BUFFALO – In a lot of ways, the 2019 NFL season represents the beginning of a whole new era – or at least the hope of such a beginning – for the Buffalo Bills.
The team ended a 17-year playoff drought just a few years ago, but in retrospect we can look at that more as the end of a down era than the start of a new one. Now, in 2019, the team is really putting forth a new look, and while that doesn’t mean it will be competitive right away, it does mean that there’s a lot for Bills fans to look forward to and keep an eye on
To get the actual competitive expectations for 2019 out of the way, we should note that most don’t expect the Bills to be in the playoffs, let alone competing for a conference championship or Super Bowl, this season. U.S. betting, despite more widespread legalization, is still somewhat hit or miss, but the Irish gambling platforms, and their sister sites in the UK, actually keep a very close eye on the NFL. And at most of those sites, the Bills are being given odds below the Jets and Patriots in the AFC East (though the margin behind New York is small). In other words, advanced projections indicate that Buffalo will be a somewhat middling team this season.
But again, this is about the beginning of a new era more than the culmination of any sort of long-term rebuild. The exciting thing about the Bills this year will be the team’s efforts to lay the groundwork for steady improvement in the years to come.
It begins with Josh Allen, the second-year quarterback who actually began to look quite promising toward the end of his rookie season. In Allen’s first seven games in the NFL, he broke the 200-yard passing mark just one time, and threw only three touchdowns next to five interceptions; he ran for 254 total yards. In his last five games, he surpassed 200 yards passing each time out, notched seven touchdowns to seven interceptions, and ran for 377 yards. That’s fairly dramatic improvement for the middle of one’s rookie season, and paints the picture of a quarterback starting to figure things out. Meanwhile, the Bills also did some work to support Allen, giving a massive deal to coveted center Mitch Morse and using a second-round pick on Oklahoma offensive tackle Cody Ford.
The next most significant aspect of this team heading into the 2019 season is the departure of LeSean McCoy – the most talented Buffalo player of the current decade, but an off-field problem and declining running back. Despite the alleviation of some legal issues that plagued McCoy this offseason, the team appears to have decided that he was more trouble than he was worth, and released him at the tail end of the preseason. McCoy quickly joined the Chiefs, reuniting with his former head coach Andy Reid, while the Bills will move forward with rookie running back Devin Singletary primed for a big role. This, too, plays into the idea that 2019 is the beginning of something new. Singletary will be supported by veteran Frank Gore (who may well start at the outset of the season), and TJ Yeldon is there for depth. But the loss of McCoy sets the Bills up to see what they’ve got in the talented Singletary.
Lastly, and potentially most importantly, the Buffalo defense looks like the real deal, which will help everything come together as the team looks to develop a winning culture. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver was dubbed one of the steals of the NFL Draft when the Bills selected him ninth overall. He’ll slot in opposite Star Lotulelei right off the bat, and Jerry Hughes, on the right end, is coming off an outstanding pass rushing season. With linebacker Tremaine Edwards and corner Tre’Davious White adding layers to this defensive unit, the Bills may be able to be very disruptive from day one.
A lot will still come down to coaching, and there’s also a lot of youth among the names mentioned above. But considering this team top to bottom, there’s a lot to be excited about even if 2019 won’t be about contention.