The Buffalo Bills added some real talent in the NFL Offseason, but the QB position is still a big question mark for this AFC East team. Can the Bills make that great leap forward, make the Playoffs and challenge for the divisional crown in 2015?
Buffalo Bills: This Team May be on Upswing, but the Patriots Are Still in AFC East
There is much positivity surrounding the Buffalo Bills (40/1 to win Super Bowl) despite the fact this upstart AFC East team had no Round 1 Pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Buffalo (9-7 in 2014) traded for Minnesota Vikings backup QB Matt Cassel and he and EJ Manuel will be battling for the starting job this summer, with Cassel probably eventually landing the starting gig. The Bills also got RB LeSean McCoy from the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade for LB Kiko Alonso, potentially a wise move for Buffalo if McCoy can return to close to the peak form he once showed and Buffalo (20/1 to win AFC, BetVictor) also signed sometimes Problem Child WR Percy Harvin as well as Free Agent TE Charles Clay (58 receptions, 605 yards, 3 TDs), so with those two and WRs Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, whomever wins the starting QB job some really nice nice targets on Offense. The Bills also signed G Richie Incognito, backup QB Tyrod Taylor; re-signed DE Jerry Hughes and selected Florida State CB Ronald Darby with the 50th Pick in the NFL Draft, so General Manager Doug Whaley and new Head Coach Rex Ryan have added some nice parts on Offense (McCoy, Harvin) while keeping their much-improved Defense (289 Points Allowed, 2nd best in AFC) at the peak level to which it has now evolved.
One issue this Buffalo Bills (+450 to win AFC East, William Hill) team will have to contend with is their choppy schedule—which we broke down here at Sportsbook Review last month—which sees QB Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in town for the Home and Regular Season opener (Colts -2, Total: 47,. Pinnacle) in Week 1 followed by a date with QB Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots coming to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 2. It would be hard to ever have a tougher start to an NFL season, but, at least for the Bills (343 PF-289 PA), the two games are at least at Home. Then, in Week 3, as if that wasn’t enough, Señor Schedule-maker has ordered the Bills to play the upstart Miami Dolphins and new NT Ndamukong Suh in Miami Gardens. So, this Buffalo (4-2 vs AFC East in 2014) team could very well be 0-3 after three weeks of play. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Weeks 4-10 offer some not-so-brief respite for Buffalo (5-7 vs AFC), but in Week 11, things get real serious again when the Bills are in Foxboro to face the Patriots once again. Then Weeks 12 (at Kansas City), Week 13 (Texans), Week 14 (at Philadelphia), and Week 16 (Cowboys) ensure that if the Bills are to get a playoff spot this 2015 season, that they will have actually earned it. And getting those two tough teams from the state of Texas (Texans, Cowboys) at Home in Buffalo in the month of December where the Bills and new Head Coach Rex Ryan will enjoy a distinct Weather Advantage could definitely help. In 2014, Buffalo was tied for 6th in the NFL in Turnover Differential with a +7, and to get where new team owner Terry Pegula wants the Bills to be, the defense will have to continue to play as well as it did last season and create those valuable extra possessions via the Turnover. And, on a quirky Schedule note for this team: Buffalo will get one one more Home game this season at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York after having to play one Home game last year (Jets) at Ford Field in Detroit (Bills won 38-2) as the original play date was snowed out in Buffalo. So, the Bills will have 8 Home games and only 7 real Away games with a Week 7 affair against the Jacksonville Jaguars (100/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) at Wembley Stadium in London, England (Bills -5, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, NFL Games of the Year). Many are expecting great things from the Bills this season but the reality probably is that if this team can just settle on a decent starting QB and snag one of the AFC’s two Wild Card berths, thans 2015 will be deemed a successful season in Buffalo.
Bills QB Depth
Matt Cassel—EJ Manuel—Tyrod Taylor—Matt Simms
Who’s New and Could Have an Impact?
Head Coach Rex Ryan, Free Agent QB Matt Cassel (Vikings), Traded for RB LeSean McCoy (Eagles), Free Agent WR Percy Harvin (Jets), Free Agent TE Charles Clay (Dolphins), Free Agent G Richie Incognito (Dolphins), Rookie CB Ronald Darby (FSU), Rookie OG John Miller (Louisville), Rookie RB Karlos Williams (FSU), Rookie OLB Tim Sherwood (Clemson), TE Nick O’Leary (FSU), Rookie WR Dezmin Lewis (Central Arkansas)
Possible Losses on Schedule
Week 1: COLTS; Week 2: PATRIOTS; Week 2: at Dolphins; Week 10: at Jets; Week 11: at Patriots; Week 12: at Chiefs; Week 13: TEXANS; Week 14 at Eagles; Week 16: COWBOYS
Some Good Potential Betting Spots in Regular Season
Fading (betting against) the Bills in both Weeks 1 and 2 against the Indianapolis Colts (Colts -2, Pinnacle) and the NFL champion New England Patriots (Bills 2-9 ATS L11 at Home vs Patriots), both at Home in Buffalo, is advised here as these are two of the league’s Elite teams with established star QBs (Andrew Luck, Tom Brady) and expectations and Head Coaches (Chuck Pagano, Bill Belichick) who have been around for some time, while Buffalo heads into these two big games with a brand new HC (Ryan) and a QB (Cassel or Manuel) who will have just (theoretically) earned the spot this Summer in Training Camp. Big advantage opponents. And in Weeks 6 and 7, backing the Bills (5-7 vs AFC) seems smart, first at Home against the Cincinnati Bengals (Bills 10-2 ATS L12 vs. Bengals, 6-2 ATS L8 at Home) in Buffalo (Oct. 18), and then across the pond in London the next week (Oct. 25) against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (Bills -5, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, NFL Games of the Year). Buffalo and RB Fred Jackson are 4-1 ATS L5 against the Jaguars (6-9-1 ATS), including a 27-20 win in Jacksonville as 2-point chalks two years ago in 2013.
Must Read: LT's Buffalo Bills team profile
Any Good Bills Futures Bets Now?
The Bills (9-7 ATS) making the Super Bowl this year would probably require at least a 2-1 start against the Colts-Patriots-Dolphins and either Cassel or Manuel integrating quickly into Buffalo’s Offense. We’ve seen this act before in the NFL and seldom do teams with QB Controversies ever make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win conference championships. So, is there any value in the Bills Regular Season Team Win Total currently with the number at 8½ (Over -120, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)? It doesn’t seem so, as 8 would have been the ideal number to maybe try to take a chance on the Over. Much of this team’s (hidden) success or failure will probably come down to the results of the Bills’ 4 AFC East games against the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, and in conference play, Buffalo was pretty good in 2014 going 4-2 and beating the Patriots in Foxboro in Week 17 in the Regular Season Finale, 17-9 as 5-point underdogs...although who knows exactly how motivated New England was with the AFC East division title as well as Home-field advantage in the AFC Playoffs already in hand by that later-than-late point in the NFL season. Any money on Bills bets would best be used in Regular Season games as opposed to the prices and numbers in the current Futures markets for this upstart team.
Recent Relevant Trends
Bills 6-0 ATS L6 vs Redskins; Bills 4-1 ATS L5 vs Jets; Bills 10-2 ATS L12 vs Bengals, 6-2 ATS L8 at Home; Bills 4-1 ATS L5 vs Eagles; Bills 1-5-1 L7 vs Giants, 0-3 ATS L3 Home; Bills 2-7 ATS L9 vs Titans, 1-3 ATS L4 Away; Bills 0-3 ATS L3 vs Texans; Bills 1-4 ATS L5 vs Cowboys but 3-0 ATS L3 at Home vs Dallas
Bills Players to Watch
WR Sammy Watkins, QB EJ Manuel, Free Agent QB Matt Cassel (Vikings), Free Agent RB LeSean McCoy (Eagles), Free Agent WR Percy Harvin (Jets), Free Agent TE Charles Clay (Dolphins), Free Agent G Richie Incognito (Dolphins), Rookie CB Ronald Darby (FSU), Rookie OG John Miller (Louisville), Rookie RB Karlos Williams (FSU), Rookie OLB Tim Sherwood (Clemson), TE Nick O’Leary (FSU), Rookie WR Dezmin Lewis (Central Arkansas), DE Mario Williams, DT Kyle Williams, DE Jerry Hughes, CB Leodis McKelvin, RB Fred Jackson, WR Robert Woods, K Dan Carpenter
Bet Against Buffalo Bills In Regular Season: Week 1—Indianapolis Colts -2 over Bills (Pinnacle); Week 2—New England Patriots +/- points over Bills; (Bills 2-9 ATS L11 at Home vs Patriots)
Bet On Buffalo Bills In Regular Season: Week 6—at Home vs Cincinnati Bengals (Bills 10-2 ATS L12 vs. Bengals, 6-2 ATS L8 at Home); Week 7—in London, England (Wembley Stadium) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Bills -5, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, NFL Games of the Year)