I wrote this piece before the season started and now its time to see how smart or stupid I am. As I’ve alluded to it multiple times, writers and lamestreamers alike will be the first to break their hand patting themselves on the back if they get something right in sports, but will bitch slap you in the face if you remind them how they got one of their hot takes wrong. Well, I like to learn from my mistakes and be able to laugh and cry at them. So, I hope you do the same while reading this piece.
1) How many games will the Bills win? 7
This was my number before preseason and even before the summer started. Let me break it down for you. I am looking at how the team performed last year and what they did in the offseason to improve. That’s how I came to this number. Last year, the Bills could have gone 10-6 if they had stayed healthy. Of course, there were also games they won they should have lost. I still maintain if you have a great defense + solid RB + average QB play, you can make it into the playoffs. However, I see the defense slipping a bit under Schwartz and being just good and the QB play being slightly below average.
Real answer: 9
Yeah, I was off by 2 games and the defense didn’t slip at all. In fact, they got better. I underestimated the defense and overrated the running game. The Bills QB play was slightly below average (18th in passing yards and 15th in TD passes).
2) Who will the Bills beat? Miami, San Diego, Houston, Minnesota, New York Jets, Kansas City, and Cleveland.
The Bills seem to always split games with Miami and the Jets. The Bills should have beat the Chiefs last year because as much as everyone hates EJ right now, he is/was better than Jeff Tuel was against Kansas City. Minnesota doesn’t have a QB (yeah, okay, we may not either) and lacks the other talent the Bills have. San Diego will fall into the “West Coast stinks on the East Coast” category for me. It will be a close game. I think they squeak one out against Cleveland as the Bills have the better all around team and I’m not buying Bobby Hoyer.
Real answer: Miami, Jets (twice), Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, Green Bay, Miami, and New England
Damn. I got half the list. That’s not really good. The Kansas City game was the biggest blow to our season and should have made this list. Oh, and screw you with the New England finale. If they played their starters, they win.
3) Who will beat the Bills? Patriots (twice), Jets, Dolphins, Raiders, Broncos, Green Bay, Chicago, and the Lions.
As I said above, the Bills tend to split with the Dolphins and Jets . I’ll never ever have the Bills beating the Pats as long as Tom Brady is breathing. Green Bay and Detroit have waaaaaay too much offense. Denver might be a game that requires a lot of liquor. Playing in Oakland seems difficult and also falls in the “East playing on the West Coast” category. That may be the crappiest game of the year in terms of quality by both teams.
Real answer: New England, Miami, Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Houston, Chiefs.
The “waaaaaaaaay too much offense” comment was wrong, mostly because our defense was lights out this year. The Denver game didn’t require that much liquor and the final score look more respectable than it really was. We covered the KC game. Funny how I picked Oakland before season, but changed it before the game in my staff predictions piece.
4) Will CJ Spiller have over 1,200 yards rushing? Yes
If CJ Spiller didn’t get hurt last year, he would have had over 1,200 yards. You could tell that during the 3-4 week stretch after getting hurt against Baltimore, he wasn’t at 100%. The Bills love to run the football and are playing seven of the bottom 13 teams in rush defense from last year. Spiller is too talented and I think he’ll have some big games. Just has to stay healthy.
Real answer: NO!
Damn. I was really off on this one. Even if Spiller didn’t get hurt, 1000 yards wasn’t in the cards. He never rushed for more than 70 yards in a game this season and averaged 4 yards or fewer per carry in 7 of his name 9 games he played in. He’s been a good running back before, but the Bills adaption of a power running game, rotating backs in and out, and his injury did no favors for him.
5) Will EJ Manuel have over 18TDs? YES!
My confidence in EJ is obviously shaken, and most of it has to do with him not really providing evidence that he can be an NFL QB. Of course, 10 pro games isn’t really a fair barometer. The Bills actually have a pretty soft schedule in terms of opposing pass defense. They face seven teams who finished in the bottom 10 for pass defense from last year. If EJ was healthy all of last year, I think he would have hit 16-20 TDs. I think he’ll be better this year and since 25 TDs is average for an NFL QB, I don’t think 18 is too much of a stretch.
Real answer: No
I didn’t think EJ was close to being in danger of being benched when the season started. I just thought they were gonna stand by him. However, I think his marginal play mixed in with a new owner coming to town put Marrone in a “Win now!” approach. As a team, the Bills had 23 TD passes and all EJ would have had to do was average a little over a TD a game. I think if he was healthy/didn’t get benched, he would have gotten it. Of course, only 4 other teams had fewer than 18 TDs passing, so, its not like 18 was that hard to get to.
6) Who will lead the team in receiving? Robert Woods
This is a tough one. You don’t spend a #4 pick in the draft on a player who won’t lead the team in receiving. However, being a rookie and having teams know he’s your best option could be difficult for Sammy Watkins to overcome. I thought about Scott Chandler because EJ loves going to the TE, but Chandler’s ceiling always seems to be 50 catches and he’s battling injuries. Mike Williams is the veteran of the group and has the size to make up for EJ’s inaccuracies. However, I’m going with Woods. Based on what we saw of EJ last season as well as this preseason, I think Woods and EJ have developed chemistry. The Bills play a lot of 3-WR looks and I think Woods will be able to take advantage of the amount of WRs on the field.
Real answer: Fred Jackson
Pssh. I didn’t even have Jackson as a possible candidate. Keep in mind the Bills hardly used their backs in the passing game in 2013. Anyways, Jackson had 66 catches and Watkins/Woods had 65 each. Watkins/Woods are the first duo at WR to have over 65 catches since Moulds and Price in 2002. Keep in mind Woods missed a game this season and he probably could have overtaken the lead. Of course, Jackson missed a game as well.
7) Who will lead the team in INTs? Aaron Williams
This was between Corey Graham (10 career INTs) and Williams (4 INTs last year), but I decided to go with the guy who will be on the field more often. Gilmore/McKelvin haven’t proven to be ball hawk defenders in terms of INTs. Williams will be responsible for the middle of the field, and I think he’ll have more opportunities to get tipped passes for INTs.
Real answer: Leodis McKelvin (4)
McKelvin struggeled at the start of the season (Gave up 22 catches for 296 yards and 73% completion in first 5 games) and was picked on a lot by opposing QBs. While he sometimes gave up big plays, he also made some big ones as at one point during the season he lead the NFL in picks. Who knows if he could have added to it. Aaron Williams had a stellar season, but only got 1 INT. Profootball focus had him as only being targeted just 30 times on the season. So, that’s probably why his number was low.
8) Who will make the pro bowl for the Bills? Marcell Dareus/Kyle Williams
Yeah, I’m keeping it predictable. I think if you look at what has been positive about Schwartz’s defenses in the past, it is that DTs seemed to flourish in his system (Suh/Haynesworth). As for Mario Williams, I don’t know if he’ll be able to duplicate his 13.5 sack season with a defense that won’t blitz as much. Oh, and forget offensive pro bowlers.
Real answer: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Mario Williams
2 out of 3 ain’t bad as that old song that I’m too lazy to look up used to say. I was really wrong on the pass rush. Williams had a career high in sacks and was arguably the Bills best defensive player.
9) Who will be 2nd on the team in sacks? Jerry Hughes
I think most would predict Mario will lead the team in sacks for a 3rd straight year. Hughes has had a really good camp, and I think the Bills would be fools to not play him more this year than last year. This is a big year for Jerry as he’ll be a free agent after this season. He’ll obviously want to make some cheddar. I almost went with Dareus here, but I think Hughes being the more polished pass rusher will put him over the top. The only thing that could get in his way is if the defensive system changes and playing time affects him.
Real answer: Marcell Dareus
Hey, remember when Sully wanted to cut Dareus? Let’s never let that hot take down. I was off by .5 sack as Dareus had 10 and Hughes had 9.5. D’oh! The defensive line was lights out this year. Keep in mind Dareus missed the finale and most of the Oakland game. Alright, I’m making excuses. Both guys are about to get paid.
10) Who will be the most improved player on defense? Nigel Bradham
With Kiko out, Bradham is going to be expected to pick up the slack. When you look at Bradham, he has some talent and he’s had a nice preseason. When he was actually on the field last year, he fared pretty well. I think having Spikes play next to him will really help him in terms of experience and to freelance more cause Spikes is so good.
Real answer: Nigel Bradham
You could go Searcy here since he had a really nice year, but I need to be right for a change. Alright, not really. But I think the LB core was a revelation, specifically in pass coverage. Bradham was ranked as the 13th best OLB in a 4-3 defense by PFF. He also had the 8th most tackles by an OLB and had 7 tackles for losses which tied for the team lead.
11) Who will be the most improved player on offense? EJ Manuel
“YOU BLIND, JOE…YOU BLIND!?” Yeah, I’d probably be thinking the same thing in your shoes. Seriously though, who has the biggest glass ceiling to crash through? Its EJ. Everyone on offense is pretty much where they should be for their career. CJ is CJ, Fred is Fred, and Wood is Wood. Maybe Robert Woods gets better, but I think because EJ is so low on the totem pole in terms of where he’s at as an NFL pro, he has more space to improve. At this point, EJ is like the high school student who has gotten straight Ds for two semesters. If he brings home a B-, it’s a huge breakthrough.
Real answer: No one
Alright, so EJ getting benched ruined everything if he’s mentioned on this list. However, no one really got much better. In fact, mostly everyone regressed. I guess you can make the case that Woods improved since he upped his catch total. But did he really improve or just gain more experience? Anyways, they got A LOT to do on offense.
12) What will be the most entertaining game this year? Bills/Chargers
Something about this game makes me think it will be exciting. I think Philip Rivers is just such a wildcard when he plays, and that is the big draw for me. I just see this game being decided in the final minutes.
Real answer: Green Bay
Yeah, the SD game was quite boring for most of it and the Bills losing didn’t help at all. Green Bay takes the cake as the defense shutdown Aaron Rodgers and it may be the biggest upset the Bills have had in the last 15 years. That win probably saved Marrone’s job.
13) What will be the most embarrassing game this year? Bills/Broncos
Ugh. I can already predict Bills fans being miserable heading into this game. We will not be able to get over losing our 1st round pick to Cleveland and wondering if it will go in the top 10. Denver’s offense is a fricken machine. This could end very badly and might be one of those games where I’d rather be slamming a cab door into my nuts than watch this.
Real answer: Oakland
To lose to a team that had zero wins by the time November rolled around is embarrassing enough. Yet to lose to them when the playoffs are on the line? That’s a double-whammy.
14) Who will be the Bills rookie of the year? Sammy Watkins
It’s really between Watkins and Henderson right now. This is mainly due to Henderson pretty much being the starting RT. However, I think the offensive line play will be shoddy this year as a whole. Watkins is at a position where he’ll be expected to make a lot of plays and will be an easy target in terms of getting accolades. WR has a bit more pizazz than OT.
Real answer: Sammy Watkins
This really was an easy prediction to make. Watkins pretty much owns team rookie records in yards/catches. He was the biggest reason they beat the Vikings and Dolphins in earlier games this year. In fact, I’d call him the team’s offensive MVP. Alright, that’s mostly because the offense sucked this year. Preston Brown was a respectable 2nd in the rookie ballot. Henderson was just a guy.
15) Who will Bills fans most want to fire into the sun? EJ Manuel
Um, have you been on Twitter lately? There’s so much resentment towards him right now that, at this point, he’ll need a 25 TD year to save his ass from the Bills merfia. I may have been wrong when I said Schwartz was under more pressure. I totally forgot we have zero patience and hate life.
Real answer: All of the Quarterbacks
This is a tough one. EJ was very close since the guy got benched after 4 weeks. A lot of folks were howling at the moon for this to happen. Then Kyle Orton came in and he was good for a month and then he went into the toilet. No one liked these guys when it was all said and done. Marrone is close on this list, but some will point to 9 wins as a way to applaud him. I think everyone hated the QBs this year. So, enjoy the sun and the crispy tan you are about to get.
16) How many TDs will Fred Jackson have? 5
Jackson was pretty much the goal line specialist last year as 8 of his 9 TDs were in goal line situations. I could see Boobie Dixon taking a big chunk out of it because of the girthness of his ass, so, I think Fred’s number will go down a bit.
Real answer: 2
Have I told you yet how much I hated the running game this year? The Bills had serious issues in the redzone as they were 29th in converting TDs inside the 20 (41 percent). Inside the opponents 10 yard line, Jackson had 15 carries for 21 yards and 2TDs. Also, Boobie Dixon chipped in with 2TDs and took away some of the goal line carries.
17) Will the Bills allow more sacks than last year’s total (48)? Yes.
When you had like 3 OL position battles in training camp, you know you have issues. Sorry if I’m skeptical about having two mid to late round rookies starts from day 1. Maybe they will become good players by next year, but as rookies? Eh. Also, Erik Pears -who was supposed to get cut 20 times by now- is our starting guard… I think. Anyway, it’s a mess. It’s amazing since the 48 sacks the Bills gave up was the most in over a decade. Chan Gailey’s pass protection scheme is rolling over in its football grave.
Real answer: 39
Gees. I don’t remember hating last year’s offensive line as much as I did this year. Yet, the sack numbers are lower. I think because they were better running the football in 2013 was the reason why I wasn’t this pissed off. The Bills actually gave up 23 sacks during the first 8 games of the season, but tightened up their pass protection by allowing just 16 the rest of the way. Anyways, the line still sucks.
18) What game will I be most drunk at? Bills/Bears
Its funny, but I’ve never been the guy to get drunk beyond comprehension at Bills games. I like to have a nice buzz and remember the game later. That’s why Bills/Dolphins, which I’m going to, isn’t on the list. However, when it comes to McFaddens and the all-you-can-drink special, it gets dicey. Last year, I lost my eyeglasses while taking a drunken cab ride home after the Carolina game. This year, I may need a granny eyeglass chain to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Real answer: I wasn’t
Really. I was pretty sober for most of the games. I drank beforehand but I usually curve it by the time kickoff happens. I also went to McFaddens once this season. Yeah, I’m getting old.
19) Who will be the Bills defensive player of the year? Marcell Dareus
It was between Marcell and Mario, but as I alluded to earlier, I think being a DT in Schwartz’s system should take Dareus to another level. I think Marcell probably has the biggest upside on the DL. He is also entering his 4th season ( A good year to really take the next step) and has a lot to prove because of the offseason which will only add to his play. Dareus is coming off a more than solid season as he was 3rd in sacks, 6th in QB hurries, and first in tackles for DTs in a 4-3 system. I’m expecting big things from him.
Real answer: Mario Williams/Marcell Dareus
Yeah, I’m pulling the Co-MVPs card. Seriously, where do you go? Both had double digit sacks. Both are ranked in the top 10 at their position by PFF. In fact, both guys had the most sacks at their position. Flip a coin.
20) Who will be the Bills offensive player of the year? CJ Spiller
I’m expecting a rebound season from CJ. He just needs to stay mostly healthy. The Bills were tied for 10th most 20+ yard runs (11) and tied for 1st for most 40+ yard runs (5) in the NFL last year. Even with an injury, he still had seven games where he averaged 5 yards or more per carry. I just think the Bills understand that EJ has limitations and are going to do everything to make sure not all the pressure is on him. To channel Jenny Gump…”Run, CJ, RUN!”
Real answer: Sammy Watkins
I already alluded to this earlier. I have a hard time finding a player who had a worst contract year than CJ Spiller.
21) Will Mario Williams have more sacks than last year (13)? No
13 is a lot of sacks and since Mario has only had 13 or more sacks once prior to last season, it would be a smart bet to play the under. I just think the lack of blitzing will hurt Mario’s sack production, but not by much. I’d say 10-11 sacks are feasible for him.
Real answer: Yes
Mario had a career high in sacks and the defensive system change was a moot point. Mario made the sack sheet in 12 of his 16 games this year. He has 38 sacks in 48 games as a Bill. You’d have to go all the way back to Bruce Smith’s 3 year span from 1995-1997 (38 sacks) to find the same production from a Bills player over a 3-year stretch.
22) How many games will EJ start? 14
There’s a part of me that thinks EJ could have played in the final two games last year, but the Bills decided to just say screw it because they were out of contention. I mean, EJ finished the game against the Jags, but he couldn’t go the last two games? I think the pressure is on this year, and if EJ can hobble on one leg, he’ll play. I just keep telling myself that he didn’t miss any games in college and last year was just your standard “injuries happen” and not “this is Rob Johnson here.” Now, will he play well? That’s another story.
Real answer: 4
Well, at least he didn’t get hurt. Ugh. Yeah, I had way too many hot EJ takes in this piece. If only I knew he was going to get benched. BTW, it was the wrong move.
23) Who will be the 1st Bills player to piss us off on Twitter when he calls out the fans for booing? Brandon Spikes
Spikes has been all hugs and kisses to the #Billsmafia, but he’s kind of a loose cannon. He’s the same guy who pretty much shat all over Pats fans when he left them last year. (Props for that!). However, he’s coming from a winning tradition and he has no idea what he’ll be in for when the shit hits the fan for the Bills fans. Also, he’s on a 1-year deal, so he may as well piss off the yokels while he’s here.
Real answer: No one
I was really desperate for a prediction and picked this idiotic one. Who cares?! Anyways, I think we could say Whitner pissed us off the most.
24) Who will regress the most this year on defense? Leodis McKelvin
Leodis had a hell of a season last year, but he’s been in and out of camp due to injuries. Also, he’s going under his 5th defensive system in the last six seasons. I think Schwartz’s defense is going to put more pressure on CBs to make hold coverage longer than last year’s blitzkrieg style of defense.
Real answer: No one
Seriously. I think everyone on defense played better or was the same from last year. You aren’t going to have too many defensive players regress if you are playing on a top 5 defense.
25) How many games will Sammy Watkins have over 100 yards? 2
Did you know the last time the Bills had a rookie WR go over 100 yards in a game was Lee Evans against the Bengals in 2004? Yeah, its been awhile. Something tells me Sammy will get off the Bills off the snide. Why just two games? Well, the Bills only had one game last year where a WR went over 100 yards. Also, I think the Bills are really going to spread the ball a lot this year. So, it will be harder for an individual to get over 100 yards.
Real answer: 4
It was a really odd public relations season for Sammy. He was awesome in October (21 catches for 393 yards and 3 TDs) and everyone had him running away with offensive rookie of the year. Then he had a quiet November (13 catches for 105 yards) and ODB made a 1-handed catch and all these assholes came out of the woodshed saying how stupid the Sammy deal was. I thought Sammy had a nice year as a rookie WR. Hey, he’s in the top 15 for most receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history. And like I’ve been saying since this debate came up, Eli is way better than Kyle Orton. Anyways, get him a QB and watch his numbers flourish.