32 teams in 32 days: Buffalo
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 05, 2008
Our off-season study of 32 teams in 32 days continues with a look at ...
THE BUFFALO BILLS
(This Buffalo fan video shows us just how tough it is to be a Bills fan. Seriously, when your video opens with a clip of an alleged double murderer and is forced by lack of suitable content to mention Wade Phillips, you realize the true heartbreak of riding the Bills bandwagon.)
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2007 record: 7-9 (252-354)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 1-7
Expected W-L (based on PF/PA): 4.9-11.1
Franchise record: 341-375-8 (.477)
Playoff record: 14-15 (.483)
Last five seasons: 34-46 (.425)
Best Quality Stat in 2007: Bendability Index (10th) and Big Play Index (10th)
Worst Quality Stat in 2007: Defensive Hog Index (32nd)
Best game of 2007: Week 5, 25-24 loss at home to Dallas. Hard to find a silver lining on a loss in the NFL and this was one nut-kicker of a defeat. But remember the state of the Bills early in the season. They lost tight end Kevin Everett to a potentially life threatening spine injury (along with three defensive starters) in their Week 1 loss to Denver. They were 1-3 heading into the showdown with the unbeaten Cowboys and were led by rookie Trent Edwards at quarterback. Buffalo nearly pulled out a shocking win on national television before Nick Folk's last-second field goal lifted Dallas to victory. The Bills went 6-5 over the final 11 weeks, giving embittered Buffalo fans hope for the future.
Strength: Defensive efficiency. The Bills were not particularly stout on defense, as evidenced by their No. 31 ranking in total defense (362.9 YPG) and a group of Defensive Hogs rated dead last in the NFL last year. But the Bills played smart, efficient defense, as evidenced by their No. 10 ranking in our Bendability Index and a shocking No. 10 ranking in our Big Play Index. The Bills ranked highly not because they produced a lot of Big Plays. They didn't (just 40). But they allowed just 34 Big Plays all year. Only New England and Tampa allowed fewer.
Weakness: Defensive line; overall offense. The Bills are certainly a team with statistical flaws. In fact, it seems a miracle they even won 7 games. The Defensive Hogs were dead last in the NFL and among the worst in the league in every single Defensive Hog category. Offensively, the Bills did little to inspire confidence. In Scoreability, our measure of offensive efficiency, they were a mere 29th in the league. Buffalo's Offensive Hogs weren't much better (26th), and the passing offense, as measured by Passing Yards Per Attempt aspired to mediocrity (21st).
Most underrated player: Kicker Rian Lindell. A freaking kicker??!! Well, we guess it says a lot about the state of the Bills when a kicker is their most underrated player. The few talented players on the roster – Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, Terrence McGee, Aaron Schobel – seem to get a fair amount of respect. Lindell, meanwhile, is one of the best kickers in the league. His kickoff prowess is merely about average, but he's nailed a remarkable 47 of 52 (90.4%) field goals over the past two seasons, kicking mostly in Buffalo and often in other bad-weather arenas, such as Gillette Stadium and Giant Stadium. Still, he's missed just five field goals over the past two seasons, an average of one whiff every six games. There isn't a team in the league that wouldn't kill for that kind of rate. He's never missed an XP, either, in eight years in the league, a perfect 248 of 248, and never had a place-kick of any kind blocked.
Unit on the rise: Quarterbacks. J.P. Losman has ranged anywhere from mercurial to disappointing to whiny during his four years in Buffalo. But the rise of rookie Trent Edwards has the potential to make this position a strong unit for a Bills organization in desperate need of a quarterback ever since the Doug Flutie days. Edwards came off the bench early in the season, and again late, steadying the offensive ship with smart, efficient if unspectacular play. Both are under 27, and both could conceivably break through as a franchise QB. Edwards had a passer rating of 70.2 as a rookie that shows some promise, and Losman has been around the 80 mark in his last two seasons. With competition and depth at the position, Losman/Edwards is a slightly downgraded version of Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn.
Youth/experience: The Bills remain an incredibly young team, probably the youngest in the NFL when the 2008 rosters are set. They had 26 players on the 2007 roster in either their first or second seasons last year. Peerless Price the only player on the roster (as of now) who will be in his 10th year in the NFL. Recently acquired defensive tackle Marcus Stroud (from Jacksonville) will be, in his 8th year, one of the most experienced players on the roster in 2008.
2007 Draft grade: A-. Six of Buffalo's seven picks made the roster (along with eight undrafted FAs), and the Bills nailed their first three selections. Marshawn Lynch became the team's No. 1 running back. Paul Posluszny was an impact player as Buffalo's starting middle linebacker – but only for three games before suffering a season-ending arm injury. Trent Edwards played steadily at quarterback and showed signs of becoming Buffalo's quarterback of the future.
2008 Draft picks: 1st (11), 2nd (41), 3rd (71)*, 3rd (72), 4th (110), 5th (137)**, 5th (141), 6th (172), 7th (203), 7th (208), *From Baltimore; **from Chicago
General Draft strategy: This is a legacy draft for Buffalo. The Bills selected fairly wisely in last year's draft. But with a cornucopia of picks here in 2008 – 10 picks overall and four of the first 72 selections – they have the opportunity to make the team a legitimate contender in the one-horse race that has been the AFC East this decade. The needs of course, are many. Buffalo would benefit most from finding an impact player or two along the defensive line or at linebacker to aid the returning Posluszny, who will essentially be a rookie again in 2008, and a weapon in the passing game alongside Evans. Buffalo has drafted well over the past decade, but none of their No. 1 picks prior to 2004 (Lee Evans) are still on the roster.
Coaching: Dick Jauron isn't exactly on the hot seat. But he has a checkered past – a 13-3 season in Chicago that ended with a one-and-done appearance in the playoffs and was followed by a 4-12 campaign the next year. And while he's had little to work with, back to back 7-9 seasons still don't amount to much. Still, the team's general efficiency – especially on defense – and the fact that the Bills managed seven wins with limited talent speaks well of the job Jauron's staff did last year. Key on Jauron's staff is special teams/assistant head coach Bobby April. Buffalo was fourth in the NFL on the Special Teams Index under April, who is in his third year with Jauron in Buffalo after a previous stint. Former NFL QB Turk Schonert gets his first shot as a coordinator after 15 years as a quarterbacks coach, replacing Steve Fairchild. Perry Fewell is in his third season as the defensive-minded Jauron's DC.
Overview: Buffalo fans are desperate for a winner, and there are conflicting signs as to their chances to actually get one. The Bills were 7-9 in 2008, meaning a good draft , good health and continued growth could get them to 10-6. But they also played to a 5-11 record last year, and young players don't always grow. The zygote of potential is there, but is it the potential for playoff contention or No. 1 pick contention?
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