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Bills Today: Buffalo picked as top AFC East contender

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Here's the Bills news of note for March 23rd.

**1 - Buffalo picked as top AFC East contender

**There is no debating that the New England Patriots remain the team to beat in the AFC East after their latest Super Bowl title last February. In fact one could argue their roster looks even better than it did last year at this time. That notwithstanding, NFL.com put together a list of the top contenders in each division to the previous year's division winner. Buffalo was picked as the AFC East team to give the Patriots a run for their money.

Here's what NFL.com's Adam Schein put together.

*Top contender: Buffalo Bills
Before Dolphins fans go nuts, it was close. And it's March. And I still wanna see Ryan Tannehill take the next step. But I love that Buffalo retained Tyrod Taylor. He's a good quarterback who will get even better now that he's no longer a pawn in a corrosive game between the coach, GM and owner. New head coach Sean McDermott is a gem, a buttoned-up guy who's a true workaholic. He's just the kind of guy this organization needed: the antithesis of Rex Ryan. The defense will take a major step forward. And the penalties will go down.*

2 - Goodell addresses fans on improving pace of gamesNFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued an open letter to NFL fans explaining how based on fan feedback how they have potential changes in place to shorten replay delays and reduce commercial breaks among other possible changes that will be up for vote at next week's owners meetings.

Here is a portion of Goodell's letter to fans.

*Regarding game timing, we're going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we're considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We're also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game. 

Together with our broadcast partners, we will be working to meaningfully reduce down time and the frequency of commercial breaks in our game. We will also be giving our broadcast partners increased flexibility to avoid untimely breaks in the action. For example, we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it. 

We also know that you feel there are too many elements in the broadcast that aren't relevant to the play on the field. With our partners, we will be looking to instead focus on content that is most complementary and compelling to you–whether that is analysis, highlights or stories about our players. 

With the 2017 free agency period officially open, here's a look at Buffalo's pickups.

All of these changes are meant to give you more of what you want: a competitive game with fewer interruptions and distractions from the action. *

The league's owners meetings will run from March 26th to March 29th in Phoenix.

3 - CB Johnson has high expectations for McDermottHe watched him operate each and every day in 2016. Now reunited with his former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott in Buffalo, CB Leonard Johnson expects big things from the Bills new head coach.

"I told Coach a couple of days ago, 'I'm proud of you,'" said Johnson who signed with the club late last week. "The way he handled the season when things weren't going well, he stuck to his guns."

McDermott was forced to start a pair of rookies at cornerback in his last season with the Panthers after veteran Josh Norman was signed away in free agency by Washington. The Carolina coordinator just put the young players to work and by midseason their play was improving weekly.

"Our defense actually started playing really, really well down the backstretch. I've seen it," said Johnson. "The way he carried himself throughout the building, being in meetings with the defense and then sitting in on specific meetings with the [defensive backs], it was almost as if he had to prepare himself for this since day one.

"I love the demeanor, I love the way he handled us last year as a group and as a defense, and I'm expecting him to do the same as a team."

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