Why so pessimistic?: NFL national media doesn't trust the 2024 Buffalo Bills

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

Why so pessimistic?: NFL national media doesn't trust the 2024 Buffalo Bills

The NFL revealed its 2024 schedule last week, and we could see a lot of projections coming around, especially from the big national media websites. Bleacher Report projected the Bills to go 9-8 and finish third in the division. ESPN has the Bills with 9.2 wins in 2024, in Mike Clay's Projection Guide — the list goes on. However, one common denominator prevails most of the time: A healthy dose of pessimism regarding an AFC powerhouse that “has lost too many centerpieces from their recent successful teams.”

The true value of the departed pieces

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

Tre was a warrior, but it's been a long time since the Bills really counted on him.

You won't ever see me overlooking what players like Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Tre'Davious White, Stefon Diggs, and Mitch Morse meant for the Bills. However, nobody can convince me that those guys aren't past their primes and that their name recognition, especially among national media and NFL fans in general, is way bigger than their on-the-field production at this point of their respective careers.

Sure, it's fair to question whether some of those guys can still be decent contributors for winning teams, but they certainly aren't the All-Pro-caliber players they were in their prime with Buffalo.

Forever a warrior, Jordan Poyer clearly has lost a step or two — which could be noticed by some of the poor angles he took when trying to tackle quicker and faster opposing players last season. Also, the lack of game-changing interceptions from his perch, one of the traits that made him one of the all-time Bills greats, was very noticeable. His partner in crime, Micah Hyde, has struggled to stay on the field with some worrisome neck injuries and, despite still mulling a future with the Bills, the risks might be too high at this point such that it's not even worth considering.

How about Tre’? Like everyone, I love the guy but, let's be honest, the Bills couldn't count on him when it mattered most the last two seasons. He's been very unlucky with injuries but how can you miss a player who hasn't been there already? Then Mitch Morse, a savvy veteran who was the leader and glue guy of a surprisingly good offensive line. He should be missed after playing every game last season but, with a significant concussion history and the cap savings made after his release, moving on from the experienced veteran can't be considered the worst decision.

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

Stefon Diggs had the opportunity to change the game against the Chiefs last January but dropped it.

Last but not least, Stefon Diggs, the superstar wide receiver with historical regular-season production — but also someone who, unfortunately, never could come close to making the same impact in the playoffs. “Oh, but he was double-teamed!” Really? So, you're telling me Travis Kelce, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Gronk, all don't get special attention in the playoffs?

No excuses, when it mattered most, we saw the guys who stepped up and the ones who weren't good enough. Diggs, arguably, is slotted in the second group when related to playoff production, with his last big drop as a Bill perfectly encapsulating the team’s missed opportunities during his stretch in Buffalo.

Slept-on Bills

The national media and casual NFL fans are always late to recognize Buffalo Bills talent, and also slow to realize their downfall. Hyde was an All-Pro in his first year as a Bill but Poyer had an equally strong year one and didn't get his flowers until the following season.

How long did outside observers take to realize that Matt Milano, and not Tremaine Edmunds, was the star linebacker of this team? I don’t even need to elaborate on Josh Allen — every Bills fan knew he was for real from, minimally, year two on. The list goes on, but the fact is that we know those folks sleep on Bills talent, a lot.

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

How long until people realize Bernard is the new Milano?

In truth, there’s been a large amount of roster turnover this offseason. As we all know, Father Time is undefeated and some of the most important players from past seasons are gone. There's one keyword in this last sentence, though — "Past.” They were very important... in the past.

I’d argue that each of these players carry nowhere near the same level of on-field importance right now, certainly not as significant as the previously mentioned Milano or Taron Johnson, and James Cook — who all remain on the roster and have already received some recognition by the league, earning accolades such as All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods.

Digging deeper, it’s totally fair to ask whether guys like Terrel Bernard, Ed Oliver, Greg Rousseau, Christian Benford, Dalton Kincaid, and Khalil Shakir have been, to say the least, as important as the guys who recently left the team. What cannot be questioned is each are at a far more favorable point in their careers, and they will be there — in their primes, helping Josh Allen to make the Bills a contender in the AFC yet again.

Finding the new Allens, Hydes, and Poyers of the world

I’m not content to stop here, though. On top of that, general manager Brandon Beane has just infused the team with tons of young talent via the 2024 NFL Draft, plus, some young vets through free agency. Players like Curtis Samuel, Marques Valdes-Scantling, and Mike Edwards might not be the kind of names you had highlighted at the top of the free-agency pool when it opened up — but they’re still in their primes, with fresh legs, and have the potential to put up the best season of their careers in Buffalo to the surprise of many people in the process.

Remember, in 2017, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer signings didn’t set the world on fire as well, and we know what happened next. It can happen again, the Bills have a lot of lottery tickets among those new draft and free-agency additions.

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

Not even the most optimistic Bills fans could anticipate Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer's level of success in Buffalo when they first arrived.

As head coach Sean McDermott likes to preach, “Iron sharpens iron,” and Buffalo has a lot of talented players, eager to show the world their value, competing for key spots available due to the departure of the past-their-primes veterans. It's up to the coaching staff to make the right decisions, maximize those talents, and reveal the next wave of Bills superstars.

Remember, nobody (well, almost nobody, I'll always brag about that, sorry!) could see Bernard succeeding as Tremaine Edmunds' heir apparent, just to be surprised by an All-Pro caliber season by the second-year pro.

The Sean McDermott factor

I've been critical of Sean McDermott's poor decisions in the biggest games of his career when facing the cream of the crop in the playoffs, and his development as a head coach has been slower than what the Bills, and Josh Allen, needed. However, I can't question how good he is at building teams for regular-season play.

McDermott’s definitely one of the best in the business at having his teams prepared to endure the 18 weeks of the NFL's regular season, staying focused, disciplined, and with their eyes on their goal — making the postseason and doing so playing "Playoff Caliber” football all season long. Few people can have unknown talent producing and becoming the best version of themselves as quickly as McDermott does.

He's a flawed coach, but don't let it blind you to the fact that the man has been one of the most successful coaches in the league during his seven-years-and-counting stint in Buffalo.

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

Despite valid questions about his potential, Sean McDermott’s regular season success is undeniable.

I can't stress enough how the Bills were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2017. Despite having the league's third-worst dead-cap number that year ($29.1 million), a group of unheralded players bought in on a rookie head coach's mindset of outworking everybody, with extreme discipline and attention to detail, minimizing mistakes, and becoming the best version of themselves.

They ended up surprising the world and breaking the franchise's 17-year playoff drought. McDermott was the driving force behind that feat, and now, with a rejuvenated roster, he has the opportunity to inspire a new team to achieve a bigger goal.

The contending Bills aren't going anywhere

Making the playoffs is the standard in Buffalo now. The AFC East runs through the four-time divisional champs, and they won't give it up in what looks like a "transitional year.” The Bills are there to continue to compete, not just for the division, but for a Super Bowl. I can't see the Bills’ downfall that a lot of national media members seem so sure about right now.

why so pessimistic?: nfl national media doesn't trust the 2024 buffalo bills

Never doubt this guy.

Buffalo has deep positional groups on both sides of the ball, with a healthy mix of experience and youth, talent, and eagerness to prove themselves — plus a floor with proven production, and an exciting ceiling with plenty of potential. They have a new roster filled with high-character players ready to buy in on McDermott's “Process.”

I'm very confident McDermott will have this team ready to play, every single week. Most importantly, they still have the main force that has turned the Buffalo Bills into one of the winningest franchises, not just in the NFL but in all American pro sports in the last three years. The same guy that has elevated them all along. They have number 17.

Don't be surprised when you see a 12-5 record and a divisional title yet again. I'm sure a lot of experts will, however.

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