2020 Buffalo Bills Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
I’ve already written about the fact that the Buffalo Bills have been having a great offseason. Winning in March doesn’t preclude winning in the regular season, though. And now we will have to see if Buffalo’s success in the offseason translates into success when it matters.
The Bills are coming off a 10-6 season and a second place finish in the AFC East. They made their second wild card appearance in three years, losing to Houston in overtime after blowing a 16-0 third quarter lead. Buffalo easily beat its Las Vegas season win total of 7.5 last year.
This season expectations have risen even higher, with Vegas setting their 2020 NFL season win total at 9.0 or 9.5, depending on the sportsbook. This is the highest that the Bills win total has been set in more than 20 years. Buffalo is also the current favorite to win the AFC East (+125), barely edging out New England (+135).
There are two major concerns for the Bills this season. The first is their schedule. Last season they played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, beating up two terrible division opponents (Miami and New York) while also crossing over with the two weakest divisions in football (NFC East and AFC North).
This year things are considerably more difficult with Buffalo taking on the AFC and NFC West divisions. Not only does that mean battles with powerhouses like Kansas City, San Francisco and Seattle, but it also means four cross-country flights. The Bills also have two revenge games against Tennessee and Pittsburgh, two teams that they beat last year that should be improved this season.
The second issue facing the Bills is that they don’t do well with increased expectations. Over the last 15 years they have not beaten their Las Vegas season win total in back-to-back years. Buffalo hasn’t had back-to-back winning seasons (or playoff appearances) since 1998-1999, and this team is not used to being in the spotlight.
However, I do think that this Buffalo team is ready to rise to the occasion. General manager Brian Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have built a rock solid foundation. And the future in Buffalo is as promising as it has been in decades.
The core of the Bills is one of the best defenses in football. Buffalo was second in points allowed and third in yards allowed last year. Certainly some of that was the result of their feeble competition. But they also held Baltimore’s No. 1 scoring offense to its lowest yardage of the season.
The Bills didn’t stand pat with their defense, either, aggressively adding new starters and important depth pieces. They signed Vernon Butler and Mario Addison along the line and A.J. Klein and Tyler Matakevich at linebacker. Josh Norman was also added to a fantastic secondary, and he could have a resurgent year as Buffalo’s No. 2 corner. The Bills also used their top draft pick on A.J. Epenesa, a defensive end.
The Bills didn’t ignore their offense, either. The major move was a trade for former Pro Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs. He will join John Brown and Cole Beasley and gives Josh Allen his best compliment of receivers in his three-year career. Buffalo will get tight end Tyler Kroft back from injury as well, and the Bills made some low-key, but crucial, moves to sign versatile, veteran offensive linemen. In fact, their offensive line depth is among the best in football.
It is not surprising that this team, built by Carolina cast-offs McDermott and Beane, resembles recent Carolina Panthers teams. From the Cover-2 scheme to the focus on defense to the numerous former Panthers on the current Bills roster, Buffalo has done an impressive job mimicking an organization that went 51-28 between 2013-2017 with four playoff appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl.
They key for this year’s Buffalo team is going to be the development (and health) of Josh Allen. The Bills’ version of Cam Newton, Allen made major strides last season in an offense that didn’t ask him to do too much. If the Bills are going to beat this season win total, knock the Tom Brady-less Patriots off their perch on top of the division, and make a return trip to the playoffs, then Allen needs to play at a Pro Bowl level.
I think that the Bills are the best team in the AFC North, and I do think they will win the division. I am also bullish about the long-term future of this franchise right now. However, I actually think the Bills are going to go ‘under’ against their Las Vegas season win total this year. I think they will win the division with a 9-7 record, and thus I see the value on the ‘under’. Buffalo’s schedule is simply too rugged and their history of failure too substantial for me to ignore. They have to go 5-1 in their division, split their swing games with Tennessee and Pittsburgh, and then go 4-4 against the West divisions to beat this total. It will be close, but I don’t think they will.
Take Buffalo ‘Under’ 9.5 wins.
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