Hope for the Best – Don’t Expect It

Can the Buffalo Bills finally hoist the Lombardi? For the first time in a long time, everybody is saying yes.

The Buffalo Bills are favorites to win the 2023 Super Bowl. Let that sink in. After 17 years of (mostly) abysmal football and five years of “Process”, the Buffalo Bills are expected to finish the season as World Champs.

But will they? And do they deserve the hype?

Even though the Bills have the League’s most talented (and handsome) quarterback, they haven’t gotten past the Conference Championship since 1993. So why are the Bills everyone’s favorite to take the Lombardi?

The Quarterback

Josh Allen has become everything Bills fans hoped for. Allen is 6’5” and over 230lbs with a laser cannon for an arm and what must be winged heels in his cleats. His character and leadership qualities outshine his natural talents, and his stats speak for themselves. Let’s reiterate some, anyway.

Last year, Allen became the first QB to pass for 4000 yards and rush for over 750 yards in a single season. In 2020, he became the only QB to throw over 30 TDs and rush for 8 more. His total TD count for his first four seasons is 135, second only to Dan Marino at 144.

Josh Allen proves time and time again that he is an MVP-level talent who can get the Bills to the Super Bowl. Talking heads around the league are singing his praises and rightfully so.

If there’s ever a biopic about Josh, I bet they get Chad Michael Murray to play him.

The Superstar Edge Rusher

The acquisition of Von Miller also helps pump up the Bills’ odds of taking the Lombardi. He leads all active NFL players in sacks and racked up 9.5 last year at the age of 32. He is a leader with star power, which is the only thing last season’s #1 ranked defense was missing. Miller also comes up clutch in big moments, as demonstrated numerous times last year. Many people believe that Miller can help push the Bills over the top in big moments, including Von Miller. Otherwise, why would you ever leave Los Angeles and Aaron Donald?

I saw Von in the airport a few weeks ago. I waved and he didn’t wave back. My self-esteem is still recovering.

The Bias

Recency bias also plays a role in the hype around the Buffalo Bills. The last two games of the year were dazzling displays of offensive efficiency. The Bills put a period on the two-decades of dominance orchestrated by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady with a masterful dismantling of the New England Patriots in the Wild Card Round. It is etched in Buffalo and NFL history as the only perfect offensive game, ever.

Remember when our first touchdown was an accident? What a fun night.

Then there was the Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills and Chiefs answered each other blow-for-blow in a game many consider to be the best of the year. Josh Allen and Gabe Davis could not be denied. They imposed their will against Steve Spagnola’s wilting defense. But it turns out 13 seconds is all Patrick Mahomes needs to extinguish a brilliant run.

Despite the loss, many see the game as a sign of things to come for Buffalo. Surely, a team that was able to take part in such a high-powered game will be able to get over the hump next year. Right?

This is my cousin after the Bills botched the Divisional.

The Disappointments

Last season, Bills fans knew that they had a championship-caliber team. After all, the team went 13-3 the year before, Josh Allen performed at an MVP-level with the help of superstar wideout Stefon Diggs, and we made it all the way to the AFC Championship.

The Bills stumbled out of the gates, though, and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. They flubbed a 4th and goal to lose a close game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 6. There were the embarrassments at the hands of Jacksonville and Indianapolis. While the team almost pulled off comebacks against the Bucs in Week 14 and the Chiefs in the Divisional, they fell short both times. Sometimes things came together when they needed to, but there were a lot of sorry moments that will be seared into Bills Mafias’ brains for a while.

“JoSh AlLeN sAcKeD jOsH aLlEn!!” -Jags fans trying to wash Urban Meyer out of their mouth

What’s most disappointing is the opaqueness of Bills HC Sean McDermott when it comes to the final 13 seconds of the Divisional Round dual. One can excuse a head coach for limiting the exposure of his players and staff by giving vague answers at press conferences, but it seems he has yet to address it with those same players and staff (if you’re a Bills fan and you haven’t read Tyler Dunne’s piece, you gotta). McDermott has failed to take a Super Bowl-ready team to the Promised Land two years in a row. The Bills were outcoached in the 2020 AFC Championship and there were questionable decisions in the infamous 13 seconds debacle, to put it mildly. Does the humble head coach have “The Process” to win games when it matters most?

The Road Ahead

The Bills have a tougher season ahead of them based on the strength of schedule comparisons (.478 in ’21 and .512 in ’22). The Bills will open the season against reigning Super Bowl Champs LA Rams. They take on two of the AFC’s toughest and best-coached units in the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. They take on the Chiefs once more in Arrowhead. The Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Bengals are also top-of-the-line football teams that may not go down easily.

How electric is that season opener going to be, eh?

Not to discount the rest of the schedule, either. It’s fair to assume a disappointment or two given the fact the Bills lost three games to clearly inferior opponents last year. Can the Steelers pull off another upset? Is the Dolphins roster as good on the field as it is on paper? Massage enthusiast Deshaun Watson, a problem for the Bills in the past, is also slated to face us later in the season.

The Bills have a tough road ahead, but everyone is talking about the Super Bowl like it’s a done deal. I believe the Bills can beat anyone in the NFL, but even the best Bills seasons have only ever ended in heartbreak. Now I’m supposed to “Bill-ieve” that this is the season that’s different?

The answer is yes, as a fan I’m supposed to have faith. And I do. Mostly in Josh Allen. The Bills also have the talent around him to beat anyone. I’m not sold on the coaching, but I’m not enough of an X’s and O’s guy to condemn McDermott. I expect a season full of high blood-pressure moments. That’s what a good team provides – not surety and comfort, but indomitable highs and catastrophic lows. Anyone trying to tell you it’s a sure thing is missing the point. Bills Mafia can hope for an easy ride, but don’t expect one.