The Buffalo Bills spent most of the season as an analytical darling. Until the very end, when Dallas usurped them, Football Outsiders had the Bills as the best team in the league by team DVOA. They were first in expected points added (EPA) per play allowed on the season and ranked fourth in EPA/play on offense over 17 games, thanks largely to the efforts of QB Josh Allen. Their scoring differential of 194 was 22 more than the second-place Cowboys. But they spent the season laying down stinkers against the Steelers, Jaguars, and Colts, making even those who believed in them before the season second guess themselves.
Nobody is beating the Buffalo Bills at their best
So, I have a bit of a problem with my own statement here. The Cowboys could line up at their best and give the Bills a darned good licking, but there’s an element Buffalo possesses that takes their potential to another level.
Josh Allen bought the premium cheats
I grew up playing baseball, football, and basketball. But those days are long gone, and golf is expensive, so gaming has returned to my life in a big way.
Allen’s size and athleticism were as much a reason he went No. 7 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft as his right arm. When the lights shine their brightest, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has unleashed Allen in the run game, with hilariously good results. Allen rushed 122 times for 763 yards in 2021, but his four highest-carry games came against Kansas City (11), Tampa Bay (12), New England (12), and, weirdly, Atlanta (15). Three of those games came in the last five weeks of the season.
In the Wild Card round, Allen looked like a ninth-grader on the playground playing pickup basketball with a group of sixth-graders. Or, like the Warzone player with a 1.9 K/D that’s gotten so fed up with the cheating problem in Call of Duty that he decided to buy and download his own cheats. Then, he goes out and drops 75 kills in the first game he plays.
For those unaware of anything I just said, 75 kills would be about 25 more than the world record on the new Caldera map and 14 more than the 61 kills MuTeX dropped in Verdansk. Allen effectively mushed the Patriots straight in their face. He must have been freezing on the bench because he was melting the Patriots’ defense for warmth on the field.
Allen’s crazy first half
Allen finished the first half by going 12 of 16 for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also had 5 carries for 63 yards. And if you would have told me he threw for 250 and ran for 125, I would have believed you. I mean, if the Bills had another drive on offense in the first half, he might have.
The Bills had four offensive drives in the first half and scored 4 touchdowns, all on drives of 61 yards or more. I’ve never seen a Bill Belichick defense look so submissive.
The Rub: The Bills were worryingly inconsistent at times
The Bills — and more specifically, Allen — feel a bit like volume shooters in the NBA. J.R. Smith can go 3-17 from downtown, but sometimes he goes 11 of 13 and hits the game-winner. Allen feels a bit like that. In fact, we saw it just a few weeks ago against Atlanta, where the Bills won 29-15, but Allen completed a pathetic 42.3% of his passes and threw 3 INTs.
For the season, he had six games under an 80 passer rating. Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow each had three for reference, and Aaron Rodgers had two. The Bills also played four games where they scored fewer than 20 points.
However, the last game that is genuinely applicable was against the Colts in Week 11. After all, the Patriots game in Week 13 saw Mac Jones throw the ball 3 times in a 60-minute contest.
But Buffalo can also go out and beat the Chiefs by 18 and make the Patriots look like a directional school in NCAA 14 Revamped for 30+ minutes in the playoffs.
Allen’s rushing ability gives Buffalo the edge over the competition
I think everyone outside of Bills Mafia would agree that Patrick Mahomes is a more talented quarterback than Allen. I think when it comes to quarterbacking, Aaron Rodgers might be the best ever to do it, and he played at an MVP level. But Allen’s rushing ability, especially in the playoffs, is an element that makes the Bills, at their best, the most dangerous team.
Their offense already boasts Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Dawson Knox, Gabriel Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie (who snatched Cole Beasley’s job). On top of having five legitimate receiving options and a serviceable back in Devin Singletary, Allen’s rushing ability puts an unbelievable amount of stress on defenses.
It’s hard enough to stay gap sound when you need enough players in coverage against those weapons. It becomes nearly impossible to stop the run when you add a 6-foot-5, 250-pound moose at quarterback that dominates on the ground physically. No other QB in the playoffs offers that.
I can’t confidently say that any team in 2021 will win the Super Bowl. This Bills team scored 6 points against the Jaguars and lost in Week 9. The Cowboys were down 30-0 against the Broncos that same week. The Bengals lost to the Jets in Week 8. The Titans lost to Houston in Week 11. Regardless, nobody in the playoffs is excited to see this Buffalo team in their path. And it’s all because of their ankle-breaking, bulldozing, and cannon-armed signal-caller.