By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
Over the last few weeks in the NFL, we’ve heard a lot about the NFC West, quarterback Lamar Jackson and the amazing Baltimore Ravens, the troubles in Dallas, and the possible decline of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. Who we haven’t been hearing much about are the Buffalo Bills, which has been a huge miss by the media. Its time to give credit where credit is due… let’s talk Bills.
The Buffalo Bills have a 9-3 record. The Bills. 9-3. The same Buffalo Bills that hadn’t been to a playoff game in 17 years, and made it to that Wild Card game in 2017 with a record of 9-7. This means that unless the Bills lose out, which is insanely unlikely, they will have the best record they’ve had since 1999. 20 long, heartbreaking, fandom testing years.
With the New England Patriots (10-2) losing on Sunday Night Football to the Houston Texans, the Bills are now just one game behind the perennial division winners. It has been years since any other team in the division has been in range to not just catch the Patriots, but maybe take the title.
Looking at their schedules, both these teams have serious competition next week with the Patriots playing the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Bills playing the Ravens. It’s after that where things could get more difficult for the Bills to catch the Patriots, as New England has a slightly easier schedule. It could come down to the week 16 game in Foxboro, and who would have thought that just a few months ago?
How are they doing it? How have the Bills managed to turn this thing around and finally get the production they have been looking for? The answer has come in the form of a strong defense and a young quarterback with a great run game.
The Bills defense is ranked number 3 in both total defense and passing yards per game. Remember, this is the defense that held Tom Brady to ZERO touchdowns earlier this season. They have had 4 sacks in three straight games, which hasn’t happened since 2014. Players like defensive end Shaq Lawson, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are making their mark on opposing offenses, and the league is taking notice.
On offense, their run game is ranked 5th, averaging 137 yards per game, lead by the man, the myth, the legend, running back Frank Gore, with 552 yards. Now that may not seem like a lot but you have to add in the fact that RB Devin Singletary has 553 yards, and the Bills quarterback, Josh Allen, has 430 yards. Yes, their QB is their third-best rusher.
We’ve watched this about 100 times and still don’t know how Josh Allen got this first down.
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) November 28, 2019
Let’s talk about Josh Allen for just a minute. His teammates love him. Buffalo fans have complete faith in him. The coaches trust him. Now if you had looked at last seasons stats, you may question why, but looking at this season, you get it. Allen’s stats are outstanding, 61% completion rate, 16 touchdowns to 8 interceptions, 2,591 yards. But there seems to be something about him that says he won’t quit. He has a fighter mentality that fits beautifully in Buffalo.
I decided to ask Bills fans to sum up their feelings about this season in one word. I got words like unexpected, history, optimistic, hope, excited, emotional, blessed, and a couple of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’s (is that the plural?). You can feel the optimism from this fan base, a feeling that showed up for a little bit in 2017 but had been gone for a long time before that.
The Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys in Dallas was the most-watched Thanksgiving Day game in over 27 years, averaging 38 million viewers. The Bills hadn’t played on Thanksgiving for 25 years. My hope is that those viewers were as impressed with Buffalo as I was, and continue to watch them more closely. They deserve more attention.
Yes, it does say NFC and AFC West reporter under my name, and most know I am a Seattle Seahawks fan, however, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Buffalo Bills. It goes clear back to the early ’90s…Thurman Thomas, Andre Reid, Jim Kelly, I just love them. This team has the same type of feeling about them. Will they have the same level of success? Probably not, as that is nearly impossible in today’s NFL. But I think they could be a team the fans will be very proud of for a long time.