What started out as the season of hope has made a turn for another depressing year for Buffalo Bills fans.
Last season, the Bills finished the season at 9-7 under first-year head coach Sean McDermott. The Bills would make the playoffs thanks to a Week 17 win against its AFC East division foes, the Miami Dolphins, and a last-second touchdown pass from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to beat the Baltimore Ravens.
The drought was over. The 17-year stretch of losing, chaos, sideshows and embarrassment was finally over. Even after “expert analysts” predicted another season to be added to the drought even toward the end of the season, the Bills organization completed what seemed to be the impossible.
Though the season ended in a 10-3 wild card loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the organization showed a great deal of promise for the future.
The Bills had not made the playoffs since the “Music City Miracle” against the Tennessee Titans in 1999. During that stretch, the organization had numerous head coaches, starting quarterbacks, lineups and an ownership change after the passing of then-owner Ralph Wilson Jr.
In the 2018 offseason, the organization was hit with bad luck but also moved towards rebuilding for the future. Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was traded to the Cleveland Browns; starting offensive tackle Cordy Glenn was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals; starting guard Richie Incognito retired as wdid center Eric Wood, who had a neck injury. Others such as linebacker Preston Brown, cornerback E.J. Gaines and wide receiver Jordan Matthews signed with other teams. With so many starters lost, many questions needed to be answered.
The biggest question was who was going to play quarterback. A familiar question for the organization. Nathan Peterman at the start of the season was the only quarterback on the roster. A.J. McCarron signed with the Bills in the offseason to become part of the battle. Josh Allen was drafted out of Wyoming in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. By the start of the season, McCarron was traded and Peterman was named the starter for Week 1 with Allen being the backup.
Peterman’s stint as a starting quarterback did not last long as he was benched after only one game after completing five passes for 24 yards and throwing two interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens. Allen was put into the role as starting quarterback Week 2.
Allen has shown promise as he led the Bills to a Week 3 win against the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings and a Week 5 win in a last minute drive against the Tennessee Titans. More bad luck hit the organization has Allen was injured in Week 6 against the Houston Texans. Peterman entered the game and again “threw” the game away with two late interceptions that led to a Houston win. Veteran quarterback Derek Anderson was signed on Oct. 9 as a mentor for Allen. However do to the injury sustained to Allen, Anderson has taken over the starting quarterback role.
The Bills have remained an average- to below-average offense as they currently sit at the bottom of the NFL. The defense has shown promise from last season but also has been shaky.
The additions of veteran defensive end Trent Murphy, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and cornerback Phillip Gaines help the Bills expand their already above average defense. The Bills drafted linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips in the 2018 draft, who have thus far made in a difference in the defensive front.
Have the Bills shown they are on the rise?
Based on the defense, the team is on the rise. With many young, as well as veteran, faces in the starting lineup, it is a perfect mix of growth and consistency. The defense is a reason why the Bills have won games but also has been a reason they have lost. (But that can be said for every team).
The offense on the other hand can be seen in a different light. Are there bright spots? Yes. Are they good enough to compete for a title? No. There is still too much needed talent before the Bills can be consistently in the playoff picture. The offensive line is average at best, the wide receivers have not shown consistent numbers, and LeSean McCoy is at the tail end of his career.
Compared to last season, the team has declined. However compared to the last decade and a half, this team has promise.
As much as many would love to see a Buffalo Bills playoff appearance again, 2018 just does not seem plausible.
2017 is a year that many Bills fans will remember as the year the drought ended. It was a year of change and a year of putting the organization back in the ranks of competitive and not to be overlooked.
I personally believe, me being the Bills fan that I am, that the Bills are closer than they have been since 1999 to consistently be in the talks of becoming a playoff team once again. 2017 was just the start of a culture change in Buffalo and a change that the city has been waiting for.
Is the 2018 season the start of a new drought or is it the start of what could be a new Buffalo Bills organization that is on the brink of success?