It’s that time of year again, folks. Football is back! With college football already back in the swing of things the NFL season will begin this Thursday when the Carolina Panthers visit the Denver Broncos in a Super Bowl 50 rematch.
Today, I’ll give you my 2016 Buffalo Bills season prediction. Let’s start predicting!
Week 1: Buffalo @ Baltimore
Week one marks the return of former coaches Rex Ryan, Ed Reed, and players such as Tyrod Taylor and Corey Graham to Baltimore. With Tyrod Taylor the entrenched starting quarterback, and Rex Ryan running his usual defensive scheme this season, this will be a different Bills team; a Bills team that has found an identity— Run the ball, play stingy defense—That’s the Rex Ryan mentality of playing football, and it will be in full effect this season.
Anyways, this game will be a toss up. What Ravens squad will show up? The 2012 super bowl champions or last year’s abysmal team? I feel the Ravens will try to bring a balanced attack to disrupt the Bills aggressiveness on defense. If the preseason was any indication, the run defense featuring Corbin Bryant, Adolphus Washington,Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, Preston Brown, and Brandon Spikes will be stout to run against, even with Marcell Dareus’s four-game suspension. If they can make the Ravens one-dimensional, I have enough faith in Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby and the secondary to shut down the Ravens passing game.
I think the Bills do just enough to get the win week one. I believe if the Bills establish a ground game early, the Ravens will stack the box and it will lead to more opportunities on play action and deep shots down the field to receivers such as Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and even tight end Charles Clay. In the end, the Bills are too talented to lose this game.
Bills over Ravens: 23-16
Week 2: New York Jets @ Buffalo
Week two presents the return of former head coach (now offensive coordinator for the Jets) Chan Gailey and former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in which it’ll be a revenge game for not only the two, but the entire Jets squad. Rex and the Bills defeated the Jets twice last season, including a week 17 victory to knock the Jets out of playoff contention.
The Jets are a solid team with a top-flight defense along with some big-time playmakers on the offensive side of the ball in receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Just like last season, the Jets gave the Bills all they could handle, until Ryan Fitzpatrick threw multiple game-ending interceptions to seal the Jets’ fate.
Under the bright lights on Thursday night football, primetime, I believe Fitzpatrick and the Jets will crumble at New Era Field containing a wild, hostile crowd. However, the Jets won’t go down easy, as Jets are a very talented team obviously. I just don’t think we lose this game.
Bills over Jets: 27-17
Week 3: Arizona @ Buffalo
In one of my earlier columns, I labeled this matchup against Arizona a key game out of five for the Bills, in which they’ll have their first big test of the season at home against a superbowl-caliber team.
The Cardinals present a ton of weapons against the Bills. Quarterback Carson Palmer proved last season he’s a top quarterback. They’re stacked at receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown. The duo of David Johnson and Andre Ellington at running back could prove dangerous, as well. The Cardinals also feature a top run blocking offensive line. With several key defensive players out for this game in Marcell Dareus, Shaq Lawson, and Reggie Ragland, the Bills defense will have to step up to the challenge and shut down one of the league’s best offenses.
There is no drop off defensively, as the Cardinals are returning a top five defense that includes star players such as Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Calais Campbell, and newly acquired Chandler Jones. A critical matchup to watch is if Sammy Watkins can beat Patrick Peterson. With no other viable threat, the Bills passing attack could be contained if Watkins gets no separation. Running the ball against a stout front-seven will be crucial to opening up the passing game.
Even though the Bills are home, I don’t think the Bills are ready to take down a squad of this caliber this early in the season. I believe the Cardinals will be more composed and disciplined in a rather easy victory for them on the road.
Cardinals over Bills: 31-16
Week 4: Buffalo @ New England
Fortunately for the Buffalo Bills, they were able to catch the Patriots in the first four weeks of the schedule so they won’t be able to face Tom Brady.
With this being my second key game, this is a great opportunity for the Bills to jump a game ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East race. With third-year player Jimmy Garoppolo getting the start, the Bills should be able to confuse and pressure the young quarterback through exotic defensive formations and looks. However, the duo of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola at receiver along with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett can still give the Bills fits in pass coverage. Maybe the major key to this game will be the Bills’ efficiency on offense. With Tom Brady out, I’m confident they can go head-to-head in a shootout with Jimmy Garoppolo, despite the Patriots boasting a top-level defense.
Even with the absence of Brady, you can never count out the masterful coaching mind of Bill Belichick. He alone will make this game close due to his knowledge and his ability to get his players ready for any game. With that being said, I believe, however, the absence of Brady will be enough for the Bills to steal a big win in Foxborough.
Bills over Patriots: 24-21
Week 5: Buffalo @ Los Angeles
Coming off a big victory against the Patriots, the Bills will be heading out west to face the Los Angeles Rams.
With the Rams announcing Case Keenum as their starting quarterback, together with the Bills strong secondary, it’s safe to say the Rams will rely heavily on Todd Gurley running the ball to enable balance in their offense. With Marcell Dareus returning from suspension by now, the Bills defensive front just got even better, making it even tougher for any opponent to run the ball. While relying on their run game, the Rams will also depend on their disruptive defensive line featuring Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and William Hayes. The Bills offensive line will have to be on top of their game in both facets of running and passing or else it could be a long day.
Despite traveling all the way out to the west coast, I say the Bills execute enough on both sides of the ball and squeeze out a win. Although it won’t be easy.
Bills over Rams: 17-14
Week 6: San Francisco @ Buffalo
The Bills return home to face another west coast team, and this time it’s Chip Kelly and the San Francisco 49ers.
As we know by now, Kelly got the best of Rex and the Bills last season as the Eagles eliminated the Bills’ chances of making the playoffs. This time he’s manning a 49ers group that has been disappointing the last few years. The 49ers have some intriguing pieces including running back Carlos Hyde, and a defensive line featuring Ian Williams and a pair of Oregon products in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. You can also include talented linebackers Navorro Bowman and Aaron Lynch as some players to watch for the 49ers. The biggest question will be the 49ers efficiency on offense. Can they run on the Bills? Can Blaine Gabbert ignite the passing game? How good will the 49ers defense be?
It’ll be another close game. I say the difference will be Tyrod exploiting the 49ers weak secondary by generating some big plays in the passing game. This time I say the Bills get revenge on Kelly and net another win by edging the 49ers.
Bills over 49ers: 24-17
Week 7: Buffalo @ Miami
The Bills are going into Miami ‘hot’ with a 5-1 record. Will Shaq Lawson be back by this time in the season?
Anyways, no one knows how the Dolphins will perform this year. They have a new coach in Adam Gase, who in my opinion can endure a fantastic tenure in Miami if he can rejuvenate Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins have an array of weapons including Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jordan Cameron, and Arian Foster at their disposal. Their offensive line is one of the big question marks on this team. If Shaq is back by this game, I think his addition will be too much for the Dolphins offensive line to handle with the likes of Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Jerry Hughes.
Two familiar faces will be on the opposite sideline; Mario Williams and Kiko Alonso. Mario along with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake present a wrecking ball of a defensive line. Kiko has struggled in the preseason thus far, but he’s surrounded by two other talented linebackers in Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi. From the secondary, the Dolphins released cornerback Brent Grimes and brought in Byron Maxwell. The Dolphins also spent a second round pick on corner Xavien Howard. Plus, the presence of star safety Reshad Jones adds even more size and sandpaper to the defense.
Overall, who knows what we’ll see from the Dolphins this season. I say we rack up another win here, as the Bills pull away in the second-half and advance to a surprising, yet deserving, 6-1 record.
Bills over Dolphins: 33-21
Week 8: New England @ Buffalo
Well guys, we had our fun beating the Patriots. Despite having home-field advantage, Tom Brady is back, and back with vengeance. The Bills come back down to earth after riding a four-game winning streak.
Patriots over Bills: 35-21
Week 9: Buffalo @ Seattle
A Monday night football game at Seattle? That crowd is too noisy, and too hostile. Maybe the Bills will ‘shock the world’ and beat the Seahawks on their home soil. However, I don’t see this happening. The Seahawks suffocating defense and Russell Wilson will make enough plays. This, along with the week eight loss to New England, I have penciled down as our two definite losses on the season. The Bills will go into their bye on a cold streak, however, a 6-3 record in their first nine games while missing key starters is nothing to be ashamed about.
Seahawks over Bills: 28-10
Week 10: ***BYE WEEK***
Week 11: Buffalo @ Cincinnati
My fourth key game of the season, the Bills will be coming off their bye with a decent record, while in position for a wildcard.
Cincinnati is a well rounded team that has given the Bills fits in recent years. They’re a great regular season team that can get the job done. A lethal offense featuring Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill brings a ton of balance and too many options to account for defensively for the Bills. Not to mention, the Bengals also contain studs on the defensive side via Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Adam Jones, and George Iloka.
A win here is definitely more likely than against New England or Seattle, and I think the Bills will be more competitive this game compared to their beat down last season at the hand of the Bengals. A win here could go a long way to supporting the Bills’ case for a wildcard spot. However, I feel this game is reminiscent of last year’s match at Kansas City, we’ll get an early lead, but we’ll blow it in typical Bills fashion. Hate to say it, but it’s true, or as Metallica says: ‘Sad but True’.
Bengals over Bills: 36-28
Week 12: Jacksonville @ Buffalo
The Bills return home after a three-game road trip yielding three straight losses, and apparently the sky is starting to fall in Buffalo. The Jaguars are an up-and-coming team and the Bills will have to be focused on netting another AFC victory, especially at home.
This will be my ‘shootout’ game of the season. There’s enough firepower on both teams offenses to rack up a combined 700 plus total yards of offense. Although he’s still young and raw, the evolution of Blake Bortles together with star receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns will present a great duo of one-on-one matchups with Bills corners Gilmore and Darby. Two other receivers to watch are Marqise Lee and Rashad Greene. The two former college star receivers are great fits behind the two-headed monster of Robinson and Hurns, and the Bills depth in the secondary will be tested with Corey White and Kevon Seymour. Not to mention, the Jaguars have two big, bruising downhill running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory to account for.
Defensively the Jaguars have improved a lot over the offseason. The additions of Jalen Ramsey, Prince Amukamara, Tashaun Gipson, and Myles Jack will make this unit more competitive than in years past. Former Florida State star Ramsey indicated that in his time as a Seminole he stated Sammy Watkins was the toughest receiver he had to cover (Watkins played at Clemson, Florida State’s rival).
“Jalen Ramsey, who is the toughest wide receiver you ever had to cover?”
Jalen- “Sammy Watkins”
— Jim Brickman (@AdamOstrowski) April 14, 2016
My mini prediction this game will be Watkins hauls in over 220 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions. This could arguably be the ‘game of the year’. I say Dan Carpenter kicks the game-winning field goal to win a classic.
Bills over Jaguars: 48-45
Week 13: Buffalo @ Oakland
This marks the third and final time the Bills will travel out to the west coast to play an opponent.
We all remember the heart-breaking upset in 2014 when the Raiders officially ended any hopes of the playoffs in week 16, right? Well, that Raider
squad is now even better. Like Blake Bortles, Derek Carr really came into his own last season with 32 touchdowns passes and totaling nearly 4,000 passing yards (3,987). With young stud receiver Amari Cooper heading into his second year, I expect more chemistry and production from the two. You can’t count out Michael Crabtree, either. The duo at receiver will form another series of one-on-one matchups with Gilmore and Darby. The Raiders also hold running back Latavius Murray, who rushed for 1,066 yards. Considering the upgrade the Raiders brought in on the offensive line via Kelechi Osemele vaults this unit into one of the top starting ‘five’ in the NFL. Evaluating each aspect of this Raiders offense, the sky’s the limit. If you give Derek Carr protection in the pass game while supporting him enough with an above average running attack this group can be dangerous.
The Raiders also improved tremendously on the defensive side of the ball. Led by the all-pro Khalil Mack, the Raiders brought in cornerback Sean Smith to pair with David Amerson, pass-rusher Bruce Irvin, and free safety Reggie Nelson that’ll provide immediate dividends. The Raiders also resigned Aldon Smith. This not even counting two good underrated defensive linemen in Dan Williams and Mario Edwards. Summing it up, this Raiders defense can be as deadly as their offense, deservingly making them a breakout candidate in 2016.
With all that being said, I still think the Bills will play the Raiders close. However, home field advantage, along with another west coast trip, gives the Raiders the edge here.
Raiders over Bills: 34-31 (OT)
Week 14: Pittsburgh @ Buffalo
My last key game of the season, the Steelers will roll into Buffalo in a late crucial AFC match. This game could be make-or-break for the Bills playoff aspirations.
We all know the Steelers will rely on their big three via Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell just as much as the Bills rely Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, and LeSean McCoy. I believe this game will come down to which trio can perform the best. With the Steelers stout run defense, I believe this will turn into an ‘air show’. With the Bills having the advantage at corner, and in the entire secondary for that matter, with Gilmore and Darby leading the way, I’m going to predict that Gilmore and Darby hold Antonio Brown under 50 receiving yards. I think the Bills do just enough in the run game to create space in the pass game offensively, while defensively they get after Roethlisberger and make him force turnovers. Remember the upset against the Packers in 2014? I believe this will be a similar type of upset, but a little more high-scoring. Home field advantage propels the Bills to a big win in a crucial time of the year.
Bills over Steelers: 38-35
Week 15: Cleveland @ Buffalo
Out of all of the games this season, I feel as if this could be the ‘trap’ game everybody tries locating on the release of the schedule. Robert Griffin III will be making his first trip to Buffalo. How effective will Griffin be? Will Josh Gordon return to his 2013 form? How good will the Browns defense be? Joe Haden is finally healthy and he’ll help the Browns secondary by leaps and bounds. Griffin and Gordon could be a dynamic duo. Don’t count out running backs Duke Johnson or Isaiah Crowell, either.
I think the Bills could possibly ‘overlook’ the Browns, which may lead to the score of this game being closer than it may appear. Still, I think the Bills get the win here with home field advantage.
Bills over Browns: 28-25
Week 16: Miami @ Buffalo
Chances are the Dolphins will be out of the playoffs, while the Bills will be fighting for one. Plus, they’re in a cold Buffalo environment in December. I’m almost going to sound like a broken record, but remember when the Bills played the Dolphins in 2013 at home in December? I expect a similar dominating result.
Bills over Dolphins: 30-10
Week 17: Buffalo @ New York Jets
A win at New York would cap off one hell of a season for the Bills. However, I say the Bills and Jets go down to the wire, with Fitzpatrick leading a game-winning drive to impact the Bills position in the playoffs. With a 10-6 record, I believe the Bills capture a wild card spot, depending on how the AFC race shakes out. But I believe it’ll be enough hopefully, or the Jets could come full-circle and knock the Bills out of playoff contention? Scary thoughts.
Jets over Bills: 27-23