losing streak.
The Bills spent draft picks and money in the offseason to shore up the weaknesses they had on the defensive side of the ball to try to improve the unit as whole (especially in regards to pass rushing and run defense). The Bills took the ball away 25 times last season and had 18 interceptions. If they can equal or better that number in 2018 and shore up the run defense the Bills should be in a lot of football games. If the unit is even better this season then they may be able to even steal a few wins in the process.
Run a modern offense. In 2017 the play-calling of then offensive coordinator Rick Dennison left a lot to be desired (and that’s being nice). Dennison ran what you could say was a dinosaur of an offensive game plan with little to no imagination and was rarely if ever tailored to suit the skill set of the players he had.
The Bills hired Brian Daboll to replace Dennison due in part to his ability to game plan and scheme to exploit the weakness of his opponent and take advantage of his team’s strengths. The even bigger advantage that the Bills have (especially early on) is the relative unknown that Daboll’s game plan is. There is literally zero tape on his offense with the Bills so the Bills should be able to surprise a few teams early on while they continue to master and tinker with the offense themselves.
In the first preseason game the Bills marched down the field with Nathan Peterman at the helm against the Panthers first-team defense. After the game Daboll and McDermott hinted that they may have shown a little too much of their offense. If that drive is any indication of the type of offense the Bills may run then they certainly will be running an exotic and modern offense.
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It is easy to sit back and say that the Bills will be a bad team in 2018. It was what was said heading into the 2017 season when the Bills were accused of “tanking”. Then they made the playoffs.
That’s why you have to actually play the games. They don’t award the Lombardi Trophy, playoff spots, or wins and losses based on who the media thinks is going to be good and who is going to be bad before the season starts.
If 2017 proved anything it proved that this team is different than many other teams in the NFL in that they are a group of underdogs who rally around each other and play as a complete unit and fight for each other.
That mantra ended a 17-year playoff drought. Did they get some help along the way? Yes. But before Andy Dalton completed that pass to Tyler Boyd on 4th and 12 many “experts” probably assumed that game was over and that Baltimore was headed to the playoffs. We all know what happened next. That’s why we play the games.
Trust the process, enjoy some football, and don’t be surprised if the Bills find themselves proving the naysayers wrong again in the midst of a playoff race once the weather turns cold. If this team loves one thing it is when everyone counts them out. So don’t do that just yet. Instead get ready to fire back at those who did when the Bills start winning games.
Hey, you never know.