2004 Buffalo Bills Season Preview

<b>Head Coach: </b> Mike Murlarkey (0-0) <br><br> <b> Last Season's Record: </b> 6-10 (3rd AFC East) <br><br> <b> Last Playoff Appearence: </b> 1999 AFC wildcard playoff loss to Titans, 16-22

09/12/04 Jacksonville
09/19/04 @Oakland
10/03/04 New England
10/10/04 @NY Jets
10/17/04 Miami
10/24/04 @Baltimore
10/31/04 Arizona
11/07/04 NY Jets
11/14/04 @New England
11/21/04 St. Louis
11//28/04 @Seattle
12/05/04 @Miami
12/12/04 Cleveland
12/19/04 @Cincinnati
12/26/04 @San Francisco
01/02/05 Pittsburgh
Travis Henry #20 of the Buffalo Bills hopes to pick up where he left off a year ago. As long as the rest of the offense improves, the Bills could be a team to watch.
Getty Images/Rick Stewart

Key Matchup(s): New England 10/3 and 11/14, Miami 10/17

Notable Returnees: RB Travis Henry, LB Takeo Spikes, WR Eric Moulds, CB Nate Clements, QB Drew Bledsoe, DE Aaron Schobel, DT Pat Williams

Notable Additions: OT Chris Villarrial (Bears), CB Troy Vincent (Eagles), WR Lee Evans (1st Round draft pick), RB Willis McGahee (off of IR)

Notable Subtractions: CB Antoine Winfield (Vikings), OG Rueben Brown (Bears)

Offensive Overview: New head coach Mike Murlarkey and offensive coordinator Tom Clements have been working hard on rebuilding Bledsoe's confidence and timing after coming off his worst season as a professional. He'll be helped by an offense that will be first looking to run, trying to generate a power attack with RB's Travis Henry and Willis McGahee. It's very safe to say that the starting job in the backfield is Henry's, but McGahee may be the most interesting player in the NFL to watch this season. The real key to the Bills offensive success this year will be determined chiefly by the success of the offensive line. If this line does not gel early or if it suffers injuries pretty much at all, then the chances of getting the kind of play out of it to allow Drew Bledsoe to be useful begin to diminish to zero. This is no longer any big secret that Bledsoe needs far better than an average offensive line simply to be effective and more good than harm.

Defensive Overview: The defense was easily the high point of last years team, finishing 2nd overall thanks to the addition of LB Takeo Spikes and DT Sam Adams. If they can keep up the same level of solid performance then it might give the Bills some time for their offense to gel. The biggest question mark is relying on young unproven DEs Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay to help provide some pass rush along with RDE Aaron Schobel (11 1/2 sacks in 2003). In the secondary the Bills are hoping that they simply swapped Antoine Winfield for veteran Troy Vincent, although secondary depth is still a concern. Fans should also watch how the DL holds up against some of the best RBs in the NFL with matchups against Fred Taylor, Jamal Lewis, Corey Dillion, Rudi Johnson, and Shaun Alexander. If Ricky Williams hadn't retired the Bills would've nearly faced a premier back every week.

Special Teams Overview: Punter Brian Moorman was one of the best in the league last season and hopefully will repeat that performance. Kicker Rian Lindell is coming off of an average year and Bills fans will definitely want to see improvement.

Predictions: Depending on some big question marks (the offensive line, Bledsoe, lack of pass rush, first time head coach) the Bills could be set for an improvement or a repeat of last season. The Bills play a tough schedule but still realistically stand a chance of finishing above .500, we're going to say a 9-7 finish and second in the AFC East.

TheInsiders.com 2004 NFL Football Preview
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