Bills Preview Capsule
BUFFALO BILLS (9-8)
New faces: DT Star Lotulelei, DE Trent Murphy, QB AJ McCarron, WR Jeremy Kerley, RB Chris Ivory, CB Vontae Davis, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, rookies QB Josh Allen, MLB Tremaine Edmunds, DT Harrison Phillips.
Key losses: QB Tyrod Taylor, C Eric Wood, LG Richie Incognito, LT Cordy Glenn, CB E.J. Gaines, LB Preston Brown, WR Jordan Matthews.
Strengths: Secondary returns mostly intact. Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer and cornerback Tre’Davious White combined for 14 of Buffalo’s 18 interceptions last year. Rafael Bush has solidified backup safety job, with only question mark whether Davis, Phillip Gaines or rookie Taron Johnson fills starting job opposite White. Defensive front upgraded with additions of Lotulelei and Murphy. RB LeSean McCoy is among elite in NFL.
Weaknesses: Question marks cloud most every other position, especially quarterback with still unsettled three-way competition between Allen, McCarron and returning backup Nathan Peterman. Offensive line having difficulty finding chemistry, hampering both pass protection and run blocking. There’s even competition at punter with veteran Jon Ryan signed last week to challenge Colton Schmidt.
Fantasy Players To Watch: PK Stephen Hauschka might be best initial bet after hitting 29 of 33 field-goal attempts, including 7 for 9 from 50 yards or longer last season. McCoy, at 30, hasn’t showed signs of slowing down, and should be more involved as receiver under Daboll. Only question is McCoy finding seams to run through behind patchwork line. WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Charles Clay expected to be primary targets no matter who starts at QB.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 120-1. Over/under wins 5 1/2.
Expectations: With more offseason changes, including quarterback, difficult to see how Bills can build on feel-good story of sneaking into playoffs on one of final plays of regular season to end 17-year drought, which had been longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports. Though young core is beginning to emerge, Buffalo appears likely to take step back in what resembles transitional year. Allen needs more time to develop, and lacks protection and proven receivers. On bright side, Bills projected to have plenty of room under salary cap in 2019 to fill needs.