At 8:15pm tonight, the Buffalo Bills will be taking on the New England Patriots in the Wildcard Round of the NFL Playoffs. This season contained many highs and lows for the Buffalo Bills, and after splitting the matchups 1-1 with the Patriots during the season, it’s fitting that the true AFC East champion will be decided tonight. There are 2 big questions on Bills Mafia’s mind right now: Will Allen, Daboll, and McDermott get this offense firing, or will the mastermind behind 20 years of dominance, Bill Belichick, add to his storied record? One thing that isn’t in question, however, is Leslie Frazier and the Buffalo Bills defense.
Bills fans have a soft spot in their heart for the defense. The humble working-class population isn’t in it for flashy superstars that high step into the endzone – though we don’t hate that, either. The most beloved players are the defensive stars, though. Bruce Smith, Darryl Talley, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes, Jairus Byrd, and on, and on. Bills fans hold these names near and dear to their hearts.
That legacy has continued under defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who has coached a top 3 defense in 3 out of the past 4 years. Last year the unit fell off, unexpectedly, but they returned to form this year, ending the season as the top-ranked defense. They led the league in points per game, yards per game, yards per play, 1st downs per game, and 3rd down %. Somehow there were no players from the defense selected to the pro bowl.
Despite this cold shoulder, the Bills have been the top defense in the league for the last 15 weeks. “Well, what about the rush defense???” Admittedly, this is the weak link. The bend but don’t break philosophy of Leslie Frazier can lead to problems, but the Bills still rank #1 in points and yards allowed, proving its effectiveness. Things make more sense, too, when you look at who ran over them. Ever heard of Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor? Yeah, they crushed the Bills…along with almost every team they faced. The defending Super Bowl champs, with Tom Brady at the helm and the #2 ranked O-Line also ruined their day. And then Bill Belichick – aka every team’s worst nightmare – and his #9 ranked O-line came in and got the best of us in brutal weather conditions. We tagged them back, though.
The flip side of the coin is that you cannot throw against these guys. Muki Hawkins coined the fitting name “Air Traffic Control” for this defense. Even without All-Pro Talent Tre’Davious White, the Bills DBs, led by Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, have dominated QBs and receivers all year long. The only QB to achieve 300+ yds against this team is Tom Brady, otherwise known as the best at the position of all time. Even then, the Bills were able to mount an incredible comeback, partially due to the defense holding Brady to around 70yds passing in the entire second half.
Clearly, this is a talented unit, worthy of the #1 ranking. But the question is, will the Bills defense hold up? With inconsistencies on offense, you can bet McDermott will be relying on Frazier and Air Traffic Control to paralyze other teams. The bright side for Bills fans is that 6 out of the top 10 offenses in the regular season belong to the other conference. That’s right. Out of the top 10 offenses in the league, only 4 are from the AFC. And only 2 out of those 4, the Chiefs and the Bills, made the playoffs.
The Bills defense is licking their chops. Every team in the AFC better be ready. The defense is the most consistent and all-around best in the league, and they have a chip on their shoulder from the lack of respect. What’s more, this isn’t a Bills defense that just broke the drought. These guys are seasoned. Most of them have been playing together for 5 years now, 4 of which they’ve made it to the playoffs. They know play-off football.
The rest of the AFC better watch out. While there have been inconsistencies, the conference is up for grabs, and any team could be going to the final dance. I’m biased as hell, but I’m putting my money on the Buffalo Bills. After all, defense wins championships.