Buffalo Bills 2018 NFL Team Preview
2017 Record: 9-7
2017 ATS: 9-6-1
2017 Over/Under: 8-8
2018 Regular Season Wins Total: 5.5 wins
To the fan base, the Buffalo Bills’ 9-7 record and first playoff appearance since 1999 was a huge success. However, was this a true breakout season for first-year head coach Sean McDermott or a mirage? The reality is, Buffalo was outscored by 57 points which equated to around 6.3 wins. They did however reward their backers with a 9-6-1 ATS mark. The campaign was highlighted by McDermott’s infamous decision to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman in a pivotal Week 11 affair against the Los Angeles Chargers. Peterman proceeded to toss five interceptions and the Bills fell 54-24. To McDermott’s credit, he took the brunt of the backlash and kept the locker room together. The following week, the Bills traveled to Kansas City and won outright as +8.5 underdogs. They finished the regular season on a 4-2 SU and ATS run and slipped into the postseason.
Changes are in store for the offense in 2018. Last season, quarterback Tyrod Taylor started 14 games for an offense that ranked 22nd in scoring and 29th in yards per game. With Taylor shipped to the Cleveland Browns, the Bills now turn to AJ McCarron. McCarron doesn’t have much of a resume (133 career pass attempts), and opinions differ as to whether or not he can produce as a full-time starter. Making matters worse, he’s currently dealing a collarbone injury which leaves his status unknown moving forward. First round selection Josh Allen obviously looms in the background but there’s an even wider spectrum of opinion on his potential. Regardless, Buffalo views Allen as a raw talent and the long-term solution while McCarron should garner every opportunity to be the starter in 2018. Outside of the dicey quarterback situation is an even more grim outlook for the rest of the offense. Overall, the unit lacks above average talent particularly the receiving corps. The decision to trade for Corey Coleman and his questionable character smells of desperation.
The Bills’ offensive line is another glaring weak spot. They lost Eric Wood and Richie Incognito during the offseason and will attempt to plug-and-play with the far weaker Richard Bodine. Running back LeSean McCoy is the expected bright spot but age (30 years old) and off-the-field issues don’t bode well. Finally, the Bills feature a makeover at the offensive coordinator position with Brian Daboll taking over. Daboll has four years of experiences as an NFL OC with his top unit ranking 20th in total offense. Known as a strong game planner, bettors should expect a lot of movement and shifts to try to attack opposing defenses’ weaknesses.
The positives for the Bills reside on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary of Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde is talent rich. Pickups Vontae Davis and Star Lotulelei hope to reach their back class while Trent Murphy fits the Bills’ “culture and character” mold. Still this unit will need to show improvement after allowing 355 yards per game (26th) and a sack rate that ranked 30th in 2017.
Overall, the defense is much further ahead of the offense heading into the campaign. The talent assembled with the new regime is below average by NFL standards and as mentioned notably absent from an offense that will be hard-pressed to top 19 points per game. Expectations are low with a season over/under tally set at 5.5; this despite a below average strength of schedule.