– Zack El-Sharif
This past year has been rather eventful for Bills fans. This time last year I was sitting at training camp watching a guy carry a sign around that said “Please save our team Mr. and Mrs. Pegula”. Some thought that the man was annoying but he was just saying what all of us were praying for. As we all know the Pegulas bought the Bills and the franchise was no longer living on a prayer. The excitement of keeping our team transferred into the 2014 regular season. It was the first time in 10 seasons the team finished with an above .500 record. The team missed the playoffs for the 15th straight season, but they looked like they were moving in the right direction. A couple days after the end of the season starting QB Kyle Orton announced his retirement. Then on the final day of 2014, Doug Marrone opted out of his contract as the coach of the Bills. At the time the news of Doug Marrone leaving was shocking. However soon after we calmed down and the fan base was relieved that he left.
This brought us to 2015 with a coaching vacancy, questions at QB, and a new owner who has never dealt with these problems before. The fan base had absolutely no idea what to expect. The first domino fell when some guy named Rex Ryan accepted the coaching position. Ryan, former head coach of the NY Jets, took his former team to back to back AFC Championship games. Most fans saw that as a fantastic hire. Then the month of March started and it came in with a bang. They signed aggressive offensive lineman Richie Incognito. They traded injury plagued linebacker Kiko Alonso for stud All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy. They re-signed the versatile defensive end Jerry Hughes. They addressed the quarterback problem by trading for former Pro Bowler Matt Cassel, and also by signing the very athletic Tyrod Taylor. They were able to lock up and sign one of the best young tight ends in the NFL in Charles Clay. Finally the team added one of the best gadget players in the league; Percy Harvin. Although he has a shaky past he has gone on record and has said that he feels much more comfortable with himself around his new teammates in Buffalo. So when the dust of the off season settled the Buffalo Bills had a fresh rejuvenated team and a star head coach, all things the fans were hoping for.
So here we are at Training Camp. The Bills will spend about a month sharpening their skills and building chemistry among the new players on the squad. While they improved the weapons on offense they still struggle to find improvement under center. After the first week of camp there have been ups and downs at the QB position. Unfortunately a lot more downs than ups. So while it looks like we are going into another season with agonizing quarterback play, I decided to preview and predict the 2015 season for the Buffalo Bills. These predictions are with Matt Cassel at starting QB since all signs are pointing towards him at the moment and he is the veteran that I imagine Rex might trust the most.
Week 1 vs Indianapolis: Colts come to town with their new look offense. Thankfully they didn’t improve their defense and I think the Bills pull this one out and start the season. 1-0
Week 2 vs New England: Deflategate is still up in the air believe it or not which makes it really difficult to gauge what this game could be. As of now there will be no Tom Brady in this game so I’ll predict it as such. No Brady means that there is less of everything for that team. Rex has a burning passion to beat the Patriots which is something I can see him doing. Bills improve to 2-0.
Week 3 at Miami:This game will be a test to see where the Bills truly are, a divisional game against the much improved Dolphins. With all the tinkering they are doing on the offensive line I can only assume it’s enough for them to be able to hold off the Miami pass rush. Tannehill has gotten better every year and most can only assume this year isn’t anything different. This will be a grueling contest for the Bills but if the team is healthy I can see them pulling this one out. 3-0
Week 4 vs New York: The Giants have a great offense since offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo took over and it doesn’t hurt that they have receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz burning up the sidelines. Two time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning really doesn’t get enough credit and most forget that he did win the big game twice. This game will be one of those games where the skill players shine. Shady McCoy knows the Giants well from his Eagles days but I’m not sure if his knowledge will be enough to get the Bills the W in this game. 3-1
Week 5 at Tennessee: Fun Fact: the Bills have never won a game that has been played on the road against the Titans. If they want to make the playoffs this year they need to bury the hatchet and break whatever curse that has been bestowed upon them. I bring that up obviously because the last time the Bills were in the playoffs it was against the Titans on the road with the Bills losing in traumatizing fashion. With a rookie QB under center for the Titans I can see the Bills defense with a nice little welcome to the NFL type of game. Bills cruise to 4-1
Week 6 vs. Cincinatti: Then the Bengals come to the Ralph for a matchup of teams that will more than likely be battling all year for playoff positioning. This game will carry a lot of weight in the playoff race, which will make the fans in attendance as rowdy as they could possibly be. The energy at the stadium that day will be one of those that you wish you could bottle up and keep forever, but by being form the AFC North this won’t be the first the Bengals will be faced with an intense crowd. The Bengals have a two headed monster at RB and have the playmaker A.J. Green split out wide. The defense will be tested like they seem to be every week, but I don’t think they will be able to hang this time. 4-2
Week 7 vs Jacksonville: The Bills go international, again. This time they play in London, England. This will be an odd game as you’ll be waking up early in order to catch the 9:30 am EST start . The Jaguars have improved the past two years and will sooner rather than later become a real threat but not yet. The Bills put on a show and impress the chaps across the pond as well as earn a win. 5-2
Week 8: Bye week. The past 15 years haven’t been easy but if I’ve learned one thing it’s that they can’t lose on a bye week.
Week 9 vs Miami: Dolphins come to town looking to battle for the AFC East crown in what is sure to be a very tight division this year. By this point in the season the Dolphins will be much better than the shakiness they usually start seasons with. Luckily the Bills are coming off of much needed rest and they end up sweeping the Dolphins in the season series. 6-2
Week 10 at New York: The Bills appear in primetime for their first time all season as they go to the Meadowlands to face Rex Ryan’s old team the Jets. It’ll be a back and forth battle with the teams almost identical in talent. Both have strong defenses along with tons of skill players around the QB. So the difference in this will be the QB and I’d hate to say it but whether it’s Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith I think both are better than Cassel at this point in the season. Chan Gailey is no stranger to Fitzpatrick and they both have been successful with each other. As for Geno the kid can play as long as he isn’t turning the ball over every other drive. I give the first meeting of the season to the Jets. 6-3
Week 11 at New England: Monday Night Football, Patriots are hosting the Bills in game that will have a much different outcome than the first time they met. Tom Brady being back for his suspension for a handful of weeks I expect nothing less than to see them in Super Bowl caliber form. The Bills defense will be one of the top in the league but there won’t be much of chance that they will be able to keep up with the Patriots. As for the Bills offense it seems like many people forget that Belichick is a defensive coach and will be dismantling the offense and finding ways to make them turn the ball over. Patriots get revenge on the 2nd game of the season. 6-4
Week 12 at Kansas City: The Bills go to Arrow Head Stadium to face the high powered offense of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs already had the likes of Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce, and Alex Smith, but this past offseason they added Jeremy Maclin. Andy Reid and Maclin go back to the days in West Philadelphia where their relationship was born and raised, Lincoln Financial is where they spent most of their days. So I don’t see them not being able to complete a touchdown to a WR this season. I have a huge feeling that they will pour on the points and hold the Bills offense in check for much of the game. Kansas City helps their Wild Card resume and beat the Bills. 6-5
Week 13 vs Houston: With the season quickly slipping away from the Bills they finally return home to host the Houston Texans. They will need to put on a passionate performance to outlast the talent that the Texans have on their defense. If they move the ball wisely which is something that I feel Greg Roman will be very careful and aware about then I think that they will be in good shape. The Texans have depleted offense with no QB stability much like the Bills but with not as much talent on the field. The Bills do what they need to in order to survive in the 2015 regular season and pick up the much needed W and snap a painful losing streak. 7-5
Week 14 at Philadelphia: LeSean McCoy flies back to the nest to face his old team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams will be at the point of the season where they will need to get a win in order to help their playoff chances. In order for me to gauge this game I’m going to use history. Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, and Kiko Alonso have all had extreme injuries in the past couple of seasons in some cases, every season. So I’m going to assume that they are hurt by the time this game rolls around; not that I would want them to be injured they are still human beings. So with Mark Sanchez at starting QB and 3rd string old timer Darren Sproles at RB I say that the Bills successfully get a statement win on the road to keep their season alive. 8-5
Week 15 at Washington: The Bills play a game in FedEx Field against the Washington NFL Football team. Washington has had many holes for many years and I feel for them a little because just when they thought they finally found their franchise QB he becomes plagued with injuries and has a hard time staying healthy. The rest of the team has little to be desired. They will be out of playoff contention by this time of the year and the Bills should be able to handle this team regardless of their current position during that point in time. Bills are victorious 9-5
Week 16 vs Dallas: Dallas comes back to the Ralph. These two teams have a ton of history, going as far back as the Super Bowls to as recent as the Monday night game where Tony Romo threw for 5 interceptions and the Bills still lost. I sadly think the Cowboys will be just too much for the desperate Bills and they will beat the Bills once again. 9-6
Week 17 vs New York: The final week of the regular season where the season might come down to just win and you’re in. This week many fans will get flashbacks of 2005 when all the team had to do is beat the backups of the Pittsburgh Steelers and they were in the playoffs. Since I’m predicting from the Bills side of things, I’m going to have them winning this game. Taking on a Jets team that will probably be out of playoff contention and having to come to the Ralph before hitting the golf course, the Bills will have the advantage in motivation. They know what is on the line for this game and I trust the Bills to see it through and get to double digit wins and the playoffs for the first time since 1999. 10-6
I can’t predict what is going to happen with the rest of the teams in the division or even the conference for that matter but, I have a feeling that 10-6 is going to be good enough to get the job done. I don’t think the Super Bowl is going to possible, not yet at least. As a fan of the team I’m perfectly content with the playoffs being the goal of the season. It’s something the franchise and the fans deserve.
– Zack El-Sharif (@zackelsharif23)