2017 Buffalo Bills Preview
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Key Additions: WR Rod Streater, G Vlad Ducasse, K Steven Hauschka, ILB Gerald Hodges, CB Shareece Wright, S Micah Hyde, S Jordan Poyer, FB Patrick DiMarco, FB Mike Tolbert, WR Philly Brown, WR Andre Holmes
Key Subtractions: WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Justin Hunter, RB Mike Gillislee, WR Marcus Easley, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, ILB Zach Brown, K Dan Carpenter, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, S Corey Graham, S Phillip Thomas
The Ryan brothers are gone, but the new coaching staff led by head coach Sean McDermott will still have to maximize the best weapon in Buffalo’s arsenal: LeSean McCoy and the team’s rushing game. With McCoy (1,267 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) spearheading the ground attack last season, the Bills managed to rank first in the league with 164.4 rushing yards per contest. Hopefully for the Bills, McCoy won’t suffer a steep decline at 29-years-old and that he avoids any injuries, as they don’t have a pretty good set of backup running backs with Mike Gillislee, who rushed for 577 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016, now an ex-Bill. Don’t forget about the Bills’ blockers, though, as the unit led by Richie Incognito was a big reason why McCoy and company were able to terrorize opposing defenses.
It’s sad for Bills fans that one of their best players from last year didn’t just leave the team over the offseason but also defect to a major rival. That’s cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who’ll wear New England Patriots threads this coming season. With Gilmore gone, the Bills’ passing defense takes so big a hit that adding CB Shareece Wright and drafting CB Tre’Davious White might not be enough to regain the team’s defensive dominance in the passing game they enjoyed last season, when the Bills limited opponents to 223.9 passing yards per game (sixth in the league). Another suspect area for the Bills is their quarterback protection unit. As good as the Bills’ offensive line was last season in terms of run-blocking, it was crap in taking opposing players’ hands off of quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo allowed 46 sacks in 2016, fourth most in the NFL.
Key Player – LeSean McCoy
Like we said earlier, McCoy remains the biggest threat for Buffalo’s opponents. The Bills’ offense has long hoped for a consistent aerial attack to pair its strong running game but Sammy Watkins’ body just couldn’t keep it together. Watkins had a couple of foot injuries last season and only had 28 catches. At this point, it’s better to pin hopes on McCoy’s aging legs than on Watkins’ frame that seems to be on a constant breakdown.
Key Game – vs. New England (December 3)
A game against the Patriots will always be the true test for the Bills. Buffalo took advantage of a Tom Brady-less Pats at Gillette Stadium in Week 4 of last season, beating its bitter rival, 16-0. That set the Bills with a comeuppance weeks later, though, as they took a 41-25 beatdown at the hands of New England at home in Week 8.
2016 Team Stats
|Points per game||24.9 (#10)
|Passing yards per game||189.8 (#30)
|Rushing yards per game||164.4 (#1)|
|Scoring defense||23.6 (#17)
The Bills, who are +1,500 to win the AFC East, improve from last season and finish with an 8-8 record.
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