Race for 2019 NFL Draft No. 1 pick: Bills make case for NFL's worst team after demoralizing start
Buffalo went to the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999; now they're more likely to earn the top-overall pick
The Bills won nine games last season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. So there were reasons for optimism this offseason -- fix the offensive line, add a playmaking wide receiver and find a franchise quarterback and Buffalo could build on its '17 success.
After a demoralizing loss the Ravens in the season opener, the Bills could have a better chance at the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft than playing football in January. The defense was exposed by Joe Flacco and the offense was even worse; second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman finished 5 of 18 with two interceptions when coach Sean McDermott pulled him 34 minutes into the game. In three career starts, Peterman has been benched twice and left the other game early because of injury.
Mercifully, McDermott has decided to turn to rookie Josh Allen.
And while the second-year coach may be hesitant to give the offense over to the first-year quarterback because he's still raw and the schedule is incredibly difficult over the first half of the season, there doesn't appear to be a Plan B. After the Chargers, the Bills play in Minnesota and Green Bay, are home for the Titans, then at Houston and Indianapolis before hosting the Patriots.
And while letting Allen learn by watching is certainly a reasonable strategy to bring along a rookie, going with Peterman to start the season was doomed to fail. And it did, again, spectacularly. Mathematically, the Bills haven't been eliminated from the playoffs (there are 15 regular-season games left!) but their chances are dismal. A week ago, they had a better than 8 percent chance of making it to the postseason. After the losing 47-3 to the Ravens, those chances have fallen to 1.5 percent, according to Football Outsiders.
If you're looking for a silver lining, this is the best we can come up with: At least the Bills will know if Allen can play before the team is faced with using another high first-rounder on a franchise quarterback.
(Note: In the table below, the teams are sorted from "most likely to have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft" to "least likely" using two different methods. The "Current record weighted by 2017 record" column does what the name suggests: Teams are first sorted by their '18 records, then by their '17 records. The other column is sorted by the "." Finally, here's our if you'd like to see who we have each team taking.)
Current record weighted by 2017 record
SportsLine preseason projected draft order
New York Giants (0-1)
San Francisco (0-1)
Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
New Orleans (0-1)**
Tampa Bay (1-0)
New York Jets (1-0)
Green Bay (1-0)
Kansas City (1-0)
Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
New England (1-0)
N.Y. Giants at Dallas
We've certainly seen worse games from Eli Manning than what took place at MetLife Stadium last Sunday. He finished 23 of 37 for 224 yards with no touchdowns and a pick-six, but some of his struggles can be blamed on the offensive line, particularly former first-round pick Ereck Flowers who didn't magically improve when he was moved from the left to the right side of the line during the offseason. The bright spots included rookie Saquon Barkley and a healthy Odell Beckham, but the defense, which was among the league's worst last season but ranked No. 2 behind only the Broncos in 2016 needs to play better. I actually picked the Giants to win the division but after one week of football they're closer to last year's three-win team.
L.A. Chargers at Buffalo
These two teams last met in Week 11 of the 2017 season. It was Nathan Peterman's first NFL start and it couldn't have gone worse. By halftime, he had thrown five interceptions and, mercifully, he was benched. Peterman "won" the starting job last week and the results looked familiar; he was 5 of 18 with two interceptions against the Ravens when coach Sean McDermott again pulled the plug, this time 34 minutes into the game. Afterwards, McDermott said he'd need to review the tape to determine if Peterman would remain in the lineup. By Wednesday, he came to the same conclusion as the rest of the galaxy: Peterman would be benched for rookie Josh Allen, whom the team was hoping to keep on the bench this season. Either way, the Chargers will be at a distinct advantage -- on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers threw for 424 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs and Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon both had 100-plus yards receiving.
Indianapolis at Washington
Good news: Andrew Luck is back and he wasn't bad in his debut. That said, we have no earthly idea why new coach Frank Reich would have Luck, who missed some 600 days with a shoulder injury, throw the ball a whopping 53 times in last week's loss to the Bengals but that's exactly what happened. Luck's longest pass went for 26 yards, which continues to raise concerns about his arm strength but the bigger issue facing the Colts may be figuring out how to stop ageless wonders Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson. Smith, 34, was a tidy 21 of 30 for 255 yards and two touchdowns while Peterson (33) rushed for 96 yards and added another 70 yards receiving.
Houston at Tennessee
Texans fans are hoping last Sunday's disorienting loss in New England was an anomaly. The offense looked out of sorts at times and Deshaun Watson looked rusty, but he also hadn't played since last November. We still like Houston to win the division, and fully expect Watson to return to his pre-injury form that made him one of the league's most exciting players. The Titans, however, remain an enigma also beset with injuries. Tight end Delanie Walker has been lost for the season. Marcus Mariota had to leave Sunday's game against the Dolphins after a shoulder/elbow injury and his play continues to raise more questions than it has answered since he came into the league in 2015.
Detroit at San Francisco
Good lord, Matt Patricia looked overwhelmed and underprepared on Monday night. Things were so bad, in fact, that Detroit's 48-17 loss was the worst suffered by a Lions coach in his debut. Patricia's the latest member of the Bill Belichick coaching family to sink without his Belichick floaties. Out of seven names -- Al Groh, Bill O'Brien, Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Romeo Crennel and now Patricia -- only Groh has a winning record (9-7). Perhaps Detroit gets back on track in San Francisco -- Jimmy Garoppolo lost his first game as the 49ers starter last week in Minnesota -- but after watching what Sam Darnold did to this team we're doubtful.
Oakland at Denver
Before the season, we had no expectations for the Raiders. We figured Jon Gruden would be stuck in the early aughts, Oakland would spend much of the season spinning its wheels, and the losing would continue. Yes, the Raiders lost by 20 on Monday night but they looked legit over the first 30 minutes. The running game was effective, Derek Carr was getting the ball out quickly, and Jared Cook was dominant. But the Rams made some adjustments at halftime, the Raiders made some mistakes over the final 30 minutes and the game got away from them down the stretch. Still, we liked what we saw. We also still have questions about just how good Case Keenum can be in Denver, though he's a clear and obvious upgrade over the Trevor Siemian/Brock Osweiler/Paxton Lynch three-headed, no-armed monster.
Who we have the Raiders taking in our most recent mock draft: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Watson, Bill O'Brien and J.J. Watt responded to the controversial statement
Breshad Perriman couldn't stick in Washington, where the wide receivers have struggled this...
SportsLine computer model simulated every Week 3 NFL game 10,000 times with surprising res...
Mike McClure, a DFS pro with more than $1M in winnings, gives optimal DraftKings and FanDuel...
Ward, who retired in 2011, thinks social media is lose-lose for NFL players
RJ White went deep in the Las Vegas SuperContest two of the past three years