If you know me, you know I love my hot takes. With the 2018 season officially here, I figured this time around I’d put it down on paper so if I’m wrong, all the trolls can retweet it until I’m forced to quit my job. I’m really hoping I can use two or three of these bad boys to show how smart I am.
Whichever way it plays out, you certainly can’t deny the intriguing storylines going into this season, some of which I’ll tie into my piping hot takes going into Training Camp.
I believe the most interesting consensus for this 2018 team – at least among the national media – is the idea that Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott are tanking. It’s interesting because the same things were said at the end of Training Camp last season after trading away Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby.
Even though the roster as a whole has probably gotten better, the question mark at quarterback has never been more glaring. But if there’s a path to a second straight playoff appearance, the Bills will need to find a way to execute my five hot takes for the 2018 season.
Take 1: The offensive line shines
On most teams, the question marks along the current Bills offensive line would be a major story. But because of the problems at wide receiver and quarterback, the offensive line has gone mostly under the radar. The Bills will have to overcome the loss of Eric Wood up the middle and Richie Incognito at left guard. Owing to the fact that Incognito was probably their most consistent player up front the past few years, there are significant holes to fill.
The success of this year’s offensive line relies on three players: John Miller, Ryan Groy, and Wyatt Teller.
Although I think Teller starts the year from the bench, my hot take starts around his eventual development into the starting left guard. For this unit to truly shine, Miller will have to return to the form we saw in his second season.
Groy will have to take a step forward from the player we saw two seasons ago after taking over when Wood broke his leg on Monday Night Football. Not only will Dion Dawkins take a giant step forward in year two, but he’ll prove to become a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle, further minimizing the memory of Cordy Glenn.
That, of course, leaves us with Jordan Mills over on the right side. He’ll likely remain the weak link on the offensive line, but for this unit to shine like my hot take predicts, he’ll have to minimize his mistakes and continue to grow as a run blocker.
Take 2: Nathan Peterman starts 16 games
I think part of my second take relies on my first take panning out. I believe that by week three of the preseason, Peterman will be named the starter for the regular season. With an offensive line that propels their diverse run game to the heights Bills fans remember it being back in 2015 and 2016, the pressure on Peterman to lead the offense through the air will be mitigated.
A bounce back from Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin will, of course, be paramount to any success Peterman can have in this offense. Although I’m sure A.J. McCarron will push Peterman for the starting spot, I believe that Peterman is “their guy” and because of that, he’ll get the best opportunity to start right away.
This take obviously only works if the Bills are a nine-win football team. If they’re in the hunt come week 13, I believe Allen [ideally] gets a redshirt for his first season, and that’s Peterman’s road to 16 starts in 2018.
Take 3: Jeremy Kerley leads the Bills’ offense in receptions
The offseason addition of Jeremy Kerley flew under the radar as the hysteria built about how bad the group of receivers on the roster might actually be. Kerley is only one year removed from his best professional season. Best known for his slot skills for the Jets, Kerley revived his career in 2016 with San Francisco, garnering 115 targets and 64 total receptions for 667 yards.
At 30, Kerley is no spring chicken, but I believe he probably poses as the best option for the Bills at the position going into the season. I know, that’s not exactly inspiring, but Kerley has a chance to lock down the slot and get a large volume of targets, especially if Peterman wins the job.
Kerley’s experience in the slot, knowledge of coverages, ability to find soft spots in zones and adjust to inaccurate passes are traits that the #Bills will need in Daboll’s scheme.— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 17, 2018
Link: https://t.co/pfISCkbp2C pic.twitter.com/aqOvqGBPIl
He provides maybe the best opportunity for yards after the catch and adds an element of speed the group as a whole sorely lacks. I don’t believe you’ll be able to rely on him as a go-to red zone target, but inside the 20s, I think he’ll be their most consistent asset.
Take 4: Defense will finish as a top-five unit in the league
I’m going to double down on this take and also say that the Bills will finish as a top-five scoring defense, as well – that’s how confident I am about this defense going into 2018. While most outsiders will focus on how bad the offense might be, they aren’t giving enough credence to what this team might be able to do defensively in Leslie Frazier’s second season.
First off, the secondary might be one of the best five units as a whole in the league — the addition of a healthy Vontae Davis and a hungry pair of safeties, and Tre White is once again set up to have a big season.
CB Vontae Davis’ route awareness is fun to watch. In some instances while in man coverage, he essentially ran the routes for the receivers.— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 2, 2018
Full breakdown of his skills: https://t.co/hTupPA0YDg pic.twitter.com/j9wHVBTIhU
Up front, the additions of Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy will have a huge impact in the running game and rushing the passer, two areas the Bills sorely missed in 2017. Add in Harrison Phillips as a depth interior defender and you could see rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds have a DPOY-type season with the freedom to play free and clean.
This defense will rely on the second-year development of Matt Milano and a bounce-back season from Jerry Hughes, but if all those factors come together, this might be the coldest of hot takes come January.
Take 5: The Bills’ offense won’t rank 32nd overall
This take leaves me some room for error. In no way am I saying they’ll be a top-15 unit, but I believe Brian Daboll will find a way to keep this offense out of the cellar – somehow. LeSean McCoy will need to continue playing like he’s 22 years old if this has any chance of being true, but that’s probably the easiest factor at play here.
I’ve somehow made it through this piece without mentioning Charles Clay, so he’s sure to play a large role in keeping this offense out of last place in what could be his last season as a Bill. If the Bills’ offense can just find their way to 31st, I’ll be the big winner.
Now my hot takes are on record, but which has the best chance to turn out true?