Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Buffalo Bills, who finished the season 9-7. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.
Westgate odds of winning Super Bowl LIII: 80-1
Lots of work to do: It might be a surprising classification for a team that made the playoffs in 2017 and seemed to be on the upswing, but this has been the theme of general manager Brandon Beane's public comments since the season ended. "We have a long way to go," Beane said Jan. 9. "We really do. We have a lot of work to do." There is a general feeling the Bills maximized the output of a mediocre-at-best roster this past season and an understanding it took a miraculous touchdown by the Cincinnati Bengals for the Bills to qualify for the postseason.
"What I love about this group is that [coach] Sean [McDermott] and his staff have just gotten everything out of it," Beane told SiriusXM NFL radio in October. "We’re not pretending that we’re fully stocked. But we got a lot of guys [who] play hard every week. We feel like we’re getting the most out of what we got."
The challenge for Beane and McDermott as they both enter their second seasons in Buffalo is to advance the Bills beyond a fringe playoff team and into a club that can compete for a Super Bowl. It likely will not be a one-year process, in part because the Bills had an older roster in 2017 that Beane has acknowledged must get younger in 2018. With youth comes inexperience and growing pains, which could result in a multi-year process to become a contender depending on the level of roster retooling this offseason.
Quarterback is expected to be at the center of Buffalo's roster overhaul. The Bills are most likely to draft a young quarterback in hopes of developing him to push the team further than Tyrod Taylor managed in his past three seasons as the starter. Buffalo is less likely to sign (or trade for) an established starter such as Kirk Cousins to become instant contenders in 2018.
The Bills are more than a quarterback away from competing for a title next season. There are lingering questions about a passing game that ranked 31st last season and included underwhelming production from Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones and Charles Clay -- who all battled injuries. The offensive line must deal with a career-ending injury to center Eric Wood, and the Bills can upgrade at several spots along a front seven that allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game this past season. Cornerback will also be an area of need if the Bills lose E.J. Gaines in free agency.