The Bills current 16-season playoff drought (the longest in the NFL) has been talked about to death. A 9-7 season in 2014 and last year’s 8-8 record are the first time during the 21st century that Buffalo stayed above .500 in back-to-back seasons. Is that reason for hope? Can the Bills realistically think and talk about the playoffs this season? Or will disappointment reign supreme for yet another year in Orchard Park, leaving Bills fans to seek cold winter solace in a hot mix of sports betting and girls as a distraction from their suffering?
There is actually much reason for optimism.
The quarterbacking carousel is over. The J.P. Losman, E.J. Manuel, and Kyle Orton eras, and the losing seasons of Ryan Fitzpatrick, are firmly in the past. Tyrod Taylor has given Buffalo a reliable playmaker at quarterback. He enters training camp in his prime at just 26-years old. And more importantly for Taylor, he enters this season in the final year of his contract. A good season from him, following up on his Pro Bowl season from last year, would result in a meteoric rise in the three-year, $3.35 million dollar contract he’s been playing under.
As top running back LeSean McCoy continues to age, the Bills may not feature a sure-fire 1000-yard rusher this season. But Karlos Williams was strong as a rookie last year, and with the legs of Taylor providing a boost to the ground game, expect Buffalo to have three different runners top 500 yards in 2016. The elusiveness of McCoy combined with the power of Williams also gives the Bills offense versatility to keep defenses from getting too comfortable.
And after two very good seasons from Sammy Watkins, the third year wide receiver from Clemson appears poised to break into the club of the elite. Any sports blog worth a read recognizes the talent of Watkins and his importance to the Bills offense. Watkins is recovering from an April surgery on a stress fracture in his foot, but everyone agrees that he will be healthy and available by week one of the regular season, if not before then.
But most importantly in looking ahead to the Bills 2016 campaign is how they stack up with the rest of the AFC East. The Jets will play six of their first nine games on the road, with three of their first four road trips involving playoff teams from a year ago. Add in New York’s less than settled quarterback situation–a problem that will also plague the Dolphins this season–and most sports blogs agree that the only thing that stands between Buffalo and a division title is the New England Patriots.
The Patriots are indeed still the kings of the division. But Tom Brady’s suspension leaves them short-handed to begin the season and eventually they will lose the division. Will it be this year? And will it be the Bills that do the dethroning? The October 2nd meeting in Foxboro between the two will go a long way toward giving us that answer.