The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Coming in at No. 24 on our rankings are the constantly-waiting-for-next year Buffalo Bills.
2016 in a nutshell: For the sixth consecutive season, the Bills won between six and nine games (seven, in this particular case) while failing to make the playoffs for the 17th year in a row. That spelled the end for over-hyped head coach Rex Ryan, as well as (eventually) general manager Doug Whaley.
What’s different: They have a new GM (Brandon Beane, who served in the Panthers front office the last nine years) and head coach (Sean McDermott, who ran the defense in Carolina the last six years), although they inexplicably hired McDermott before firing Whaley and hiring Beane months later. That doesn’t bode well for the stability of whatever hierarchy is expected to exist there.
Why they could be awesome: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor still has a high ceiling, thanks to his incredible athletic prowess, and it’s not as though he’s lacking weapons with LeSean McCoy, Anquan Boldin, Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones and Charles Clay surrounding him.
The defense also has plenty of talent with Shaq Lawson, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes up front, late-bloomer Lorenzo Alexander and Preston Brown in the middle and rookie first-round cornerback Tre’Davious White in the secondary.
Why they could suck: Taylor hasn’t been reliable, McCoy is old, Boldin is even older, Matthews couldn’t crack the top three in Philadelphia, Jones has never caught an NFL pass and the defense has plenty of question marks, especially in the secondary.
Major additions: Boldin, Jones, safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, White and fellow corner E.J. Gaines, and two fullbacks (Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco) for some reason.
Major losses: Pretty much the entire receiving corps from last year (Sammy Watkins was traded while Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Justin Hunter left in free agency), along with their top three corners (Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey-Coleman, Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Brown. Oh, and promising young back Mike Gillislee was stolen as a restricted free agent by the rival Patriots.
Breakout watch: It feels like everyone is either really young or really old in Buffalo, but their top two picks from last year’s draft, Lawson and linebacker Reggie Ragland, will be counted on to emerge after hardly factoring in as a result of injuries in 2016.
Position to watch: No team changed quite as much as the Bills this offseason, and the secondary really epitomized that. Gilmore, Darby, Robey-Coleman, Aaron Williams and Corey Graham are all gone, and White, Gaines, Poyer and Hyde have a lot to prove.
Prediction: On paper, it looks like the Bills did a lot to the front office, the coaching staff and the roster. But does that depth chart look any stronger? No, not at all. Just a bunch of recycling. I’m expecting another six- to nine-win season, at best.
6-10, third place in the AFC East