BUFFALO BILLS (10-7)
New faces: WR Stefon Diggs, DEs Mario Addison and rookie A.J. Epenesa, DTs Vernon Butler and Quinton Jefferson, CB Josh Norman, LBs A.J. Klein and Tyler Matakevich, RBs Taiwan Jones and rookie Zack Moss, OLs Brian Winters and Daryl Williams, PK Tyler Bass.
Key losses: DT Jordan Phillips, DE Shaq Lawson, RBs Frank Gore and Senorise Perry, LBs Lorenzo Alexander, Julian Stanford and Maurice Alexander, CB Kevin Johnson, OL LaAdrian Waddle, PK Stephen Hauschka, WR Robert Foster, FB Patrick DiMarco (IR).
Strengths: Familiarity is key for Bills, who return majority of starters, which is considered valuable with coronavirus pandemic-shortened offseason. Offense returns nine starters with exception of Diggs and an offensive lineman to start in place of injured right guard Jon Feliciano. NFL’s No. 3-ranked defense (yards allowed) returns nine starters, with Klein slotted to replace Alexander, and hole needs to be filled at DT after starter Star Lotulelei opted out for season. Also helps that numerous offseason veteran free-agent additions — Butler, Addison and Norman — have ties to head coach Sean McDermott from previous stint as Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator.
Weaknesses: Biggest question mark revolves around QB Josh Allen, and whether he can continue smoothing out inconsistency and accuracy issues entering third season. Allen enjoyed six-point jump from rookie season in completing 58.8% of attempts, and yet still finished 32nd in NFL among starters. Offense struggled generating points in scoring 20 or fewer 11 times, including 22-19 OT loss at Houston in AFC wild-card playoff.
Pandemic Development: McDermott smartly sent rookies home for remote work to calm potential outbreak after five players tested positive in late July. Team opened camp Aug. 17 with no players on COVID-19 list. Had only two players opt out: Lotulelei and CB E.J. Gaines, who was to compete for starting job opposite Tre’Davious White.
Fantasy Player To Watch: Diggs had issues with role in Minnesota despite topping 1,000 yards receiving in each of last two seasons with Kirk Cousins at QB. How quickly he can develop chemistry with Allen and find niche alongside established veterans John Brown and Cole Beasley remains key question.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 28-1. Over/under wins: 9.
Expectations: Team built to win now, and claiming first AFC East title since 1995 is realistic goal, especially with Tom Brady no longer standing in Bills’ way in New England. Buffalo has drastically rebuilt depth at most every position in making playoffs two of past three seasons under McDermott and GM Brandon Beane. Much falls on Allen’s shoulders to prove he can continue upward trend in developing into bona fide starter at position that’s been unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following 1996 season.
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