By Stephen Nover

A strange thing happened to the Buffalo Bills last season on their attempt to to miss the playoffs for an 18th straight year.

They made it.

They gave it their best not to make it tanking by trading down from 10th to 27th in the draft, dealing Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby – two of their best players – for draft picks and letting Stephon Gilmore walk to the Patriots.

Yet the Bills snuck into the playoffs by virtue of the fourth tiebreaker when the Bengals scored on a 49-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds left to beat the Ravens, 31-27, in Week 17. That play eliminated Baltimore and put Buffalo in the postseason.

Buffalo was outscored by 57 points last season. The Bills were fortunate going 6-2 in one-score games and that it was an overall down year in the AFC. The Chargers, Ravens, Texans, Broncos and Colts all figure to perform better this year.

The Bills figure to perform worse because of a downgrade at quarterback from Tyrod Taylor to either A.J. McCarron, or rookie Josh Allen, losing perhaps their three best offensive linemen, the expected continued downward trend of LeSean McCoy – if he’s not suspended – and perhaps the league’s most brutal first-half schedule.

McCarron is immobile and unproven far more suited to being a backup than starter. The Bills are really going to miss Taylor’s legs and toughness with offensive left tackle Cordy Glenn going to the Bengals, center Eric Wood retiring and left guard Richie Incognito in retirement, too, at least for now. Buffalo also has one of the worst group of wide receivers in the league.

McCoy is 30. His 3.9 rushing average per carry was the lowest of his nine-year NFL career. He’s looking at defenses stacked against the run and nearly a new offensive line.

Buffalo had a below average defense last season ranking 18th in points allowed and 26th in yards given up. So the Bills’ defense isn’t nearly equipped to carry a weak offense.

Then there’s the schedule. The Bills open up with a road game against the Ravens. Then host the Chargers, who beat them by 30 points last year. That’s followed by consecutive road games against the Vikings and Packers.

Buffalo is home to the Titans in Week 5. But then are away matchups against the Texans and Colts. If you count the final preseason game against the Bears in Chicago, Buffalo will have played six of eight games on the road since Aug. 30. The Bills are home in Week 8 – but that’s against the Patriots. So it’s entirely realistic to project the Bills to be 1-7, if not 0-8.

If the Bills fall out of contention, they probably would turn to Allen, who completed just 56 percent of his throws in college and was intercepted in 21 of his last 25 games. He would be a disaster if he had to start as a rookie. The Bills are used to disasters having started Nathan Peterman against the Chargers last year. Peterman lasted a half having thrown five interceptions and trailing, 37-7, before mercifully being pulled. I have to wonder just how much defensive-minded coach Sean McDermott knows about offense with his decision to bench Taylor for Peterman in that game.

I’m not sure how good of a coach McDermott is right now. I do know this: The deck is stacked against him. These Bills aren’t winning seven games.

(Editor’s note: Stephen Nover has finished above .500 in 21 of the last 23 years in the NFL. If you are interested in Stephen’s sports service and analysis please message him.)


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