The way the 2017 regular season finished for the Bills was anything but expected. Naturally the end of a 17-year playoff drought was welcomed with fan euphoria. With it however, has also come raised expectations heading into the 2018 campaign, despite the fact that the roster has seen considerable turnover, especially at the quarterback position.
But regardless of the changes, Bills head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane are pushing forward with unaltered goals.
“We’re wired to win every day,” said Beane. “If anything, we’ve set the standard. If we drop down, we’re pointing back at ourselves. If anything, we’ve got to try and make it an even harder standard. We’re trying to win even harder now than we were a year ago.”
As much as the Bills strive to win every day, knowing just how competitive a league the NFL is can a Bills postseason run be repeated?
Buffalobills.com takes a look at some of the ingredients necessary to make the playoffs in 2018 possible.
1 – Dominant defense
In 2017, Buffalo’s defense excelled on the back end. They ranked ninth in total takeaways (25) and seventh in turnover differential (plus-7). But getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run proved to be two areas that didn’t measure up.
Buffalo restocked their front seven, signing free agent DT Star Lotulelei and DE Trent Murphy and drafted LB Tremaine Edmunds to be the quarterback of their defense. Veteran leader Kyle Williams also returns for a 13th season.
Knowing the Bills offense is acclimating to a completely new scheme and will have a new starting quarterback, the defense will need to be dominant, especially at the start of the season to keep the team in games.
That will help to make wins possible even if point production proves difficult during stretches of games.
2 – Improve road performance
While the Bills overall play at home was good enough to post their best home record since 1999 at 6-2, their play on the road was sub .500 (3-5).
Buffalo’s scoring on the road was down more than a field goal (17.6 ppg) from what it was at home (20.1) and the defense gave up almost five points more per game (24.6) away from home than it did at New Era Field (20).
Part of that can be tied directly to the team’s turnover differential at home in comparison to the road. In Orchard Park, the Bills were a plus-10 (16 takeaways, six giveaways) while on the road they were a minus-1 (nine takeaways, 10 giveaways).
A few other aspects of Buffalo’s play were also less productive on the road than at home.
Coach McDermott and his players must find a way to carry a winning level of production all the way through the schedule no matter where the game is played if they want to be in playoff contention late in the season.
3– Stable quarterback play
This is a given for any team hoping to reach the postseason and the Bills are no different. Stability for Buffalo, however is multi-layered knowing they’ll enter training camp with a three-man competition at the position.
First, a starter must be decided upon, and then said starter will hopefully deliver consistent play week to week. If not, it could put coach McDermott in a difficult position where he may have to choose a best option on a week-to-week basis.
League history has shown when a head coach has to shuffle the deck at QB the results are mixed at best.
So ideally, the Bills chosen starter can perform capably enough to keep the offense functional and productive enough to make wins possible every week.