<
>

AFC East Q&A: What are the chances of a postseason berth in the Bills' future?

Sean McDermott takes over a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since the 1999 season. AP Photo/Bill Wippert

Today's question: One of the slogans first-year coach Sean McDermott has plastered around the Buffalo Bills' facility is "playoff caliber." He is not promising fans the Bills will make the playoffs, but he wants his players to think of themselves as a playoff-caliber team. Will the Bills make the playoffs before their postseason drought reaches 20 seasons after 2019?

James Walker, Miami Dolphins reporter: The NFL is such a year-to-year league that I wouldn't venture to make a prediction three seasons down the road. But you can count on 18 years in a row because the Bills are not making the playoffs this season. The team is in a tricky spot. Their roster doesn't scream "playoff contender" or "full rebuild." They are young in some areas and have a rookie head coach in McDermott. There are veterans on the team such as running back LeSean McCoy, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and guard Richie Incognito who you can win with right away, though. Often, the Bills have been a couple games away, and this looks like another seven-win season. The New England Patriots will be dominant once again in the AFC East, and the Miami Dolphins swept the Bills last season and are an up-and-coming team. The Bills have been stuck in neutral -- not awful, not great -- for a while, and that will continue for at least another year.

Mike Reiss, New England Patriots: Here in New England, where Bill Belichick enters his 18th season as head coach, the answer to this question would be something like this: "My crystal ball is a little bit cloudy, but if we can just focus on having a good practice today, that's the goal." I pass that along because it seems like, from afar, it is the same type of process-driven approach that McDermott is taking with the Bills. He is in the early stages of creating a culture that can sustain and put the Bills in position to be in that playoff mix in the coming years. With that as a springboard, count me in the "yes" category of the Bills snapping that playoff drought before 2019. As an annual visitor to western New York for the Patriots-Bills rivalry, it's always great to see how much the city supports the team. The fans deserve to taste some success after this playoff drought, and I'm a believer that McDermott is the leader to help the franchise snap the skid.

Rich Cimini, New York Jets: I remember walking into Ralph Wilson Stadium last year and some guy had a sign that said, "Our playoff drought is old enough to drive." Before you know it, it'll be old enough to vote. Sure, the Bills can end the drought before it reaches 20, and I'm basing that on parity in the NFL. Three years is a long time, enough time for a perennial also-ran to get things fixed. I think the Bills could make some noise if they improve Tyrod Taylor's supporting cast. When you're relying on Sammy Watkins' fragile body parts, you're in trouble. I'm also curious to see if the front office/coaching staff dysfunction is resolved. As for McDermott, he needs to work on his slogans. "Playoff caliber" is lame; either call yourself a playoff team or come up with a different theme for a slogan. I guess the days of bluster (see: Rex Ryan) are over.