The 2018 Bills went 6-10. While the offense was generally incompetent, quarterback Josh Allen showed plenty of promise with his immensely strong arm and a gunslinger mentality. On defense, the Bills allowed the second-fewest yards in the entire league. However, the Bills were in the bottom half of the NFL in points allowed, and also started the season off on pace to be the least productive offense in team’s history.
Due to the general lack of confidence around Allen and the Bills, they have been underrated and over-hated in the offseason. Here is a look at the validity of the criticism that plagues the Bills.
#1: Josh Allen is not the answer.
The jury is still out on Allen’s viability as a quarterback, but he certainly showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season. Allen has not even started a full slate of games, and he should not receive reckless criticism until he has done so. As of now, the Bills have to be thrilled with Allen and his immense creativity and propensity for the big play.
Allen should improve in the 2019 season and make the Bills a viable Wild Card threat until Tom Brady retires and the New England dynasty drifts away. In addition to Allen improving, the Bills have made a conscious effort to surround him with more talent than they did in 2018. His athleticism makes up for his lack of experience and accuracy for the time being, and his potential is exactly what the organization and the fans have been waiting for.
#2: The Bills have no offensive weapons.
The 2018 Bills would fit this criticism to a tee. However, the Bills spent all three of their Day 2 picks on offensive players including two skill position players: running back Devin Singletary and tight end Dawson Knox. Singletary and Knox may not play major roles in the 2019 season, but it is an attempt for the Bills to surround Allen with talent.
In free agency, the Bills went out and added slot receiver (and rapper!) Cole Beasley as well as deep threat John Brown. Beasley and Brown should enable Allen to develop as a passer on all three levels, as both players are dynamic in space. In addition to the two new receivers, the Bills retained Robert Foster and Zay Jones; both of whom have shown flashes of competency in their short careers.
In terms of running backs, the Bills sport the 2011 NFC Pro Bowl pairing of LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. With Shady and The Inconvenient Truth, the Bills lack the upside that many teams have, but can look forward to an effective ground game in 2019. The Bills managed to finish as a top 10 rushing offense in 2018, but that was with Allen leading the team in rushing. It is unlikely that Allen leads the team in rushing again, which may be a good thing.
#3: The Bills are the third-best team in the AFC East.
A legitimate argument can be had between the Jets and Bills. The Jets sport more high-end talent while the Bills have a plethora of under-the-radar stars. On offense, the Jets carry the advantage due to the presence of Le’Veon Bell, but on defense, the Bills possess a full slate of good players while the Jets have a steep drop off from the stars in Jamal Adams and CJ Mosley. Both teams invested in their defensive lines in the draft as the Jets acquired Quinnen Williams and the Bills acquired Ed Oliver.
As the whole, the Jets and Bills seem to be in the same tier of teams. Both teams are also tied closely to the development of their quarterbacks. Sam Darnold might be slightly further in his progression than Allen, but Allen sports a better wide receiver corps, so the production and play level between the two 2018 first-round picks should be in the same stratosphere. They play twice, that may be the only way to settle this debate.
Moving into 2019, the Bills have a more-than competent defense and high hopes for the offense. The Bills go as far as Josh Allen does, so he must continue to develop as a passer for them to succeed. The Bills have made a point to surround Allen with new weapons through the draft and free agency, so there is potential for Allen, and therefore the team, to shine in 2019.
Verdict: Seven wins, no playoffs