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Bills not such a sure bet

To borrow a phrase from coach Rex Ryan, many Buffalo Bills fans are “cautiously optimistic” that 2015 will be the year the NFL’s longest playoff drought mercifully comes to an end.

But would you bet on it (assuming, of course, that you’re doing so legally)?

To help you make an informed decision, The Buffalo News has teamed up again this year with Joel Staniszewski. He’s a St. Joe’s and Buffalo State graduate who has lived in Las Vegas for more than 10 years and worked as an oddsmaker, handicapper and casino analyst.

As he did a year ago, Staniszewski has calculated propositional bets for the 2015 season formed from statistical data and betting trends. He also provided his own insight on his favorite team.

Betting lines are provided for entertainment purposes only.

1. Over/under wins: 8.5

Staniszewski: “The number you’ll find almost everywhere is 8.5. The juice you’re going to lay on the over will range from -110 to -150+. The higher end was when we all assumed Tom Brady was going to miss some time this year. Going from four games suspended to zero does not help the Bills very much.”

2. Over/under wins in the AFC East: 4.5

Staniszewski: “The Brady suspension being overturned makes the beginning of the Bills’ season very difficult. Most of us had hoped for a Week Two showdown with Jimmy Garoppolo instead of the Bills killer Brady. I would like to think we can take both games from the Jets and split with Miami and the Patriots. The extra .5 game is the hook to answer this question: Can the Bills sweep the Pats or the Dolphins this year?”

3. Over/under LeSean McCoy yards from scrimmage: 1,661.5

Staniszewski: “We are all fairly certain we won’t be seeing LeSean returning kicks so we’re looking solely at rushing and receiving yards. If you look at his career stats you’re in the 1,500-yard area, but if you look more recently (when he was the bell cow), you’d be in the 1,800-yard area. You take a little bit of weight from his career numbers and a little bit from his more recent numbers and you get something around 1,700 yards. You hope that he plays all 16 games and that he is truly as dominant as we’ve seen in the past.”

4. McCoy total touchdowns: 9.5

Staniszewski: “McCoy has proven he can take the ball to the end zone on any play regardless of where the ball is snapped. Karlos Williams and Boobie Dixon might take a few goal-line touches away from McCoy, but the ball is usually going to be his as long as he wants to be on the field.”

5. Over/under starts by EJ Manuel: 2.5

Staniszewski: “We all hope that Tyrod Taylor can play as well during the regular season as we’ve seen him play in preseason. Seeing EJ start means one of two things … either Tyrod doesn’t play as well as we have all hoped or he has gotten injured. Who do you compare Taylor to? Michael Vick who has only played 16 games in a season once in his career or Russell Wilson, who has started all 48 regular-season games he has seen” plus playoffs.

6. Higher passer rating, Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Fitzpatrick: Taylor -9.5

Staniszewski: “Over the past six seasons, Fitzpatrick has averaged a passer rating of about 81.5. Going back to the Jets from 2009-2011, Mark Sanchez was never above a 78.2 passer rating. We are unsure how many games Fitzpatrick will play for the Jets and we are hopeful that Taylor plays all 16 for us.

Sanchez was very prone to making mistakes and never had the running ability that Taylor has, so it’s safe to assume he’ll make more plays with his feet and less mistakes with his arm. The Bills’ offense is stacked with talent and the current Jets lineup doesn’t even compare to the skill players on our roster. So my number here comes from Fitzpatrick not playing well and not getting a full season and Taylor playing well in all 16 games.”

7. Over/under touchdown catches for Sammy Watkins: 7.5

Staniszewski: “This is a tough one. If you compare Sammy to Julio Jones or AJ Green he might jump up to as high as 10.5 touchdowns. If you look at Rex Ryan’s offense when he took over the Jets and had a good run game and a great defense, no one caught more than eight touchdowns (2009-11). Now, I’m not saying that Dustin Keller or Santonio Holmes compares to Sammy athletically. It’s more of a concern for Rex to let Taylor throw as often as he would and Sammy would like.”

8. Over/under total number of receptions for Percy Harvin: 16.5

Staniszewski: “Harvin’s career has been a roller coaster of injuries, trades, Pro Bowls and locker-room altercations. We have seen Harvin return multiple kicks for touchdowns, have 70- and 80-reception seasons and have one reception in one game before being out until the Super Bowl, where he returned a kick for a touchdown. Talk about a volatile career. If the Bills get a few catches and a few touchdowns I’d take that as a big success.”

9. More rushing yards, Karlos Williams or Fred Jackson: Jackson -249.5 yards

Staniszewski: “How do you compare an unproven rookie who has never seen live game action to a 34-year-old veteran? Here are some assumptions. Fred will get, at most, the number of carries he got backing up Marshawn Lynch in 2008. If McCoy stays healthy and gets the bulk of the carries, Williams might not get many touches. At this point we don’t even know where on the depth chart Williams will be. So I’ll guess Fred is in the 500-yard range and Williams in the 250-yard range.”

10. Over/under number of punters, kickers used: 3.5

Staniszewski: “With Dan Carpenter, Jordan Gay and Colton Schmidt on the roster, you know we will be using three. The extra hook is to consider if someone gets injured or if Carpenter’s woes continue, he’ll be replaced.”

11. Over/under Bills total offense ranking (yards): 14.5

Staniszewski: “For the past decade, the Bills’ offense has been in the middle of the pack to the bottom of the pack. The Bills being a run-first style team doesn’t mean they are going to be lower than normal or won’t be able to move the ball. I believe with Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator it will help the Bills get back up the ranking area they will need to be in to make the playoffs regardless of how well their defense plays.”

12. Over/under Bills total defense ranking (yards): 4.5

Staniszewski: “The Bills’ bend-but-don’t-break defense of years past is not the style of defense that Ryan will play. We will be a great blend of the Mike Pettine blitz with the Jim Schwartz run-stopping ability. The Bills’ defense will be a monster against the run and have a great pass rush. Our defensive backs might be the only semi-weak spot on the team. That is for fear of them being too aggressive and getting penalties or being afraid of getting penalties. “

13. Over/under total sacks: 54.5

Staniszewski: “The last two seasons have been amazing for the Bills getting after the quarterback. Ryan will absolutely get the blitzes dialed in this year and the Bills should get as many or more than they have in the past few seasons.”

14. Over/under total number of interceptions from the Bills’ defense: 19.5

Staniszewski: “With the Bills hopefully in the lead in most games the opponent will be forced to throw the ball. We are aware the Bills’ front seven can bring pressure whenever they want. The question is whether the secondary can get their hands on the ball and hang on. Since 2010, the Bills have averaged 17 interceptions a year with the highest number (23) coming under Ryan’s understudy, Pettine.”

15. More total sacks, Marcell Dareus or Ndamukong Suh: Dareus -1.5

Staniszewski: “Even sitting out a game, I give the advantage to Dareus strictly because I’m a homer and because Suh will have more attention on him than Dareus will. The Bills’ front four has too many players that can get after the quarterback to be able to put too many bodies on Dareus. The Dolphins, although good, cannot compare to our front.”

16. Total combined points, Patriots vs. Bills – Patriots: 9.5

Staniszewski: “Let’s forget the destruction the Bills have historically had against Brady. We are past the days of losing by 30 at home to them. Ryan will not allow it. The line for Week Two is the Pats -1 and the line for Week 11 is the Pats -5.5. These lines will obviously move between now and then based upon bets as well as how each team is doing.

“Wins and losses, as well as injuries, can move lines tremendously over the next few months. We as Bills fans are hoping for one win against the Pats and praying for a sweep, but history is against us. With all that being said, I think this Bills team is the best team on paper that we’ve had in a very long time. Let’s see if we can keep it all together and bring us back to the playoffs where we belong.”


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