The Buffalo Bills will head into the 2017 season with their seventh different head coach since the turn of the millennium as a 7-9 campaign saw the end of Rex Ryan’s tenure.
The Bills failed to capitalise on Tom Brady’s absence at the start of the campaign and finished third in the AFC East to miss the playoffs for the second term on the bounce.
Buffalo extended their absence from the post-season for a 17-straight campaign due to their inconsistent form in the second half of the term.
The club’s owners made the decision to end Ryan’s time at Orchard Park following their failure, replacing him with Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
There are huge challenges ahead for the Bills to simply compete in their division in their desperate attempt to end their playoff drought.
We’ll now take a look back at the last campaign to see what went wrong for the Bills and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the post-season.
The Bills were handed a tough task on the opening day as they pitted against the Baltimore Ravens on the road. Ryan’s men battled well, but their offense struggled throughout the contest, putting up just seven points, which culminated in a 13-7 defeat.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and company found life against Ryan’s old club – the New York Jets in week two of the season. They put 31 points on the board, only for the defense to allow 37 in turn to see the Bills slip to their second defeat on the spin.
The result surprisingly ended the tenure of offensive coordinator Greg Roman – who was fired with Anthony Lynn promoted to the position.
The move appeared to pay off as Taylor tormented the Arizona Cardinals to drive his side to their first win of the campaign, while they took advantage of the absence of Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo to beat the New England Patriots in week four, claiming a rare 16-0 win at Gillette Stadium.
Buffalo were beginning to mount a serious challenge in the division to trouble the Patriots, stacking together wins over the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. Their win over the 49ers was a forceful one as LeSean McCoy racked up the yards to destroy Chip Kelly’s men with three touchdowns.
Ryan’s men moved to 4-2 and had a must-win contest against the struggling Miami Dolphins in week seven. However, under pressure the Bills failed to rise to the occasion, breaking the mental fortitude they had built in their four-game run, losing 28-25 as Jay Ajayi rushed for 200 yards.
The following week Brady tore them apart at Orchard Park throwing four touchdowns, while the Seattle Seahawks fended off a late surge from Taylor to inflict another loss in week nine.
Buffalo came out of the bye week firing on all cylinders on defense, holding the Cincinnati Bengals to 12 points in a scrappy contest on the road.
Taylor and his offense clicked just enough to secure the win to end their losing run and get the team back to 5-5.
Taylor and McCoy were on song to deliver two fine performances in the Bills’ victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on home soil – in a contest that Ryan’s men always appeared to be in control of in the second half.
The result improved their record to 6-5 and gave Buffalo an outside shot at the playoffs, but once again their composure failed at the vital moment in the season against the Oakland Raiders.
The Bills were in control of the contest in the third quarter, taking a 24-9 lead thanks to good play from McCoy and Mike Gillislee, but they capitulated in the fourth allowing the Raiders to score 29-striaght points to claim the victory.
Torrid conditions plagued their match against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Bills had no answer for the rushing ability of Le’Veon Bell. He ran for 236 yards to all but end Buffalo’s hopes of reaching the playoffs, leaving them at 6-7 for the campaign.
A victory over the Cleveland Browns gave them hope, but another meltdown at the hands of the Dolphins ended their charge and Ryan’s tenure at the club as Andrew Franks kicked a late field goal to hand Adam Gase’s men the win.
Ryan was not allowed to see out the term as he was fired and replaced temporarily by Lynn, who oversaw their final-day defeat to the Jets, as the club ended the term 7-9.
General manager Doug Whaley and Ryan were apparently at odds with each other of the play of quarterback Taylor. With Ryan backing his man, while Whaley wanted to go in another direction or even back towards former first-round pick EJ Manuel.
He managed to convince owner Terry Pegula that he was in the right and as a result of the Bills’ failure to reach the playoffs – Ryan was the man fired along with his brother Rob.
The Bills’ first port of call is to address their quarterback situation whether to press forward with Taylor or allow another man to take the reins.
The 27-year-old is due a big payday and that could force the matter out of their hands perhaps forcing them to select a new signal-caller in the draft.
Elsewhere, the club have a number of key free agents that need to be re-signed. Stephon Gilmore and Zach Brown were key parts of the defense last term and should be considered a priority.
The Bills are not blessed with a great deal of cap space and may have to part with veterans such as Kyle Williams in order to retain their younger talent.
Other than Taylor on offense the club should be looking to keep Robert Woods and Gillislee. Both players were not the number one options at their positions, but did provide a nice complement to McCoy and Sammy Watkins. Their reliability should not be overlooked.
In the draft the Bills could go in a lot of directions, although adding youth to their offensive line could be good call, especially early in the selection process where a top prospect could fall into the laps given the needs of the other teams ahead of them.
McDermott faces a challenge to reverse the fortunes of the club and end their 17-year wait for post-season football. Keeping Taylor could give them their best chance of remaining competitive in the AFC East given his knowledge of the division, therefore backing him to be on the Bills’ roster at -170 with BetOnline sportsbook would be a smart option.
Alternatives at the position could be veterans Tony Romo or Jay Cutler. Both men are poised to be available with Romo poised to be released by the Dallas Cowboys after being replaced by Dak Prescott. He would see a long shot to move to western New York, but at +350 would present decent value.
Cutler is also scheduled to be released, but given his suggestion that he is considering retirement – may not be a good addition for the club. However, stranger things have happened and +400 could be an intriguing bet to take.
Reaching the playoffs may be a step too far for the Bills to take, and even the boldest of punters may quiver at the thought of backing McDermott to take the club to the Super Bowl in his first term.
Rookie head coaches have sprung surprises before and at +3600 to win the AFC Conference – the price may present a good chance to rack up a decent earner.
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