The Toronto Blue Jays ended the longest active playoff drought in Major League Baseball in 2015. The neighboring Buffalo Bills, who used to play one game a season in Toronto, weren't able to stop the NFL's longest drought (last postseason trip was in 1999) as they finished with an 8-8 record and third in the AFC East -- although I can make the argument that the Bills were the second-best team in the division because they swept the Dolphins and the Jets.
That 8-8 mark under first-year coach Rex Ryan was one-game worse than what the team finished under Doug Marrone in 2014. For some odd reason, Marrone opted out of his contract after that and still hasn't landed another head coaching job. I thought Ryan was a coaching upgrade, but the Bills' defense, and it's on that side of the ball where Ryan's expertise is, took a big step back in 2015. Ryan hired his brother Rob this offseason to lead the defense even though Rob Ryan's last defense, the New Orleans Saints, was historically bad.
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There's no question that Rex Ryan is on the hottest seat in the NFL entering this year. Owner Terry Pegula already has put Ryan and GM Doug Whaley on notice that the Bills make the playoffs in 2016 or they are out. Sorry, but I don't think the playoffs are likely. Whaley almost asked to be fired a few weeks ago when he said publicly that he thought football was "a violent game that I personally don't think humans are supposed to play." Is that really something you want your GM saying?
Buffalo was 3-5 on the road last season, 3-4-1 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Bills play three road games this year against 2015 playoff clubs. The road schedule looks harder than the home slate as I could make an argument for six of the eight opponents to make the postseason this year (probably not Miami and the L.A. Rams). I predict a 2-6 away mark. The Bills have a wins total of 8 for 2016, with the under a -125 favorite. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 11 at Ravens (-3, 43.5): This will be Buffalo's first game against Baltimore since signing former long-time Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor as a free agent in March 2015. Taylor played pretty well last year when healthy. The Bills won the last meeting, 23-20 at home on Sept. 29, 2013. Key trend: Buffalo is 4-6 ATS in its past 10 at AFC North teams.
Oct. 2 at Patriots (-7): Buffalo off a tough home game vs. Arizona in Week 3. New England hosts Houston on a Thursday in Week 3. This would be the final game of Tom Brady's four-game suspension assuming it stands and the NFL doesn't cut a deal with Brady. So the Bills might actually have a shot of a very rare win in Foxboro. They lost there 20-13 on a Monday in Week 11 last year. Taylor was 20-for-36 passing for 233 yards for the Bills. LeSean McCoy rushed for 82 yards and a TD. Key trend: Bills 5-4-1 ATS (0-10 SU) in past 10 as road underdog of at least 7 points in series.
Oct. 9 at Rams (-1): Los Angeles is off a Week 4 trip to Arizona. Buffalo last played the Rams in Los Angeles way back on Nov. 27, 1983, at Anaheim Stadium. Joe Ferguson and Vince Ferragmo were the QBs that day. Buffalo won the last meeting at home in 2012. Key trend: Bills 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 at NFC West teams.
Oct. 23 at Dolphins (-1): Buffalo is home to San Francisco the previous Sunday. Miami hosts Pittsburgh in Week 6 and is ahead of its bye week. Probably the best game the Bills played last year was a 41-14 rout in south Florida. Taylor threw for 277 yards and three scores in his first NFL road start. Karlos Williams rushed for 110 yards and a score. It was 27-0 at halftime. Buffalo picked off three passes. Key trend: Bills 5-5 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Nov. 7 at Seahawks (-10): Monday night game. Buffalo off a home showdown with the Patriots in Week 8 and ahead of its bye week. Seattle is in New Orleans the previous Sunday and might be in a bit of a trap game here as it goes to New England in Week 10. Buffalo hasn't played in Seattle since 2004. Key trend: Bills 4-6 ATS in past 10 as a double-digit dog anywhere (last in 2013).
Nov. 20 at Bengals (-5.5): Buffalo off its bye week and this is clearly the toughest stretch of the schedule following a home game vs. New England and then trip to Seattle before the week off. Cincinnati is on a short week after visiting the Giants on Monday in Week 10. The Bills lost at home to the Bengals 34-21 in Week 6 last year. Taylor missed the game due to injury. EJ Manuel threw for 263 yards, a TD and a pick. The Bills have dropped three straight in the series. Key trend: Bills 6-4 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Dec. 4 at Raiders (-1.5): Buffalo off a home game vs. Jacksonville in Week 12. Oakland will be playing its fourth straight home game and is off a Week 12 matchup vs. Carolina. The Bills haven't won in the Oakland Coliseum since Nov. 24, 1966, before the Super Bowl even existed. They last played there in 2014 and lost 26-24. Key trend: Bills 6-4 ATS in their past 10 at AFC West teams.
Jan. 1 at Jets (TBA): As usual, no Week 17 lines with too many possible intangibles on the final Sunday. Long stretch between road games as Buffalo has a three-game homestand, which concludes Week 16 vs. Miami. New York is off a trip to New England the previous Saturday. Be somewhat ironic if Rex Ryan's final game as Bills coach comes against the Jets. Buffalo won at the Jets 22-17 on a Thursday in Week 10 last year. Taylor threw for 158 yards and a TD, while McCoy rushed for 112 yards. The Bills only had 280 yards of offense but forced four Jets turnovers. Key trend: Bills 7-3 ATS in past 10 at Jets.
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