Buffalo Bills 2023 season preview and predictions
This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.
Dave Tuley: The Bills have been among the NFL’s elite teams the past four years under coach Sean McDermott, winning at least 10 games each season, including when it was just a 16-game schedule. However, they haven’t made it back to the Super Bowl in the last 30 years since losing four straight from 1990-1993. DraftKings has Buffalo as the 5-1 second choice (behind the Chiefs) to win the AFC and 9-1 third choice to win the Super Bowl. Their Over/Under Season Win Total is set at 10.5.
The Bills had the No. 2 offense in the NFL at 394.9 yards per game and No. 3 in scoring at 27.7 points per game. QB Josh Allen was again a one-man wrecking crew as he threw for 4,283 yards and 35 TDs while adding 631 rushing yards and another 8 TDs. He ranked No. 2 in QBR at 71.4. Devin Singletary led the Bills with 819 rushing yards, but he signed with Houston as a free agent in March. James Cook (the No. 3 rusher as Allen was No. 2) is expected to take over the starting role but is also joined by free agent Damien Harris from New England.
Allen’s No. 1 target was again WR Stefon Diggs (108 receptions, 1,429 yards, 11 TDs), but also spread the ball around to Gabe Davis (836 yards, 7 TDs) and Isiah McKenzie (423 yards, 4 TDs) as well as TE Dawson Knox (517 yards, 6 TDs). Diggs was a no-show at minicamp practice in June that was later called an excused absence by McDermott. The situation will certainly be monitored closely when regular training camp opens.
The main focus is always on the high-powered offense, but the Buffalo defense continued to hold up its end of the bargain by allowing just 19.1 points per game (ranked No. 4 in the league) and just 319.4 yards per game (No. 7).
Former Denver LB Von Miller tied for the team lead with 8 sacks (along with DE Greg Rousseau) despite playing only 12 before suffering an ACL injury. He’s expected to be ready to return by the season opener. Tremaine Edmunds led the Bills with 102 total tackles (just ahead of Matt Milano’s 99). Not many people know this, but safety Damar Hamlin finished third on the team with 91 tackles and might have been the leader if not for having his season cut short by his cardiac arrest. Hamlin is also on track to return (and is the clear favorite for Comeback Player of the Year if he does), but Edmunds left for Chicago via free agency.
The Bills have fallen short of expectations in the last few years, but that’s just in the playoffs. We’re not sure if they can get over the hump against the other top contenders in the AFC, most notably the Chiefs, but the Over 10.5 looks like the play again since we only have to concern ourselves with their regular-season performance. McDermott and Allen seem to have the winning formula in that regard.
This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.
Michael Lombardi: Last preseason, the Bills were 31st in the NFL in giving the ball away, which didn’t bother anyone until opening night, when they gave the Rams the ball four times but still won the game by 21 points. Nothing has changed this summer.
The Bills still cannot hold onto the ball and rank 30th in turnover/takeaway. Is this a concern? Yes, and last summer, Josh Allen only attempted three passes and completed all of them. This year, after two games, he was on the field for 10 attempts. When the Bills tried to use their first-team offense to score on the Steelers, they struggled to block TJ Watt and went three and out. On the second drive, penalties forced them to punt the ball back to the Steelers when they faced 4th and 25. They sent Allen back onto the field to correct the mistakes and had another three and out. It wasn’t a good day for the Bills and perhaps a sign of things to come in the AFC East.
With four of their key starters on defense all over 30 and coming off injury, the Bills are not perfect as a team as they start the 2023 season. Can they get it back? Yes, but they need to stay healthy on defense, which is a concern.
Player to Watch: RB James Cook
Cook has officially taken over in Buffalo. The 2022 second-rounder out of Georgia is the primary back and took nearly all of the first-team reps in practice and the preseason games. Cook played sparingly last season to start the year, picking up no more than 18 offensive snaps through Week 12, but he was on the field for at least 36% of the snaps in each of the final five regular season games he played and at least 40% in four of them. His usage did decline in the postseason, but he is the clear, unblocked every-down back now and may see a snap share of 60% or higher in this offense. - Adam Burke
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