2016 NFL Predictions: How Will Bills Fare During Marcell Dareus Suspension?
The New England Patriots won’t be the only AFC East team coping with a star player sitting out the first four games of the 2016 NFL season.
Per reports, the Buffalo Bills will feel that same struggle, as star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has been slapped with a four-game ban due to a missed drug test.
#Bills DL Marcell Dareus: It was a missed drug test.
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) August 17, 2016
The league has made it clear that a missed drug test is virtually the equivalent to a failed drug test, which likely means Dareus’ four-game suspension will stick.
Not the First Loss
— First Take (@FirstTake) August 17, 2016
The hits appear to keep on coming for a once vaunted Bills defense, as Dareus becomes the third star defensive player to hit the shelf. Buffalo already lost two of their would-be impact rookies to injury, with stud pass rusher Shaq Lawson being sidelined the first two months of the year due to a shoulder issue and linebacker Reggie Ragland seeing his rookie year cut short by a torn ACL.
Braving the Storm
Rex Ryan’s defense was a major disappointment in his first season at the helm last year, but there was realistic hope coming into the 2016 season for a serious turn around.
With three major absences to start the year, that optimism could start to dim.
Buffalo doesn’t have an easy schedule in the early going, as they take it to the road to face an arguably underrated Baltimore Ravens squad in week one, get two tough home games in a row against the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals and then wrap up their first four games with another brutal road test in New England against the Patriots.
There is no doubt losing Dareus for the first four games is big, and the Bills could potentially feel it with some tough losses.
This puts unwanted pressure on a maturing defense that already feels the heat after a down 2015 campaign, while the offense may also have to carry added weight to start the season.
Bills Early Season Prediction
Looking at the early schedule, the Bills could very easily get off to an ugly 0-4 start if they aren’t careful. The Ravens were bad a year ago, but most of their struggles can be attributed to a slew of injuries to starting talent. The Jets were a borderline playoff team, while the Cardinals and Patriots are legit title contenders.
Buffalo’s saving grace could be that Baltimore is as bad as they were in 2015 and that playing the Jets and Cardinals at home works in the team’s favor. It also can’t hurt that they’ll be facing Jimmy Garoppolo in their week four date with the Pats, instead of a suspended Tom Brady.
Ideally, Buffalo’s fate falls somewhere in the middle. Rex Ryan will certainly be up to face his old team in week two, while a Tom Brady-less Patriots team could have Buffalo’s defense – as banged up as they’ll be – licking their chops.
The 2016 season could start off horribly for the Bills, but they are still well-coached and should be deep enough to make it out of those first four games at 2-2. That being said, they won’t be a fun bet during that span of games, so avoid them if you can.
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