The Bills? Can we get our hopes up now? Just kidding. They’re always sky high…
Result: 1st AFC Wildcard
2019 Regular season record: 10-6
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 23rd 19.6 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 2nd 16.2 PPG
2020 Draft First Pick: 22
Coach: Sean Mc Dermott
The Offseason Scenario:
Buffalo Bills fans are among the league’s most intense, and now isn’t a bad time to jump on the bandwagon (or the folding picnic table). Sure, there’s some weirdness with the tailgate party wrestling matches and naming a fan base after an organized crime organization, but c’mon, these folks are pretty fun, and boy, can they handle the cold.
The Bills have made the playoffs twice in three years, which is solid, considering their division has been owned by New England for about two decades.
But for real. The Bills Mafia have a lot to be excited about. That defense, were it not for the Patriots, would have been the top unit in the conference, they allowed a scant 16.2 points per contest. Josh Allen, while still prone to some bad decisions and occasional misfires with that cannon arm, is developing into a legitimate NFL starter. He jumped up from around 2,000 yards passing in 2018, to over 3,000 last season and from 10 TDs to 20, while throwing three fewer interceptions. Sure, he ranked 23rd in passing yards, but guess who ranked 22nd: The MVP, Lamar Jackson.
Is Allen that good? No. But they are both gifted and athletic passers who can change the game with a run or a loooooong completion. With more weapons around him, I expect Josh Allen to flourish in his third season with the Bills. Is this the season that Buffalo supplants New England atop the AFC East? If Brady moves on, who knows.
Free Agent Frenzy:
The biggest question mark here is Shaq Lawson, the edge rusher who very likely priced himself out of Buffalo with his 6.5 sacks this season, despite playing less than half of Buffalo’s defensive downs. A franchise tag might be untenable at DE, where the number will exceed $17 million for the upcoming year. Lawson will most likely command less than that on the open market, say $12-14 million, but I’m not sure that Buffalo will want to fork that over to retain his services. That being said, when your defense is a top three unit in the NFL, keeping the band together isn’t a bad idea.
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches:
There are two areas where the Bills will look to improve via the draft, and unsurprisingly, they’re both on offense. Josh Allen needs a downfield threat to draw double coverage and unlock the middle of the offense for Cole Beasley, and this draft is loaded with WR1 candidates. Buffalo did a bit too well to hope for the first few WRs on the draft board, but they’ll have a crack at any number of guys who can break down defenses. Jalen Reagor out of TCU might be a diamond in the rough that’s almost sure to be available towards the end of round one.
Because at TCU, he wasn’t exactly playing with a top-tier quarterback (read: bad), but still managed over 600 yards and five TDs. With an NFL-level signal caller throwing to him, he has the potential to take the top off of defenses and simply burn corners with his game speed. He could be the missing piece to take Allen and the Bills to the next level. A
nother play for Buffalo might be to shore up that offensive line. Josh Allen is big, strong and quick, but if he’s running for his life, his accuracy craters like almost all QBs. Allen was sacked 38 times last season, the ninth-most in the league. Protecting him and reducing that number will help him take his game to the next level. My hunch, though, is that Buffalo understands that the need is more pressing at the skill positions, and will draft accordingly, waiting until the second round to address the O-line.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.