The Buffalo Bills are in a Super Bowl window.
Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Super Bowl window, folks.
For the first time in my adult life, uttering those words aren’t for the retweets or for the sake of scorching hot takes. Which means we’re going to have a serious conversation about the Bills entering the 2020 season with similar or better Super Bowls odds than the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.
I hope you enjoyed reading that last sentence as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The fact of the matter is the Bills were fighting for a bye week heading into Week 15 last season. Uh huh, meaningful December football for the first time in two decades. Wins in their final two games against the New England Patriots and New York Jets might have put the Bills in the driver seat to host a playoff game. Just remember all this context as we dive into their 2020 outlook.
We also can’t ignore that the moves made by other elite AFC teams either, so before we get into the Bills, let’s first take a look at the offseason that a few key AFC teams have had thus far that may have something to say about the Bills becoming legitimate AFC contenders:
That playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans likely revealed some flaws in Greg Roman's offense once they were forced to play from behind. The problem is the Ravens were so efficient offensively that it was extremely difficult to get ahead and put them in an uncomfortable position. The Ravens have yet to add significant pieces on offense outside of tight end Mark Andrews, and will need to find a legit No. 1 wide receiver to compliment Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who enters his second season following a solid rookie campaign.
They’ll have a deep draft of wide receivers to look to, but the Ravens decided to invest heavily into their defensive line. However, they saw the signing of Michael Brockers fall through as he returns to the Los Angeles Rams.
It will be interesting to see how NFL defenses will adjust to the league's best rushing attack in 2020. They’ll need to layer in a more dynamic passing offense (yes, I know it was really good last year) if they want to take a step past the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.
They took major strides defensively last season, which was ultimately the reason they were able to get over the hump. Bringing back Chris Jones was a major move to keep that defense intact for 2020 and I expect them to challenge for another Super Bowl in 2020.
Coaching is key here, and head coach Frank Reich is one of the best offensive minds in football who will now have a quarterback capable of running his offense effectively.
We’ll see if the DeForest Buckner trade and Xavier Rhodes signing help this defense back to their 2018 form and take a step in the AFC this upcoming season. I know I like their chances.
They have revamped the offensive line with the additions of Trai Turner and Brian Bulaga, but losing Melvin Gordon will have an effect on their running game and the team will likely look to re-tool outside of Austin Ekeler in the draft. Watch out for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Don’t we say that every year?
I cannot take anything away from what the Titans were able to do in 2019. Having said that, they shelled out money to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is bound for a major regression in 2020, and running back Derrick Henry. Henry was the work horse of that offense last season, but power running in today’s NFL doesn’t scream sustained success, and we know Tannehill is never going to play at the level he did for several weeks last season. The sample size is just too big to make me think otherwise. Don’t count me among the believers.
Finally, the most important factor standing in the way of a Bills Super Bowl run: Josh Allen.
I don’t want that to sound harsh. He’s not a roadblock, but his success in 2020 is easily the most critical factor for any sort of short- or long-term success. I’d argue that 95% of people on the outside looking in are either rooting against Allen or predicting he’ll, at least, fail in 2020. Not that that’s anything new, it’s just interesting to me that even after a very solid second season, most are unwilling to buy in that his third year will be his best yet.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane isn’t taking any chances, though. Adding wide receiver Stefon Diggs was a monumental move, and one that has put the Bills squarely into this Super Bowl window. It’s the move good teams make to try to be great. It’s the move that removes all excuses for their young signal caller.
Allen is, arguably, the Bills' most consequential player in more than three decades, with more riding on his success than just about any young quarterback in football that I can remember. His success would go against nearly every advanced statistic, and for that, I think he’s incredibly easy to root for.
Unlike most though, I’m not ready to frame this conversation around what they do if Allen fails. Will Allen fail to take his third-year step and be considered a top-10 quarterback? The prognosticators, the numbers and history alone suggest no, he will not. In fact, it’s probably more likely that someone not named Josh Allen will be starting at quarterback for the Bills in 2021.
But you know what, I’m ready to get hurt again. For the first time, there’s competence trickling down from the top. If this quarterback fails, I don’t believe the general manager or head coach get fired. That’s not exactly a given anywhere else in the league these days.
With all that said, my message is this: enjoy this window.
Most times, they just don’t last, and all you have to do is look to the Rams or the Atlanta Falcons for prime examples of just how short those windows can be.
I’m just happy to be here, and I look forward to sharing this experience with all of you who simply haven’t been here before. It should be fun.