As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
The streak ended. For the first time since 1999, the Bills were in the playoffs. It wasn’t always a pretty ride there, and the ending was a rough 10-3 wild-card loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but ultimately the biggest takeaway is that the Bills broke what was the longest streak in American sports without a playoff berth in coach Sean McDermott’s first season. Thank you, Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd.
What went right: The Bills weren’t great in any one area, but good enough to win nine games. LeSean McCoy had another outstanding season, getting 1,586 yards from scrimmage for an offense that didn’t have many playmakers. The secondary, bolstered by free agent additions Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer (five interceptions each) and first-round cornerback TreDavious White, was a strength.
What went wrong: The Bills are going to have to bolster their offense. Receiver Zay Jones, a second-round pick, didn’t do much as a rookie. Jordan Matthews, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, disappointed. The Bills didn’t have a receiver gain more than 430 yards this season. The Bills are way too reliant on LeSean McCoy to move the ball. The defense also needs more from its pass rushers. No Bills player had more than four sacks this season.
Will the coach be back?: Sean McDermott made one amazing mistake, benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor for fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman in the middle of the season. Peterman threw five interceptions in a half. Luckily, Peterman was so bad McDermott had to reverse that decision after a half and the whole fiasco didn’t cost the Bills a playoff spot. Otherwise, McDermott’s first season went well. It ended in the playoffs, so whatever else happened along the way is just details. McDermott will need to improve the Bills in many areas to make it back to the playoffs, but it’s obviously a good start.
Do they have a quarterback?: Tyrod Taylor got benched for a rookie fifth-round pick in the middle of the season, and many Bills fans supported the move by arguing the team had to see what they had in Nathan Peterman (what they had, at least for his first start: a record-setting debacle). So let’s say Taylor has his critics. He’s still the Bills’ best option, but it seems up in the air if he’ll be back. He’s not one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but he’s not one of the worst either. You can see why the Bills would want to move on, and you can see why they’d want to stick it out. It’s not like there’s a slam-dunk replacement. Peterman might end up being good, but let’s keep in mind that Taylor threw four interceptions in 420 attempts and Peterman threw five interceptions in 49 attempts (and he threw one more pick on his three playoff throws). Taylor has a $6 million roster bonus due on the third day of the league year, and that’s worth keeping in mind. It seems like the Bills are ready to move on, but it will be a tough call.
Quick free agent fix: The quarterback issue clouds everything. If Tyrod Taylor is let go, would the Bills just ride with Nathan Peterman? Maybe someone like Sam Bradford could be a quick fix. The Bills should be in on a receiver in the offseason, whether they go big with someone like Jarvis Landry or a little cheaper with a Marqise Lee or Paul Richardson. The Bills need offensive weapons in a bad way.
Quick draft fix: The Bills have the 21st and 22nd picks in the first round. The 22nd pick comes from last year’s draft day trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, which sent Patrick Mahomes to the Chiefs. The Bills might regret not just drafting Mahomes or Deshaun Watson instead of trading the pick. The best-case scenario at No. 21 might be to draft someone like Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, if he falls that far. It certainly seems the Bills will have to figure out someway to get a quarterback for the future. The other pick could be used on a receiver, tight end or defensive tackle.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: Sorry Bills fans, but it’s hard to see a repeat. The Bills weren’t particularly strong on offense or defense. The quarterback situation is scary. The Bills also needed a mini-miracle from the Cincinnati Bengals to knock out the Baltimore Ravens and get them in the playoffs. Maybe Sean McDermott keeps his team pushing forward, but they’ll need a really good offseason to make it happen.
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