People, are we really ready to do this? As a football-watching public, we’re going to stand and shout for all to hear that there is going to be a Super Bowl parade that sets a record for snowfall and broken tables.
The Buffalo Bills are the clear Super Bowl favorite. The sportsbooks are in consensus, and many analysts agree that this is the year everything comes together for the Buffal0 Bills, a franchise that’s never won a Super Bowl.
Taking an honest objective look at the roster, it’s an easy conclusion to draw, and personally, I’m here for a Griselda Boys version of the Super Bowl shuffle, or at least shots of them in the box sittin’ next to the Pegulas. But still, it’s the Bills. The four Super Bowl-losing, field-goal missing, Music City Miracle allowing team, that prior to the 2019 season hadn’t been to the playoffs since Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie looked on in horror as Kevin Dyson raced up that sideline as the clock read triple zeros.
That 2019 playoff appearance was Allen’s second season in the NFL, a forgettable wild-card loss to the Houston Texans. He was already being considered a bust. In 2018 the Buffalo Bills were in need of their first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly and they took the plunge on a player who in two years as a starter at Wyoming in 2016 and 2017 couldn’t complete 57 percent of his passes, and in his final season threw 16 touchdowns on 6.7 yards per attempt in 11 starts.
Then in 2020 this player, who never made all-conference in the Mountain West, finally took off and has been soaring at 30,000 feet ever since. Allen has turned into a legitimate 4,000-plus yard, 35 passing touchdown quarterback. For two consecutive seasons he’s done this and both years the Bills have won playoff games, a feat that the franchise had failed to accomplish since 1995. He also leans into his talent as a dual-threat quarterback. Allen was the Bills’ second-leading rusher in 2021 with 763 yards and six touchdowns, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
While Allen was great, it wasn’t his play alone that turned the franchise around. The trade for Stefon Diggs in 2020 also helped power Allen and the offense to cruising altitude. He caught 127 passes in his first season for 1,535 yards. That’s a franchise record for both receptions and yards. The 103 passes that he hauled in last season are the second most in franchise history.
The Bills are also far more than just their high-powered offense. Their defense was third-best in the NFL in weighted DVOA, and that is largely due to their tremendous pass defense that swarms both opposing receivers and quarterbacks. The Bills had the best pass defense DVOA in the NFL last season, and finished sixth in pass-rush win rate. Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, and Jerry Hughes wreaked havoc on offenses and made the Bills one of the more balanced teams in the NFL.
With the addition of Von Miller, Daquan Jones, and Jamison Crowder, as well as big contracts for Diggs and Dawson Knox, the Bills are clearly looking at 2022 as their year. Coaches like the Lions’ Dan Campbell will bellow out speeches to their teams that their time is now, but Bills head coach Doug McDermott doesn’t have to overcompensate. The Bills’ front office showed the players with their actions that they believe come February the franchise will hoist its first Lombardi Trophy in Glendale, Ariz.
Of course, it’s the NFL, so this is far from a 2016-17 Golden State Warriors situation. Injuries are always a factor, and that will be a problem for the Bills starting Week 1. White tore an ACL on Thanksgiving, and he will miss at least the first four games of this season. He has been arguably the best cornerback in the NFL since he was drafted in 2017. Even when he returns to the field, it’s no guarantee that he will be able to move the same way. If he’s not their rock back there, maybe that 13-second sprint down the field from the Chiefs in the Divisional Round will happen again.
Also, even with all of the talent that they added, some were still lost. Emmanuel Sanders retired and the Bills released Cole Beasley — and his anti-vax bars — per his request. Those two were the Bills’ second- and third-best wide receivers last season.
One of the few glaring weaknesses the Bills had last season was their offensive line play. They ranked 23rd in run-block win rate. With a lot of new pieces to work in around Diggs and Knox, the Bills will need to rely on their running game more than ever, and there hasn’t been much of one since Rex Ryan got fired. Devin Singletary has never rushed for 1,000 yards, or carried the ball 200 times for the Bills. For offensive line reinforcements they brought in Roger Saffold and David Quessenberry. Saffold did make a Pro Bowl last season, but as a whole the Titans’ offensive line was a worse unit than the Bills’ in both pass and run blocking. If the Bills can’t depend on their running game, it could make life much harder for their new offensive coordinator.
Former OC Brian Daboll did a marvelous job with Allen. He helped Allen cut back on the ill-advised plays and maximized his skillset. However, Daboll is now the New York Giants’ head coach, and the person who will be running the Bills’ offense is Ken Dorsey. It’s not like he is a new face in the organization. He has been Allen’s quarterback coach since 2019, and was the passing-game coordinator last season. A familiar face always helps transition, but it’s still a new role, and Daboll is considered one of the NFL’s offensive masterminds. And Dorsey will be running an offense for the first time in his coaching career.
It’s one thing for Dorsey to have a good relationship with Allen on a day-to-day basis, but what’s it going to be like to have Dorsey in his headset calling plays? What’s his play-calling style going to be like? And with his new responsibilities, will Dorsey be able to keep Allen calm and avoid game-killing turnovers? As good as Allen was last year he did throw 15 interceptions.
The start of the season is here and the championship favorites will be put to the test immediately against the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams for some Thursday Night Football. The Bills are already in uncharted territory, playing in the NFL’s season-opening broadcast. Being in that game is further proof of how high the expectations are for the Bills this season.
Only in 1991 have expectations been close to this high for the Bills — the season following Scott Norwood’s missed kick in Super Bowl XXV. They have toiled in mediocrity or worse for most of their existence as a franchise. Now the world is ready to crown them before the game against the Rams kicks off.
The spotlight will be beaming on Western New York all season long. We’ll see if the Bills can keep as cool as the playoff weather will be, or if the heat from the spotlight is too much and they lose in another NFL Films classic moment.