What they're saying: 2014 Bills season previews

OBSERVATIONS

USA Today – AFC breakdown
Buffalo Bills
Coach: Doug Marrone, 2nd year, 6-10
Gains: QB Kyle Orton, LB Brandon Spikes, WR Mike Williams
Losses: S Jairus Byrd, WR Stevie Johnson, S Jim Leonhard
Rookie to watch: WR Sammy Watkins, with game-breaking speed, has the makings of a top wideout in the NFL.
Optimism: The Bills paid a heavy price (two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder) to draft WR Sammy Watkins in hopes he will ignite a passing offense that ranked near the bottom in 2013. Watkins has speed, shiftiness, body control and huge hands and is regarded by some scouts as the best receiver to come out since A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

NFL.com, Elliott Harrison – AFC preview: Ceiling & Floor
Ceiling: 10-6. For the Bills-win-10-games-and-make-the-playoffs-for-the-first-time-since-1999 scenario to come true, several things would have to occur, like Geno Smith faltering for the Jets (yes, that's possible), the Dolphins playing awfully inconsistent football (certainly possible) ... and Buffalo beating New England. And there's the rub. Too often -- as in Week 1 last season -- the Bills have been unable to close the door against the Pats. The other thing that has to happen in this 10-win deal? EJ Manuel develops into a solid pocket passer in his second year as a pro, becoming efficient enough to win games while avoiding the mistakes that lose them -- call it a low-turnover year. It would also be nice if running back C.J. Spiller were to reclaim his career.

ESPN.com, Mike Rodak – Season Preview
BEST-KEPT SECRET
Which team has the NFL's best defensive line? It's probably the Bills, who sent three linemen -- Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus -- to the Pro Bowl last season. Add Jerry Hughes (10 sacks) and you have a formidable unit. With so much attention paid to EJ Manuel, Sammy Watkins and the offense, it's easy to forget that the Bills ranked second last season with 57 sacks. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn't blitz as much as Pettine, but he doesn't need anything more than his defensive line to generate pressure.

SI.com, Don Banks – 20 predictions for the 2014 NFL Season
18. Dismissed as head coaches by Houston and Detroit, respectively, after last season's twin disasters, Gary Kubiak and Jim Schwartz will waste no time distinguishing themselves with strong first seasons back at the coordinator level. Under Kubiak, Baltimore's offense will exhibit both balance and tenacity, with quarterback Joe Flacco returning to form and the Ravens winning the AFC North. Schwartz's work with Buffalo won't be enough to end the Bills' NFL-worst playoff drought of 14 seasons, but his talented defense will finish in the league's top five and warrant him consideration for head coaching jobs in January.

Sportsnet.ca, Geoff Lowe – Bills season preview
Core players: Sammy Watkins (WR), Mario Williams (DE), Kyle Williams (DT), EJ Manuel (QB).
Yeah, but they got… Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams, two wide receivers who will step in and make an immediate impact in week one. The Bills took a big risk moving up in the draft to take Watkins with the fourth overall pick, but it has the potential to pay off in a big way. Watkins was the best receiver available, bar none. The Clemson product is big (six-foot-one), fast (4.39 in the 40-yard dash), has great hands and the potential to develop into Julio Jones–type receiver.

Williams, who played under Marrone at Syracuse, has had his share of struggles but has also shown huge potential in four NFL seasons. The additions of Brandon Spikes (LB) and Keith Rivers (LB) should help ease the pain of Alonso's injury a bit, while Bryce Brown (RB) has been brought in with high aspirations should Fred Jackson break down or trade rumours regarding C.J. Spiller prove true.

Growing from within: The Bills had arguably the best all-around rookie class last season and will expect those players, now sophomores, to take that next step. Robert Woods (WR) and Marquise Goodwin (WR) showed flashes last season, and, teamed with Watkins and Williams could help comprise the AFC East's most versatile and dangerous receiving corps. That depends entirely, however, on the play of EJ Manuel (QB). A first-round pick (16th overall) last year, Manuel's season was marred by injuries and inconsistencies. The Bills have given Manuel the weapons to succeed, now he's got to prove he can run the offence. Marcell Dareus (DT) continues to make more bad headlines than good ones; if he doesn't get his act together soon, his time in Buffalo could quickly run out.

Why this team? Because the Bills have the potential to be an exciting, dynamic young team. Because Buffalo boasts arguably the NFL's best running back duo in Spiller and Jackson, a talented group of receivers and a potential franchise QB in Manuel. Because—despite the absence of Alonso—the Buffalo defence still has some impressive pieces, especially along the defensive line in the Williamses (Mario, Kyle and Aaron at safety). Because if Buffalo can get it all together, they might be able to put the heat on Tom Brady and the Patriots.

PREDICTIONS

CBS Sports – 2014 NFL predictions
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
PAT KIRWAN – Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills: When I was at the Bills training camp, Watkins looked like a five-year veteran with his route running, hands and explosion. When I sat down with him to discuss his goals and objectives for his rookie season, he was so humble and focused on his team that I'm sure good things are coming his way.

JOSH KATZOWITZ - Sammy Watkins: He's the next dynamic receiver in the game. As long asEJ Manuel can get him the ball consistently, Watkins will impress every time he hits the field.

NFL.com, Brian Billick – 2014 NFL award predictions
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills. Watkins had 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for Clemson. While he won't quite match that production in Buffalo as a rookie, don't be surprised when he comes pretty close.

ESPN.com – 2014 predictions: National contributors
John Clayton, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Ashley Fox, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Mike Sando, ESPN Insider: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Field Yates, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
KC Joyner, ESPN Insider: AFC wild cards – Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals

ESPN.com – 2014 predictions:  AFC reporters
Mike DiRocco, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Jamison Hensley, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Paul Kuharsky, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Adam Teicher, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Pat McManamon, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Mike Wells, ESPN.com: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins

ESPN.com – 2014 predictions:  Other ESPN personalities
Wendi Nix, NFL Insiders: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Sarah Spain, espnW: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight: Offensive rookie of the year – Sammy Watkins
Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight: AFC wild cards – Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens
Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight: Coach of the year – Doug Marrone

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