Bill-ief sky-high in Buffalo with majority of starters back

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BUFFALO BILLS (15-4)

New faces: WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Mitch Trubisky, RB Matt Breida, DEs Efe Obada, Greg Rousseau, P Matt Haack.

Key losses: WR John Brown, QB Matt Barkley, RB T.J. Yeldon, CB Josh Norman, DEs Trent Murphy and Darryl Johnson, DT Quinten Jefferson, S Dean Marlowe, P Corey Bojorquez.

Strengths: A Josh Allen-led passing attack which set numerous single-season records last year, and featured All-Pro receiver Stefon Diggs, who became Buffalo’s first player to lead the NFL in yards receiving and catches. Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis also return, with the Bills filling Brown’s departure by signing 12-year veteran Emmanuel Sanders. On defense, Buffalo features an established secondary made up of safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer and cornerback Tre’Davious White, who enter their fifth season playing together, and all under coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Weaknesses: A running attack made up of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, which was inconsistent in failing to take advantage of defenses honoring the pass. On defense, run-stuffing tackle Star Lotulelei’s return after opting out for COVID-19 reasons should bulk up a defensive front which got pushed around last year. The Bills are also counting on first-round pick Greg Rousseau, free-agent addition Efe Obada and A.J. Epenesa, coming off his rookie season, to improve their pass rush.

Camp Development: The Bills, featuring one of the NFL’s least vaccinated rosters, received a stark reminder of how quickly COVID-19 can derail their plans. Receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis and defensive tackles Lotulelei and Vernon Butler were all required to self-isolate for five days after having contact with a team trainer who tested positive. All four players are unvaccinated on a team with about 80% of its players deemed fully vaccinated.

Fantasy Player To Watch: Start with Allen and then pick any of Buffalo’s top four receivers, starting with Diggs. In four years, Allen has shown a mastering of coordinator Brian Daboll’s up-tempo, aggressive offensive attack, and having the patience to find open receivers. Diggs was Allen’s favorite target, but not a one-man show with Davis finishing second on the team with seven touchdown receptions, followed by Isaiah McKenzie (five) and Beasley (four). In all, the Bills matched an NFL single-season record in having 13 players -- including Allen -- catch a TD pass.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 12-1. Over/under wins: 11.

Expectations: Let’s talk Super Bowl contenders. Expectations remain sky high for a team returning mostly intact a year after winning its first AFC East title since 1995 and enjoying its deepest playoff run in 27 years in losing the AFC championship game to Kansas City. Buffalo returns 10 starters each on offense and defense. The Bills resemble nothing of the pushovers they were during the 17-year playoff drought which preceded the arrival of coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane in 2017.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

The Associated Press

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