The Buffalo Bills don’t head into the 2019 season with high expectations, but they are going to be a tough opponent for 16 games. Not that QB Win-Loss is a great barometer of play by any means, but the Bills were a very competitive 5-6 when Josh Allen was able to start. That means that they were 1-4 with the trio of Nathan Peterman, Derek Anderson, and Matt Barkley.
Armed with a defense that ranked in the top half of the league in a lot of important metrics, the Bills are a team that won’t roll over for anybody this season. The question is how many of those games the Bills can convert into wins.
The offseason was spent getting help for Allen on the offensive line and at the skill positions. The Bills are only one season removed from being a playoff team that gave the Jacksonville Jaguars everything they could possibly handle in the Wild Card Round.
As a member of an AFC East division headlined by the New England Patriots, with no clear second choice in the preseason prognostications, the Bills could be a surprise team and it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.
Super Bowl Odds: +6600
Odds to Win the AFC: +3300
Odds to Win the AFC East: +700
Season Win Total: 7
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
|1||@ NY Jets||+3.5||.36|
|2||@ NY Giants||+3||.41|
|13||@ Dallas (Th)||+7.5||.22|
|16||@ New England||+13||.11|
|17||NY Jets||-2.5 (est)||.55|
Total Expected Wins: 6.66
The Bills were extremely active in free agency. Teams with a lot of holes should be, but the Bills had the cap room to go and make some moves. They inked wide receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown and also picked up tight ends Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith. Beasley is a great slot receiver and Brown is a guy with some speed to burn, as long as he can stay on the field. Kroft is a very reliable tight end option and a good replacement for Charles Clay.
The offensive line was bolstered by the signing of center Mitch Morse, who got the most expensive guarantee among the FA signings for the Bills. They also added Jon Feliciano, Spencer Long, Quinton Spain, and LaAdrian Waddle for depth.
The Bills picked up pass rusher Ed Oliver in the first round and once again bolstered the offensive line with Cody Ford in the second round. Running back Devin Singletary put up monster numbers at FAU and is another complementary piece at a skill position. The Bills did take linebackers Vosean Joseph and Darryl Johnson Jr. in the later rounds, but it is eminently clear that they wanted to get Josh Allen all the help they could this offseason.
Allen needed help. He was the team’s leading rusher with 631 yards on 89 attempts. He had 7.1 yards per carry. The two feature backs had 3.2 and 3.3 yards per carry, respectively. Allen’s accuracy was a red flag coming out of the draft and he only completed 52.8% of his passes with a 10/12 TD/INT ratio. He was sacked 28 times and took all those hits as a ball carrier. That has to stop to some degree, hence the additions of all the RB/WR/TE in the summer.
The Bills threw 23 interceptions, but Peterman and Anderson threw 11 of them in limited time. Buffalo was 30th or worse in several passing categories and Allen’s running efforts kept them from being among the bottom feeders in that department. This will be Brian Daboll’s second year as the OC, so improvement is possible.
The defense played well last season. The Bills were 32nd in opponents’ starting field position, but only 18th in points allowed. The defense forced 27 takeaways and had a top passing defense, allowing just 4.9 adjusted net yards per pass attempt. The secondary should be deeper with oft-injured corners Kevin Johnson and EJ Gaines signed to cheap free agent deals. This was a pretty young defense anchored by Tremaine Edmunds and TreDavious White and there isn’t a whole lot of turnover.
There is a good mix of youthful exuberance and veteran experience on the roster. Ed Oliver should help the pass rush that had 36 sacks last season. Pressuring the QB is the name of the game now and the Bills were 26th in that department.
Notes & Nuggets
The Bills do have a really rough schedule early on, so you’re going to be chasing an over bet. They play three of the first five on the road and host the Patriots. They are a touchdown or more underdog three times in the back part of the season as well. A slow start is almost inevitable and it may not get any easier.
At least the bye week might come at a good time to hit the reset button, especially with a second-year QB.
The Bills aren’t an overwhelming favorite in any game. If we convert the spread to a win probability, Buffalo is never higher than 67% and projects to only be a favorite in five games. With a defense like this, upsets are certainly possible, but it is tough to rely on them.
The Bills did have a lot more going for them with Allen in the mix and have enough toss-up games to be dangerous this season. Of the three non-New England teams in the AFC East, they’re the ones I like the most, so the over is the pick here.