I think you can go ahead and get your resumes in with the Buffalo Bills if you are an NFL head coach or general manager candidate. That's because Coach Rex Ryan and GM Doug Whaley reportedly have been given a make the playoffs mandate or be fired, and I don't see the playoffs happening because of injuries/suspensions.
I thought the Bills had a really nice draft back in the spring in taking Clemson pass-rushing end/outside linebacker Shaq Lawson with their first-round pick and Alabama middle linebacker and tackling machine Reggie Ragland with their second rounder. Alas, Ragland has been lost for the season already to a torn ACL. It was common knowledge that Lawson played late last season with a shoulder injury and that's partly why he might have slid a little bit. The Bills gambled and lost as he did need surgery and should miss the first 6-8 weeks. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is suspended the first four games for yet another reported dalliance with marijuana. He was suspended one game last year for the same issue.
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Meanwhile, top receiver Sammy Watkins had surgery in May for a broken foot but is back practicing with the team. So he should be ready for Week 1, although Watkins had some troubles staying healthy last year too, so I now worry about him. Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn will miss the rest of the preseason with a high-ankle sprain, and those can linger, especially for a lineman. Second-year running back Karlos Williams will miss the first four games due to suspension. He formed a nice duo with LeSean McCoy (also injury prone last year) in rushing 93 times for 517 yards and seven touchdowns and also catching 11 balls for two scores in 2015.
Really the only good news out of Buffalo that I've heard in camp lately is the team did agree to a long-term extension with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He could have become a free agent after this season or been slapped with the franchise tag. The Bills do have the option to get out of the deal following the 2016 season if Taylor struggles, so that's good for the team. But Taylor would get big money next year, reportedly around $30 million. In his first season as the Bills' starter in 2015, Taylor started 14 games and completed 242 of 380 passes for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. His 99.4 quarterback rating was the second-highest in team history behind, naturally, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Taylor's not an elite QB but a pretty good one. You can win with him.
Buffalo was 5-3 at home last season, 5-3 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Bills host three 2015 playoff teams this season. I project another 5-3 record. They have a wins total of 8, with the under a slight favorite. Looks like a 7-9 team to me. The NFL's longest playoff drought continues. Overall, Buffalo's schedule ranks as the 10th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .520. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 15 vs. Jets (-2): Thursday night game. Bills likely will be 0-1 after visiting Taylor's former team, Baltimore, in Week 1. New York hosts Cincinnati in Week 1, a game that could go either way. The Jets would have been a wild-card team with a victory in Buffalo in Week 17 last year, but the Bills pulled the 22-17 upset -- which quite clearly made Ryan happy against the team that fired him. Taylor was 18-for-28 for 182 yards and led the team in rushing with 51 yards while adding a score. Watkins caught 11 passes for 136 yards. The Bills were outgained but held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and forced three turnovers. Key trend: Bills 5-5 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Sept. 25 vs. Cardinals (+2.5): First playoff team on the Bills' 2016 schedule, and they at least have extra time to prepare. Arizona should be 2-0 after hosing New England in Week 1 and Tampa Bay in Week 2. The Bills won the last meeting 19-16 in the desert in 2012. Key trend: Bills 7-3 ATS in past 10 as a September home dog of at least 2.5 points.
Oct. 16 vs. 49ers (-7): Buffalo off its first trip in decades to Los Angeles in Week 5. It's a 10 a.m. Pacific time start for the Niners, who are on extra rest after hosting Arizona in Week 5 on Thursday. Bills running back McCoy gets another chance to rip on new Niners coach Chip Kelly, who traded McCoy before last season while both were with the Eagles. McCoy took that personally. Bills have dropped two straight in series and scored exactly 3 points both times. Key trend: Bills 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC West.
Oct. 30 vs. Patriots (+4.5): Bills are in Miami the previous Sunday. This is easily the toughest two-game stretch of the season for Buffalo as it goes to Seattle on Monday in Week 9. New England might be in a letdown game off a trip to Pittsburgh and ahead of its bye week. Buffalo lost 40-32 at home in Week 2 last year to the Pats as Tom Brady torched the Bills for 466 yards. Taylor threw for 242 yards and three scores but also a season-high three picks. Key trend: Bills 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Nov. 27 vs. Jaguars (-5): Buffalo is off a trip to Cincinnati in Week 11. Jacksonville is in Detroit the previous Sunday. These teams played in London last year and the Bills lost 34-31. Buffalo rallied to take a 31-27 lead with about five minutes left after trailing 27-3 in the second quarter. Taylor was out injured, so EJ Manuel started and threw for 298 yards, two TDs and two picks. Watkins was out too. Key trend: Bills have won and covered three straight at home vs. AFC South.
Dec. 11 vs. Steelers (+2): Bills are in Oakland the previous Sunday and Pittsburgh is the final playoff team they play, home or away. The Steelers are off a home game vs. the Giants and ahead of a big one in Cincinnati. Buffalo has dropped five straight in series, last 23-10 in Steel City in 2013. Key trend: Bills 5-3 ATS at home in series.
Dec. 18 vs. Browns (-7.5): Rather nice Buffalo gets maybe the NFL's two worst teams, Cleveland and San Francisco, at home. Cleveland, which quite possibly could be winless, is off a Week 14 home game vs. Cincinnati. Bills won last meeting 24-10 at home in November 2014. Former Browns QB Johnny Manziel scored his first career touchdown in that one. Key trend: Bills 3-7 ATS in past 10 vs. anyone as home favorite of at least 7.5 points.
Dec. 24 vs. Dolphins (-3.5): Huge break for Bills hosting the warm-weather Dolphins this late in the year. Miami is at the Jets the previous Saturday night. Buffalo hosted Miami in Week 9 last year and won 33-17. Watkins caught eight passes for 168 yards and a TD, and McCoy rand Williams both rushed for at least 110 yards and totaled three scores. Because Buffalo was gashing the Dolphins on the ground (266 rushing yards), Taylor attempted only 12 passes and completed 11. Key trend: Bills 8-0 SU and ATS in past eight as home favorite in series.
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