It’s been 20 years since the Bills’ last postseason appearance back in 1999, and with some recent moves they’ve made to acquire draft picks they appear to be in a rebuilding mode so they probably won’t be in the playoffs anytime soon. Earlier this month, they made two essentially-simultaneous trades. In one, they sent WR Sammy Watkins to the Chargers for CB E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft. In the other, they acquired WR Jordan Matthews and a third-round draft pick next year from the Eagles in exchange for CB Ronald Darby. A few days before those trades, they signed veteran WR Anquan Boldin. That took an unexpected turn, though, last night when Boldin left the team and announced that he is retiring, leaving a hole in the Bills’ passing game. They also signed WR Andre Holmes and drafted East Carolina WR Zay Jones with their second-round pick, completely overhauling their receiving core.
QB Tyrod Taylor started 15 games last season, throwing for 3,023 yards and 17 touchdowns, with 6 interceptions. His leading pass-catcher was TE Charles Clay, who had 57 receptions for 552 yards and 4 touchdowns in 15 games. RB LeSean McCoy had 50 catches for 356 yards and 1 receiving touchdown, in addition to his 1,267 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games. RB Jonathan Williams, who’s No. 2 on the depth chart, only had 27 carries last year, averaging 3.5 yards per attempt, with 1 touchdown. Among the newly acquired receivers, Matthews had 73 catches for 804 yards and 3 touchdowns in 14 games with Philadelphia. The offense was tied for the 10th-most points scored in the NFL last season while the defense was around the middle of the league in terms of points allowed.
With the new-look offense entering the regular season, it may take a little while for Taylor to get used to gain a rapport with his new receivers. Matthews is probably an upgrade over Watkins if only because of the latter’s inability to stay on the field, as he hasn’t played in all 16 games in a season since his rookie year. I thought Boldin was a good addition to provide a veteran who can help to mentor the team’s younger receivers. But his retirement will prevent that from happening. Holmes and Jones are wild cards on the team. Jones because you never know how long it’ll take a rookie to acclimate himself to the level of play in the NFL and Holmes because he hasn’t had much of a chance to be a primary part of a team’s offense, with his career high in targets being 99 in 2014; other than that season, he hasn’t had more than 52 targets in a year. McCoy has had five seasons in his career in which he has had more than 1,000 rushing yards so the Bills will likely rely on him to lead the offense again this year and not lean on Taylor to be the centerpiece of the offense.
The Bills begin their schedule at home in Week 1 against the Jets, who are widely thought to be the worst team in the league in 2017. A road game at the Panthers follows in Week 2, and then the Bills return home to host the Broncos in Week 3. Back-to-back road games are up next, at the Falcons in Week 4 and the Bengals in Week 5. The Bills have a Week 6 bye, then host the Buccaneers and Raiders in Weeks 7 and 8, respectively. The Bills get their lone primetime game in Week 9 when they visit the Jets on Thursday night. That gives them a few extra days of rest before they host the Saints in Week 10. After a couple road games against AFC West opponents, the Bills get their first of two games against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. It’s a home game in Week 13, followed by two more home games against the Colts and Dolphins in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively. The Bills face the Patriots again in Week 16, this time on the road, and they end their season on the road against the Dolphins in Week 17. I think the Bills are going to take a step back from their 7-9 season in 2016 and win five or six games this season.