Generally, you can count on Buffalo Bills fans to welcome in a new NFL season with high hopes and optimism that this is the year the league’s longest active playoff drought comes to an end. But after an offseason that featured yet another coaching change and front office purge, the Bills enter the season with a lot of questions. New head coach Sean McDermott has stood by the team’s effort to be competitive right now, however, a recent series of shocking moves speaks of a team that is teetering on tanking.
Which team will the Bills be in 2017? We’ve plucked several Western New York media members from different outlets to share their predictions.
Spencer German (@Spencito_) – 97.5 The Team
Perhaps I’m being too generous here, but for as much turnover as the Bills roster has gone through, the majority of starters are still intact from a season ago. Really, just the wide receiving corps and the secondary saw any drastic changes. Given the talent that remains from last year’s team that flirted with .500 despite some obvious defensive deficiencies, I think 6 wins is an achievable ceiling. Buffalo still has LeSean McCoy, who helped lead the league’s top rushing attack a season ago and a top 10 scoring offense. The defense – in Sean McDermott’s 4-3 scheme – is also looking more like the 2013, 2014 units that dominated opponents. Depth is going to be the biggest issue for this team in 2017. The Bills can’t afford an injury at pretty much any position. That and a brutal schedule are going to make the drought old enough to vote.
Nick Wojton (Nick_Wojton) – The Batavia Daily News
Since the moment the Bills traded back in the 2017 draft, I had them at four-to-five wins. That was a telling sign that they were going to take a step back. Even when the needle moved toward the positive, such as signing Anquan Boldin, or moving toward the negative, such as trading Sammy Watkins, I remained the same. Buffalo’s roster is lacking depth and skill in multiple spots. The only way I could see the Bills staying near .500 is if the same offense under Rex Ryan was being run with Sean McDermott’s new defense and the team sustained zero injuries. One or two injuries to this roster and things could go from bad to worse.
Nate Geary (@NateGearyWGR) – WGR 550
It’s tough to look at all the roster turnover, the difficult schedule and uncertainty at quarterback and not feel at least a little down about this year’s Bills team. I’m not even sure if 4-12 is a good floor record but I also think they have an opportunity to be better than people thought. I don’t quite remember a season with lower expectations than the 2017 season, which means they could totally shock people and be an 8 or 9 win team. But judging by talent alone and the level of quarterback competition they’ll be up against, 4-wins seems like a fair number. #TeamLamarJackson
Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) – The Buffalo News
The Bills’ website wrote this week that “10 wins and a possible playoff spot is not as far out of reach as some may believe,” but 10-6 seems like quite a stretch. It would be much more realistic to flip that record around.
Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) – Buffalo Sports Page
If one thing is clear, it’s that the Bills are building this team to be competetive in the future perhaps disregarding the present. With all the turnover from last season (only 26 players were on last season’s squad) it’ll take time to acclimate to playing together. Not to mention new coaches/schemes. Couple that with the fact that many positions lack depth and the Bills always have injury issues, and we could be in for a long year. Oh ya, the Bills also have one of the toughest schedules in the league. Hey, at least they get the Jets twice!
Ryan Lasal (@RyanLasal_RSN) – ROC Sports Network
Looking at this team, it’s difficult to see how they’re in a position to win many more games than four. Frankly, I only have them with four wins because they play the Jets twice. The team jettisoned their top receiver in Sammy Watkins and their top corner back in Ronald Darby. It’s clear the front office is preparing to pursue a quarterback in the 2018 draft at the expense of being competitive this season. A switch to 4-3 should help the defense improve, but the schedule ahead does not bode well. While there are players and pieces of the team in place, and worth getting excited about, Bills fans should prepare for a long season ahead.