Preseason Power Rankings No. 19: Buffalo Bills


The rush of excitement around Buffalo this offseason feels like it has been a long time in coming, but the truth is that you don’t have to refer to Jim Kelly for the last time good feelings surrounded the Bills.

Just look back to last season when the Bills were 5-2 and riding a potent offense to talk of playoff berths to come. Then came the final nine games, all but one a loss, and a return to the feeling that the Bills have been wandering in the NFL desert for far too long. This feels different because the team looks better in many spots than they were after seven games last season, the product of a busy and successful offseason of work by General Manager Buddy Nix.

Coach Chan Gailey has to find a way to weave it all together fast enough for the team to go the distance with a winning record this time or else it will be another case where the cart went before the wagon for the Bills. That wouldn’t be a new outcome for the Bills and it is one that is getting old fast.


The biggest reason for the jolt of optimism in Buffalo was the signing of defensive end Mario Williams as a free agent. He should provide the pass rush that’s been missing for the Bills, especially with fellow free agent signing Mark Anderson on the other end of the line. Throw in Marcell Dareus and a healthy Kyle Williams for one of the better looking defensive lines in the entire league.

C.J. Spiller flashed the ability that made him a first-round pick while filling in for an injured Fred Jackson at the end of last season, giving the Bills a two-back attack with some potency heading into this season. Jackson got the contract bump he wanted, which should make it easier for him to swallow handing some playing time to Spiller in a versatile Buffalo backfield.

The interior of the offensive line should also help the Bills make their way on the ground this season. Guards Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart flank center Eric Wood on a line that’s longer on talent than it is in name recognition. If Erik Pears picks up his play a bit at right tackle and rookie Cordy Glenn is up to the task on the left side, the Bills will be in very good shape up front on offense.


Ryan Fitzpatrick got an extension based on his play during the Bills’ hot start, but his play went in the wrong direction in the second half. Turnovers were the major culprit, something that the Bills hope will go down with a better defense that allows them to take fewer risks on offense. They’d better be right or all the hope for this season will go up in smoke.

It would help if a receiver steps up to help Stevie Johnson in the offense. David Nelson will likely be in the slot and Scott Chandler’s back at tight end, but someone from the group of Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and rookie T.J. Graham needs to step up to make plays on the outside for the Bills offense to take full flight.

Improvement in the pass rush should help the cornerbacks as should the arrival of first-round pick Stephon Gilmore. The Bills were much too prone to big passing plays last season, even with a strong safety tandem of Jairus Byrd and George Wilson, and they can’t have that happen again. Aaron Williams and Terrence McGee need to be better now that Gilmore’s there to do a lot of the heavy lifting or they will be picked on relentlessly by opposing quarterbacks.


Gilmore and Glenn were the first two Buffalo picks in April and each of them filled a huge need for the team. It’s always dangerous to put so much on the shoulders of rookies, but the Bills don’t have much choice based on the play they got at those spots last season.

Fitzpatrick’s need to increase his efficiency was addressed by the addition of David Lee as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Lee, who worked with Tony Romo early in his career, jumped from Ole Miss back to the NFL to help Fitzpatrick and his experience with the Wildcat in Miami and at the University of Arkansas could mean a bigger role for Brad Smith this year.

The arrival of Williams and Anderson is vital to the shift to a 4-3 defensive look under coordinator Dave Wannstedt. The Bills have the pieces to make it work, including linebackers Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard, and a quick transition should mean a much better defensive team in Buffalo this season.

Camp Battles.

We’ve touched on the situations at receiver and cornerback already, so we’ll only briefly reiterate that sorting out the depth charts at those spots will be a big part of training camp.

Glenn is going to have to beat out Chris Hairston for the left tackle job, a task he got started with in the spring when he took most of the first team snaps. The Bills want Glenn to win the job, so he probably will with Hairston becoming a swing tackle in the regular season.

Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen will battle for the backup quarterback job and Smith’s presence means the loser will be looking for work. If Fitzpatrick struggles as much as he did down the stretch last season, it’s not unthinkable that the backup will get a shot at replacing him this season.


The hopefulness around the Bills this season comes from a very real place and the team is clearly priming themselves for a run at a playoff spot right now. Falling short of that goal will be a disappointment, one that will be magnified if Fitzpatrick plays a big role in the team missing the expectations set by their busy offseason.

For that playoff spot to materialize, the Bills will have to hit on all the question marks we mentioned in the course of this preview. Gilmore, Glenn and a receiver will need to step up to shore up troubling areas on a team that otherwise looks as solid as any we’ve seen in Buffalo since Chris Berman was still picking them to go to the Super Bowl every season.

Should those spots cease to be troubles, 10 wins and a playoff spot are well within this team’s reach. With a few breaks, even a bid for a division title isn’t out of the question.

18 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 19: Buffalo Bills

  1. I see people constantly (including PFT) bashing how Fitzpatrick played last season.

    I just don’t see it. The guy has great ability and pulled several of those games out of the dumper when the porous defense just kept giving up points. That is WHY they were 5-2 and beat New England and were talking playoffs. Pretty much ALL Fitzpatrick.

    It’s not a surprise to ANYONE that a team that has to put the ball up 50 times and is behind by many points won’t win too many of those.

    Blaming Fitzpatrick for turnovers when the team had to throw too much to overcome huge deficits is just silly, and unaware of how the NFL works.

    I recall a time when Jim Kelly played EXACTLY the same way. Before they had the talent, he went down throwing (usually an interception) on the last play of the game, but that is just how he played.

    Too much chatter and over analysis. If he has receivers and a decent defense, I see them winning a lot of games, and him being in the running for a pro-bowl spot.

    And for the record.. I’m NOT a Bills fan.

    Just happen to think the disparaging of Fitzpatrick just does not reflect the facts in the slightest.

  2. “the cart went before the wagon for the Bills”
    The horse is flabbergasted, demands an explanation and wants an apology.

  3. As long as TB and BB are in New England, the best hope is a wild card and road playoff game.

  4. 1) The Bills have an overall better roster than the NY Jets. I don’t see why they are going to be ranked below them.

    2) If 10 wins and a playoff spot are well within reach, why rank them #19 overall? It would make more sense based on the evaluations that Buffalo would be ranked more like #12-16.

  5. #19 doesn’t bother me. With the offseason as good as it was but last season ending the way it did, who really knows what to expect. They are in full show-me-now mode. And that’s fine with me.

  6. The Bills have a chance to play defense again, the main reason they made 4 Superbowls in a row & the reason they last made the playoffs in 1999.

  7. Buddy Nix has pieced together a ton of talent…Chan Gailey has a team of coaches perfectly tailored to his players…if they all execute the sky’s the limit…but right now number 19 feels right to me…i don’t remember the last time they had a winning record in the Division…they need to deliver on the promise…before they are crowned AFC East contenders…I expect that this is the year…but first things first…lets win some games…go Bills

  8. I’m a Bills fan, and I think this is a fair ranking.

    This is the best they’ve looked in the offseason since Doug Flutie was cut. The 5-2 start felt a whole lot different than the 5-1 start a few years ago, when they feasted on terrible teams. This is Fitzpatrick’s second full season as the starter but his first with a true training camp, FredEx and Stevie are back, signed and healthy and the O-line is no longer in shambles.

    On defense, there is obviously the revamped D-line and the defensive backfield that will hopefully see the benefits of a pass rush and new talent. Leodis McKelvin has been a colossal bust and Terrence McGee can’t stay healthy so a lot is going to be put on Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore.

    Everyone is excited about the Mario Williams signing, including me, and also about Mark Anderson on the other side. We don’t know if he will be the next Reggie White-esque signing, who became even more unstoppable with Green Bay, or if it will flame out as a colossal FA bust. Either way, I like the shift in the organizational culture that has been reflected this offseason in that the team is stating that it is no longer afraid to pay quality players in an effort to bring a winning attitude back to Buffalo.

    Even if Mario’s sack totals aren’t what you’d expect out of a $100M DE, I think you have to respect the fact that the Bills are tired of being a doormat and a laughingstock and are determined to bring a winner back to Buffalo.

    Until they prove it in games that count, however, they aren’t going to be ranked much better than 18-22 by any power ranking that’s worth a damn.

  9. I agree with Billy. If PFT feels the Bills are good enough for 10 wins and a possible wild card they should be listed higher. As far as the Jets, I would’nt worry too much about them being ranked higher. They’ve beaten the Bills 5 straight. And even though their off season was nothing to shout about (unless you love Tebow), the Bills are much better in alot of key positions. I see alot of sacks and hurried throws for Sanchez, Brady and whatever Miami QB plays.

  10. Happy to see my boys getting some positive ink. Optimism is high locally. PFT did drop the ball as it is Urbik who starts not Rinehart…but accuracy should improve with more wins & respect.

  11. bills a lot better than the jets? really? buffalo didnt play an ounce of d last year.

  12. grogansheroes says:Jul 15, 2012 3:45 PM

    As long as TB and BB are in New England, the best hope is a wild card and road playoff game


    Bills are on the rise and had a great offseason. But, you bills homers that automatically give that statement all those thumbs down are just dumb. That’s how it is. Pats are loaded this yr and will cruise to the bye.

  13. 19 is fair, for now. A week 1 division win over the Jets would be huge. That happens, they will not be 19 for long.

    I think the sun is setting on the Pats.

    Brady goes down… season all but done
    Fitz goes down… season might be salvageable
    Sanchez goes down… Tebow time, who knows
    and who cares about Miami?

  14. This year’s offseason champs, which translates to this year’s in season chumps. The team tied up an awful lot of money in Mario Williams. He better be everything expected and more. Even if he is, this team has too many holes. Anyone that really knows football and personnel knows this. The offensive line is poor. Jackson is in his early thirties and coming off a broken leg, and, well, Spiller is Spiller, which is not so good. Dareus showed he was an average player last year, not a superstar. The rest of the defense is plain bad, including Merriman who has nothing left.

    I’m not sure where all the hype came from, but this will continue to be a bad football team. It will be crystal clear by about week 6 when the Bills are 2-4. The only teams I see Buffalo beating in this stretch are Cleveland and Arizona. No way the Bills beat the Jets, KC, NE, and SF. There’s a soft spot with the Colts, Jags, and Rams weeks 12-14, but by then it won’t matter. It’s a joke this team is rated higher than Oakland. The Raiders have a much stronger roster man for man.

  15. You Bills fans are so predictable. Every year its the same thing. This years gonna be the year and now you’ve got the national media buying in. God help us if they actually win 3 or 4 games in a row again. I love the Williams signing for them but come on, Stevie isn’t a #1 receiver, and Fitz wont get you anymore than 8 wins. So enjoy another mediocre season that may or may not end with a win more than the jets and dolphins.

  16. jcampol—> How is Stevie Johnson not a #1 receiver? Many people think that Darelle Revis is one of if not the best CB in the league right? Did you happen to see what Johnson was able to do on Revis? SJ owns Revis Island. So he wasn’t drafted until round 7, and he didn’t start right away, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a #1 wideout, look at Victor Cruz. Go Bills!!!!

  17. You know who else I’ve seen own Revis? Ted Ginn. That doesn’t make him a #1. Victor Cruz is not a #1 either, Hakeem Nicks is. Cruz is a great complement to Nicks, just as Stevie Johnson would be. But he is not a #1.

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