Ceiling: 11-5. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor sees the field even better this season, receiver Sammy Watkins plays like an All-Pro and the Bills split with the Patriots. We would have gone to 12-4 had the club not lost rookie linebacker Reggie Ragland to a torn ACL and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to suspension.
Offense (5): Cordy Glenn, OL; Richie Incognito, OL; LeSean McCoy, RB;Sammy Watkins, WR; Eric Wood, OL
Defense (3): Ronald Darby, CB; Marcell Dareus, DT; Stephon Gilmore, CB
Where they stand: The Bills are more talented than given credit. Their offensive line has three top pieces, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor is knocking on the door to becoming a top player. At least he could be paid that way if the Bills pick up his option for next year. There is enough talent to make a wild-card run this season.
Biggest strength: Cornerbacks. The Bills have two of the NFL's best in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, giving coach Rex Ryan the lockdown confidence on the outside that he needs to run his blitz-heavy scheme effectively.
NFL season preview 2016: Buffalo Bills – Sportsnet, Jeff Simmons](http://www.sportsnet.ca/football/nfl/nfl-season-preview-2016-buffalo-bills/)
Why this team? Despite last year's disappointment, the Bills still have a talented roster on paper and a quality core of elite talents. If Taylor takes another step forward at quarterback and the defence returns to their 2014 production, which is a reasonable expectation given the personnel and coaching staff, the Bills are capable of winning 10 games. (That is, if they can stay healthy.)
OLB Jerry Hughes
With defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on suspension -- and taking a leave of absence from the club -- I'm going with Hughes. The pass-rusher can line up as an outside linebacker or as a defensive end in Rex Ryan's scheme. And while Hughes didn't produce monster numbers in 2015 (five total sacks), he's still the player opponents have to identify when they set protection schemes. Hughes has the burst and bend to get home to the QB. Cornerback Ronald Darby was also a possibility here for the Bills with his ability to finish on the ball.
Play: Buck Sweep (Lead) | Personnel: 21 (2WR-1TE-2RB)
How it works: With LeSean McCoy in the backfield, the buck sweep out of the Split-Back Gun alignment is a weapon for the Bills. Remember, McCoy (R) is smooth. Super smooth. And he's also very patient with the ball. That's why this scheme caters to his skill set. With the Bills blocking down on the edge and pulling the play-side guard and center, gaps move from a defensive perspective. That forces linebackers and safeties to react to the pull and play cut-off/force. The Bills have that covered with a lead-blocking fullback (F). That's a lot of beef on the edge with a running back in McCoy who can press the ball or cutback to find daylight. Nasty. The next step for the Bills? Add a read element to the backside with quarterback Tyrod Taylor off the mesh point.
For the first time in quite a while, the Bills will enter a season with a franchise quarterback under center. The team inked Tyrod Taylor to a long-term extension this offseason, shoring up the position for years to come. He'll bring stability to relatively the same offense that led the NFL in rushing a year ago, headed by LeSean McCoy at running back. On defense, the personnel has remained consistent, with the exception of rookie draft picks who are unfortunately injured. Linebacker Reggie Ragland is out with a torn ACL and Shaq Lawson isn't expected back until at least October. Adolphus Washington is expected to contribute in the middle of the defensive line, but replacing Mario Williams on the edge won't be easy. The Bills have to hope the defense can be better under Rob Ryan than it was last season, which shouldn't be a challenge seeing as they were 31st in sacks
2. Buffalo Bills (projected record: 10-6)
Lots of reasons to be excited? Lots of reasons to be exited! The offensive line, the strength from last year, is intact. The running game was one of the best in football last year. Tyrod Taylor looks like he's ready to take a step forward and maybe even start finally letting Sammy Watkins blossom. Could this be a top 10 offense this year? In Buffalo? Coached by Rex Ryan? What?
The defense took a step back last season, in large part because of a lack of pass rush, but that doesn't seem like something that'll be particularly sustainable under Ryan. The loss of Shaq Lawson for the first six weeks is a bummer, but the Bills are still strong up front against the run and have a hawkish, dangerous secondary. Stephon Gilmore is the best player you don't know yet. You'll know him by the end of this season.
Ryan has both an offense and a defense that are primed to improve from a 2015 season that wasn't that bad anyway. It's still going to be tough to win this division with Bill Belichick in it, and the Wild Card race is competitive (Oakland, of all teams, might be the toughest competition for that last slot). Still: If Buffalo is going to end that playoff drought, this is the year. Get excited, Bills fans. Party like you mean it.