2018 win total: 6.5
2017 ATS record: 9-6-1
Optimist view: After rookie head coach Sean McDermott's Bills halted the NFL's longest playoff drought at 17 years, he and GM Brandon Beane continued putting their stamp on the roster this offseason, adding likely Day 1 starters in vets Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy and rookie Tremaine Edmunds. Lotulelei and Edmunds should help address the NFL's 26th-ranked run 'D,' while Murphy provides a pass-rush presence opposite Jerry Hughes on the league's second-worst pressure attack.
Fellow newcomers Vontae Davis and Phillip Gaines join Tre'Davious White and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer in a secondary that served as an opportunistic defense's engine. Although takeaways are a fickle stat, Buffalo showed great skill on many of its 18 picks, and the arrows of White and Hyde in particular continue pointing up.
For better or worse, McDermott and Beane now have their hand-picked QB room with No. 7 overall selection Josh Allen and ex-Bengal AJ McCarron battling alongside holdover Nate Peterman for the starting job.
Pessimist view: There might not be a worse supporting cast in the NFL than Buffalo's, where it's LeSean McCoy, who turns 30 next month, Kelvin Benjamin and little else in terms of proven commodities. Worse, the Bills' O-line — which ranked 30th in sack percentage last season, with one of the game's most elusive QBs — lost its top three performers and, save for new LT Dion Dawkins, is comprised primarily of journeymen and replacement-level players vying for starting jobs.
Does that sound like the ideal incubator for the wildly talented but inconsistent Allen and extremely ordinary McCarron? McCoy is still a formidable offensive centerpiece, but where's the speed along the formation to dissuade defenses from crowding the line? We hate to remind folks of Buffalo's offensive display in the wild-card round, but this was a severely limited attack with the risk-averse Tyrod Taylor; without him, Buffalo's ball security figures to worsen, raising the stakes on a defense that overachieved and masked some of its deficiencies with takeaway cologne.
On schedule: They open with five of seven on the road, less than ideal in christening a new quarterback, including lethal Vikings and Texans defensive fronts vs. Buffalo's vulnerable new O-line, and return home from that gauntlet to a potential prime-time pasting from big brother New England. The schedule's second half contains both games vs. the Jets and Dolphins, against whom Buffalo went 3-1 last year. But out-of-division visits from Jacksonville and Detroit will be tough outs.
The remaining unfamilar foes set to visit Buffalo, where the Bills were 3-5 a year ago, are the dangerous Chargers (Week 2) and revamped Titans (Week 5) and Bears (Week 9) — all poised to test the Bills' new-look run 'D.'
The Bills easily could've been 7-9 last season, after a telegraphed Alex Smith interception late at Arrowhead in Week 12 and epic snow storm vs. the Bills in Week 14 helped them steal a pair of largely unimpressive wins. They won't apologize for them, nor should they after a strong debut season under McDermott.
But it's hard not to consider the possibility of the 2018 Bills resembling the 2017 Dolphins, who were one year removed from an impressive coaching debut by Adam Gase before QB and O-line instability marred the offense and coincided with a defensive regression.
The Bills' aggressive offseason could very well position the franchise ideally for the future if Allen proves to be the guy. But not before the O-line and skill positions on offense are rebuilt and the potential fixes on 'D' prove capable. Buffalo seems resigned to taking a step back this season — the question is how far — and three fewer wins is the guess here.