3-time AFC East defending champion Bills still considered contenders despite lowered expectations

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)


EXPECTATIONS: The Bills might not be the Super Bowl favorites as they were touted entering last season, and yet they remain a formidable team with Josh Allen entering his sixth year overseeing one of the NFL’s most productive offenses. What also should work in the three-time defending AFC East champion’s favor is not having to endure the numerous on- and off-field issues, injuries and tragedies that led to the Bills being emotionally drained in closing last season with a thud in a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. The team dealt with safety Damar Hamlin’s near-death experience on the field in Cincinnati on Jan. 2, the death of tight end Dawson Knox’s younger brother, Luke, two snowstorms disrupting the team’s schedule and losing DE Von Miller and S Micah Hyde to season-ending injuries. The challenge on offense is for second-year coordinator Ken Dorsey to utilize his various new weapons — speedy receivers Deonte Hardy and Trent Sherfield, and rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid — to counter defenses which too often bottled up the Bills over the final two months last season. On defense, head coach Sean McDermott takes over the play-calling duties for a unit that sagged after Miller was sidelined in November. The Bills have yet to solidify their biggest offseason need at middle linebacker, after losing five-year starter Tremaine Edmunds to free agency. Otherwise, much of the core remains in place for a team that’s reached the playoffs in each of the past four seasons.

NEW FACES: WR Deonte Hardy, WR Trent Sherfield, rookie TE Dalton Kincaid, Edge Leonard Floyd, S Taylor Rapp, QB Kyle Allen, RB Damien Harris, RB Latavius Murray, rookie OG O’Cyrus Torrence, OG Connor McGovern.

KEY LOSSES: LB Tremaine Edmunds, RB Devin Singletary, WR Isaiah McKenzie, OG Rodger Saffold, WR Cole Beasley, QB Case Keenum.

STRENGTHS: One of the NFL’s most experienced and longest-serving secondaries is set to return and is, most importantly, healthy. Starting safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, and cornerback Tre’Davious White have been together since 2017. The trio was split up for much of last season with White limited to playing six games while recovering after tearing a knee ligament in 2021, and Hyde sustaining a season-ending neck injury in Week 2. Poyer, meantime, played through an assortment of injuries.

WEAKNESSES: Middle linebacker and experienced offensive tackle depth. The Bills have yet to determine who will take over the middle linebacker spot following Edmunds’ departure. It remained a three-way competition between Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dodson and A.J. Klein through Buffalo’s third preseason game. The Bills' depth at tackle took significant hits after Brandon Shell was placed on the reserve/retired list and, days later, Tommy Doyle suffered a season-ending left knee injury. That leaves sixth-year player David Quessenberry as Buffalo’s only backup with NFL experience behind starters Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown.

CAMP DEVELOPMENT: Rookie Dalton Kincaid has shown promising signs of becoming a reliable target for Allen. Kincaid, drafted 25th this year out of Utah, led FBS tight ends with 890 yards receiving, and was second at his position with eight TD catches last season.

FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Don’t be scared away by reports of WR Stefon Diggs wanting out of Buffalo — Diggs denies them — or fears of lingering concerns he might have about his role in the offense from last season. Diggs remains Allen’s favorite target by a long shot in having topped 100 receptions in each of his three seasons in Buffalo. The new additions on offense might cut into Diggs’ receptions but also have a chance to draw coverage away from him.

FANDUEL SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 9-1. Over/under wins: 10 1/2.


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