The Buffalo Bills traded their future for rookie WR Sammy Watkins out of Clemson. Between Watkins, Mike Williams and Robert Woods, the Bills hope they have enough firepower to become a formidable offense in the NFL.
The fanatix NFL power ranking continues with the No. 27 ranked Buffalo Bills, who have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL – without even a whiff of the playoffs since the 1999 season, and only one winning season since then. Don’t expect that trend to change in 2014.
Recap of 2013
With rookie QB EJ Manuel as the starter opening the season, the Bills were hoping to use the year for rebuilding and Manuel played very well in several games to start the season. A midseason injury that forced Manuel to miss over a month of games put a damper on the rest of the season and ultimately the team lost 6 of its last nine games. The defense was incredible under DC Mike Pettine – with rookie LB sensation Kiko Alonso helping the defense lead the AFC in sacks and interceptions while having the league’s No. 4 passing defense. But despite having a top 10 defense, the team allowed 20 points or more in 14 games, and allowed 30 points or more in four of them.
The Bills ended 2013 with their 9th straight losing season – missing the playoffs for their 14th straight year.
Recap of 2014 Offseason
In addition to adding former starting LBs Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes, the Bills made trades for RB Bryce Brown and WR Mike Williams while trading former leading receiver Stevie Johnson to the 49ers and allowing Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd to walk in free agency.
The Bills made a blockbuster trade to move up in the 2014 draft to pick WR Sammy Watkins, the consensus No. 1 receiving prospect.
Unfortunately, the Bills lost DC Mike Pettine when he accepted the Browns’ head coaching job and ILB Kiko Alonso suffered a torn ACL, ending his season and leaving a massive void at the ILB position of their 3-4 defense.
Position of Strength: Defensive Line
Very few teams in the league can make the claim that their entire defensive line is made of Pro Bowlers, but the Bills have a legitimate case. DE Mario Williams, NT Kyle Williams and DE Marcell Dareus all made the Pro Bowl together in 2013 and had 31 combined sacks – helping the Bills lead the AFC in sacks in 2013.
With new DC Jim Schwartz, who helped the Lions’ unit of Ndamukong Suh, Ezekiel Ansah, and Nick Fairley thrive in Detroit, the Bills’ defensive line might be even more devastating in 2014.
Position of Weakness: Linebacker
The loss of Kiko Alonso may be an immeasurable one for the Bills defense. Without him, the Bills are stuck throwing darts at a wall in their LB corps to see which backup they have on the team is able to start. The team has no rush LBs, preferring to save all of its pass rushing energies for the defensive line. The additions of Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes to the OLB and ILB positions respectively were good, but may not compensate for the loss of Alonso.
Best Case Scenario
The Bills are seen by most as a possible sleeper team considering the depth of their receiving corps and defensive line. And with only six games on the 2014 schedule against teams with a winning record, the possibility that the Bills could pull a few rabbits out of the hat and make a run at the Wildcard spot seem good. With only two games against a 2013 playoff team in the first half of the season and a winnable schedule in November, the Bills could find themselves deep in the playoff race by December.
Worst Case Scenario
The Bills play more than half of their games against a top 20 scoring offense – which may prove too hard a task for a team that was in the bottom half of points allowed in 2013. With six games with great QBs from the NFC North and AFC West on the schedule, as well as two games against Tom Brady and the Patriots, the Bills may struggle at the most inopportune times. And if QB EJ Manuel is not ready to take over the team and be the permanent starter, the Bills are stuck with no proven backup who can take his place.
Any plans the Bills may have for a playoff berth will likely be snuffed out in December with games against the Broncos, Packers, Raiders (on the West Coast) and finally the Patriots on the road to finish the season.
Prediction: 3rd place in AFC East, no playoffs