A recent review of various websites that predict records of NFL teams showed the Bills winning between five and six games this season. It sounded about right considering the overhaul at quarterback, their receiving shortage and other flaws.
Sean McDermott tempered excitement about his team going into the season, making sure fans didn’t believe the Bills would automatically improve after ending the dreadful playoff drought last year. He effectively lowered expectations.
The Bills’ three-headed quarterback contingent fared well in the preseason-opening loss to the Panthers, providing reasons for optimism about the passing game. Nathan Peterman, AJ McCarron and Josh Allen each threw for more than 100 yards.
“The good part about it is [that] all three of them played well, so it makes my job tougher,” McDermott said. “We evaluate the games heavier than we do the practices, but I was impressed with all three of them. They all three had their moments. They all raised their game and moved the offense at times down the field.”
Peterman in particular looked sharp after starting the game and playing with the top unit. He completed his first nine passes and threw for 119 yards and a touchdown. McCarron was seven of 10 for 116 yards. Allen was nine of 19 for 116 yards and a TD.
Sure, there were good signs.
Bills fans conditioned to hope for the best could view Peterman as a solid short-term option with McCarron as the backup while Allen continues developing behind the scenes, as Peterman did last season, with the idea he’ll be the long-term answer.
It’s best to proceed with caution when it comes to evaluating preseason performances in the NFL with opposing teams playing basic defenses while their coaches evaluate line play and how players read and react under game conditions.
In the four seasons the Bills reached the Super Bowl, they had a combined 5-11 record in the preseason. You knew Jim Kelly & Co., would kick into high gear when the regular season began. Stocks rises and falls with individual players in the preseason, but it has never been an indication how a team will perform.
McDermott doesn’t even know will start at quarterback in the season opener. And he may not make a decision until the season opener.
What did we really learn in the first preseason game? Not much.
Peterman looked composed and accurate. McCarron looked like a veteran backup in a preseason game. Allen showed off his physical talent with a 60-yard incompletion, but it wasn’t as if he proved capable of starting in the NFL right away. He looks and sounds like a rookie that will need time to gain his footing.
“To get out here and throw with our guys, trust my linemen, execute the plays, listen to (Brian) Daboll is talking about in the huddle is something I’ve always wanted to do my entire life,” Allen said. “That’s something really cool. … I’m just trying to get through every play the right way.”
McDermott has refused to say who would start the game Friday against the Browns, although common sense suggests that McCarron will open the game with the first unit with Peterman backing up him and Allen continuing to against second and third groupings.
LeSean McCoy didn’t play in the preseason opener but could get some work against the Browns. Kelvin Benjamin played well against the Panthers but could get less action this week. Zay Jones sat out last week but should play against the Browns.
The game will provide another peek, but really just a peek, into where the Bills could be headed. The Browns have been so bad in recent years that can’t be trusted as a measuring stick. They beat the Giants in their preseason opener, not that it matters.
If there’s anything mildly intriguing about the game, it will be Tyrod Taylor lining up against the team that decided his ceiling wasn’t high enough. Corey Coleman plays against the Browns, which shipped him to Buffalo two years after taking him in the first round.
The Browns believe they have their franchise quarterback, too, in Baker Mayfield. Browns fans are clamoring for him after he completed 11 of 20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Giants. Remember, it’s only the preseason.
For what it’s worth, most prognosticators also have Cleveland winning between five and six games this season. It sounds about right, too, given its overhaul at quarterback, shortage of top receivers and other flaws across its roster.
If you don’t have an inflated opinion of them, and you shouldn’t, the same should be true for the Bills.