By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
The last time the Buffalo Bills were able to win the AFC East, the President of the United States was Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson was about to go on trial, and Frank Gore was only 30 years old.
A lot of things have changed between 1995 and today, but the Buffalo Bills finally have seemed to navigate their way back to relevance in the AFC East behind a young quarterback with the passing accuracy that falls somewhere in between a Scott Norwood field goal to win the Super Bowl or a North Korean ballistic missile, and the best young defense in the AFC.
After securing their second playoff berth in three seasons and the Patriots dynasty finally over, the Bills are looking to build off a very successful season under head coach Sean McDermott and capture their first division crown in 26 years.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the Bills future because after all, no one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.
Bills 2019 Season Review
The Bills entered the 2019 campaign fresh off a 6-10 season the year before, but it was as described by head coach Sean McDermott, “an exciting time to be a Buffalo Bill and a fan of the Buffalo Bills.”
McDermott was not blowing smoke either. The Bills would show that they were ready to take that next step towards returning to the perennial playoff team they were in the 90’s by improving massively across the board during the 2019 season.
The biggest improvement came from their second year quarterback and 2018 7th overall pick Josh Allen, who made tremendous leaps in his accuracy and decision making while showing a great deal of heart and determination as he would make as many great plays with his feet as he would his arm, and while Allen’s accuracy is still a little lower than you would like to see, the step forward from his rookie season to his sophomore season is one that has every member of ‘Bills Mafia’ over the moon in excitement.
Thanks to an extremely soft start to their 2019 schedule, the Bills were able to roar out of the gates with a 3-0 record after completing the MetLife Stadium sweep of the Jets and Giants and then following that up with a win over the Bengals in their Week 3 home opener.
After narrowly losing a home game to the Patriots by the score of 16-10, the Bills would rattle off six wins in their next eight games, the biggest victory coming with the entire nation watching on Thanksgiving as Buffalo would embarrass the Cowboys in a 26-15 game that was not anywhere near as close as the margin of victory would indicate.
Thanks to Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Buffalo would field one of the youngest and best defenses in all of football, as the Bills defense would rank 2nd in the league in total defense and kept the Bills in every game of the season, with only one double digit loss suffered by Buffalo all year (a 31-13 home loss to Philadelphia).
The Bills would stumble down the stretch in December, closing out the season 1-3 albeit with a meaningless Week 17 game to close out Buffalo’s regular season. The 10-6 mark was good enough for Buffalo to qualify for the traditional “AFC South Champion Saturday Wild Card Special” to kick off the 2020 NFL Playoffs, and it appeared the Bills were about to break their 15 year playoff drought, only to watch the Houston Texans erase a 16-point 2nd half deficit before falling to Houston 22-19 in overtime.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, the future could not be brighter in upstate New York, and Sean McDermott would work in tandem with GM Brandon Beane to aggressively fill voids on the roster to try to take advantage of the Patriots dynasty finally crumbling beneath them, thanks to Bills’ co-owner Tom Brady deciding to leave the conference entirely to play out his last few years in Florida like most future retirees.
Now Has to Resort to Local Applebee’s for Nightlife Entertainment
WR Stefon Diggs (Vikings/Trade)
DE Mario Addison (Panthers)
CB Josh Norman (Washington)
DL Quinton Jefferson (Seahawks)
LB A.J. Klein (Saints)
DL Vernon Butler (Panthers)
G Brian Winters (Jets)
G Daryl Williams (Panthers)
RB Taiwan Jones (Texans)
Excited to Return to Civilization Upon Leaving Buffalo
DE Shaq Lawson (Dolphins)
DT Jordan Phillips (Cardinals)
CB Kevin Johnson (Browns)
RB Frank Gore (Jets)
K Stephen Hauschka (Free Agent)
Bills 2020 Offensive Preview
Buffalo entered the 2020 offseason knowing they had to improve the personnel surrounding Josh Allen, as the Bills have numerous secondary players that are all outstanding at how they fit within the Bills offense, but they were lacking a true star to really cause opposing defenses to fear them.
Enter former Vikings’ wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who essentially forced his way out of Minnesota after a few seasons of complaining about not being utilized more in the Vikings run-happy offense.
Buffalo GM Brandon Beane would send a package of picks to the Vikings, including the Bills 2020 1st round pick, and Josh Allen would finally get his #1 wide receiver.
Diggs joins a Bills wide receiving corps that performed amazingly well a season ago. Cole Beasley had has many receptions as Mike Evans did in the Jameis 30/30 passing bonanza offense, John Brown had more yards receiving than Odell Beckham on his way to a career season.
In fact, if you combined Diggs’ 2019 output with the Bills wide receivers, the trio would add up to 202 receptions for nearly 3000 yards and 18 touchdowns with a catch rate of 64.1 percent. So on paper, the Bills wide receiving corps may not look like the best in football, but it is certainly up there, and Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll showed last season that he knows exactly how to maximize the skillsets of his quarterback and smaller veteran wide receivers.
In addition to the Bills WR trio, Buffalo also has promising tight end Dawson Knox who put together a very solid rookie season with 388 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Tyler Kroft will also factor into the Bills plans at tight-end, as the veteran returns to the team after missing five games a year ago.
While the Bills passing offense ranked only 26th statistically a season ago, Allen still was able to make enough plays with his arm when needed. However, Daboll has put more of an emphasis on the team’s rushing attack, as Buffalo wants to control the football with long, time-consuming drives and then smother you with their relentless defense.
The plan seemed to work well in 2019, as the Bills put together the 8th best rushing attack in football, thanks to 2019 3rd round pick Devin Singletary, longtime veteran Frank Gore and Josh Allen himself also accounted for 510 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
Gore has since left in free agency in his quest to play in the NFL until 2050, and the Bills will depend more on Singletary and backup T.J. Yeldon this season. Josh Allen will also still play a major role in the Bills rushing attack this season, especially if teams have to play in more nickel and dime personnel with Buffalo’s new surplus of targets in the passing game.
Overhauling the Bills’ offensive line was GM Brandon Beane’s first task when he took the job in 2017, and last season the rebuild appeared to have paid off. Left tackle Dion Dawkins and center Mitch Morse are the anchors of the offensive line, but the team will be without starting right guard Jon Feliciano for 8-12 weeks after he tore his pectoral muscle in July.
To replace Feliciano in the lineup, the Bills brought on free agent right guard Brian Winters, and he will play alongside 2019 2nd round pick Cody Ford who will start at right tackle for the Bills.
Bills 2020 Defensive Preview
Without question, the highlight of the Bills 2019 season was the play of their defense, as the Buffalo unit led by Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott would finish at the top of the league in basically every major statistic.
The Bills figure to be just as sound defensively this season as they’ve been the last two years, with mostly every starter from 2019 returning in 2020, aside from defensive linemen Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips who left the team in free agency.
To replace those departures, Buffalo would go to their minor-league team, the Carolina Panthers, and call-up veterans Mario Addison and Vernon Butler to pair with Jerry Hughes and 2019 1st round pick Ed Oliver. The Bills defensive line is especially deep, as the team also added solid defensive tackle depth piece Quinton Jefferson from Seattle, and still has veterans Trent Murphy and Harrison Phillips on the roster as well. 2020 2nd round pick A.J. Epenesa could wind up being another gem for McDermott’s defense in due time as well.
The Bills linebacking corps is also solid across the board, as 2018 1st round pick Tremaine Edmunds anchors the middle of the Buffalo defense, and will be joined by free-agent acquisition A.J. Klein and Matt Milano.
In the secondary, Buffalo has arguably the top corner in football now with 2017 1st round selection Tre’Davious White, who was nothing short of outstanding a season ago as he led the NFL in interceptions and was honored with his first-ever All-Pro award.
White will be joined in the secondary by former Washington cornerback (and of course Carolina Panther) Josh Norman, with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde playing at safety.
Bills 2020 Outlook & Prediction
Considering the Bills have had more people fall from the upper deck at their stadium than wins in the playoffs over the last 15 years, the growth from 2018 to 2019 has to have Bills Mafia as excited as they have ever been. Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll put on a masterclass for how to use an athletic quarterback with accuracy issues, and the addition of Stefon Diggs could be the missing link to really unlocking Josh Allen’s potential.
With the division completely wide open now after the Patriots offseason losses, the Jets being in particularly bad shape, and a Dolphins team still in the middle of their own rebuild, there may not be a better opportunity than now to win their first division title and playoff game since 1995.
We feel like the Bills get it done, and edge out those pesky Patriots for their first division title in 26 years.
Bills 2020 Projection: 10-6, 1st AFC East
Bills 2020 Betting Preview
No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills, and these futures bets will hopefully result in some circled winners.
- Buffalo Bills OVER 8.5 Wins — (-143) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The juice on this is admittedly not the most ideal, but we still love the Bills to go over the 8.5 number in 2020. The Bills offense should continue to improve, the Bills defense is a Top 5 unit in the league, and Tom Brady is now 1,233 miles away from them and can no longer haunt them in their sleep. If Josh Allen doesn’t regress this year, we envision the Bills hitting double-digit wins for the second straight year.
- Buffalo Bills to Win AFC East — (+120) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Barring something unexpected happening, the Bills will likely only have to worry about the Patriots in their quest to secure their first division title since 1995. And while Cam Newton certainly has had an outstanding pro career, he’s not Tom Brady, and there are still many questions surrounding his long term health as the former #1 overall pick has shown signs of slowing down as he has aged. We just think this Bills team is all-around better and they will edge out the Patriots to capture that elusive division title.
- Stefon Diggs OVER 950.5 Yards Receiving — (-105) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Diggs should immediately become Allen’s favorite target in the passing game, and with his ability to run any route and excel in the deep passing game, of which is one of Allen’s strengths, Diggs could be in line for a big season. Diggs has topped 1000 yards receiving in each of his last two seasons, and we see no reason why it won’t be a third.