Will the Bills return to the playoffs in 2018?

Jake Fortinsky

Did the Buffalo Bills appear to pull off a miracle last season when they made the playoffs? Maybe, but their team was certainly resilient and put themselves in a position to receive a miracle in the form of the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton, placing their ticket to the playoffs on a silver platter. It’s incredible that a team with an entirely new management office managed to accomplish a goal that the franchise had been working to complete for 17 years. The question now becomes whether or not the Bills can once again clinch a playoff birth in the upcoming season.

The Bills current roster has holes, but they still hold some key pieces that could lead the team to a successful 2018 season, and one of those pieces is running back LeSean McCoy. Although Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy turns 30 in a few months, after coming off another 1,500+ yard season, he has yet to show any significant drop-off in his abilities as a running back. Given his statistics, one would expect McCoy to continue to be a dominant force on the Bills offense. McCoy can also make the next Bills signal caller’s job much easier, as he creates space through his quality running as well as his reliable receiving hands out of the backfield.

The mystery of the Buffalo Bills team begins and ends at the elusive quarterback position. The quarterback position has been a difficult job for the Bills to fill in the past, and they have yet to resolve this issue for the 2018 season. Fortunately, this is where the NFL draft comes into play. Their organization currently holds the 12th and 22nd overall picks and have made it clear that they are willing to make a trade to move up higher in the draft. Given the abundance of top tier quarterback prospects in this year's draft, it should be noted that the Bills have a great opportunity to land a potential franchise quarterback. With rumblings about the Buffalo Bills attempting to move into a top-5 pick in the draft, it's reasonable to assume that they would be able to choose one of the top quarterbacks, including USC's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, UCLA's Josh Rosen, or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. If the Bills are able to move up in the draft, the question will become, which quarterback is the right fit for their team? I am of the belief that they should aim to draft an NFL ready quarterback, such as Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, as I do not think the team can afford to waste LeSean McCoy's talent while he remains one of the league's premier running backs. I also believe that the Bills need to make a move to land one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, as they are not going to have many opportunities as sweet as this one.

Signing quarterback AJ McCarron to a 2-year, $10M contract, was an efficient decision, but he doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution. If the Bills can walk away from the NFL draft with Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, they can certainly enter the playoff conversation, as past history would show that a reliable and dominant quarterback can lead a quality veteran team to a playoff birth. It should be mentioned that the Bills clinched a playoff spot last season with little effectiveness from their quarterback position. Tyrod Taylor, the Bills starting quarterback for the majority of the 2017 season, only managed 2,799 pass yards (25th among quarterbacks), 14 touchdowns (25th among quarterbacks), and four interceptions (first among quarterbacks), ending the season with a mediocre quarterback rating of 89.2. Although he threw the fewest number of interceptions for a starting quarterback, his other passing statistics were indisputably poor in comparison to other quarterbacks throughout the NFL.

Given his lack of success during the 2017 season, it’s incredible that the Bills managed to make the playoffs. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that if the Bills roster remains relatively similar to last season, and they improve substantially at the quarterback position, it would be very possible that they could clinch the playoffs during the 2018 season. It’s difficult not to be optimistic when the team accomplished a feat during the 2017 season that many thought would never happen.

It will be interesting to see what the Buffalo Bills come away with at the upcoming NFL draft, as it will be a new significant item of information to analyze. Will the Buffalo Bills land a top quarterback in the first round of the draft? That is a question that will definitely be answered on the evening of April 26th, 2018.

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