Going back to the 2021 playoffs the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs had what was in my opinion the best game of the entire postseason. Bills' quarterback Josh Allen played phenomenal and it seemed as though neither offense could be stopped. Losing a coin toss to begin overtime led to the Bills losing and seeing their postseason run come to an end. The Chiefs would go on to lose to the Bengals who in turn lost to the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. But the Chiefs and Bills always felt like the two strongest teams coming out of the AFC. The overtime loss in the divisional round left a very what-if feeling among the franchise and fans. The team was so good, showed so much promise and seemed fully capable of beating any team any week. Playoffs would continue without them. A bitter taste for a team that had spent the better part of the previous two decades outside of the playoffs. In 2017 the Bills would end a playoff drought that began in the 90's and currently stands as the longest postseason drought in professional American sports.
Things have looked up for the franchise since. Young signal caller Josh Allen improved tremendously over his first few seasons. Drastically improving his passing yards (2,074 to 3,089 to 4,544), completion percentage (52.8% to 58.8% to 69.2%), passing touchdowns (10 to 20 to 37) and rating (67.9 to 85.3 to 107.2). Not to mention his impact in the ground game gaining both yards and touchdowns on his feet. That rapid growth and continued high level of play last season points to a trend that should have Bills fans excited about their quarterback for some time.
What made the Bills so good last year, other than just solid quarterback play? Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been a focal point of the offense since he came to Buffalo via trade with Minnesota. Last year he was in the top 10 in receiving yards and top five in targets. He also led the league in 2020 in both receiving yards (1,535) and targets (166). The team's offense ranked highly in 2021. Again staying in the top 10 in passing yards and passing touchdowns. They also ranked 3rd in total touchdowns. The biggest weakness on offense was what the running backs brought to the game. A lot of rushing yards and rushing touchdowns were thanks to the mobility of QB Josh Allen.
As the old adage goes, "offense wins games, defense wins championships." On defense the Bills allowed the lowest completion percentage in the league at a low 56%. By far the lowest and one of only three teams to allow under 60% (the other two teams both allowed over 59%). Buffalo had the lowest yards per attempt allowed as well at a measly 5.2, 0.7 yards fewer than the next best team. To put that into perspective there was only a 1 yard per attempt difference between the 3rd best and 26th best teams in the entire NFL. They allowed the fewest passing yards at 2,771. The only team to allow under 3,000. Only a dozen passing touchdowns allowed with the next best team being the Super Bowl champion Rams who allowed 17. Another statistic they topped was passing first downs allowed. Just 138, with the next best teams allowing 170 to go along with the lowest passing 1st down percentage allowed at 26%, with the next best teams at 31.2% Not only did the Buffalo Bills lead the league in numerous defensive categories, but they dominated the league in them. The Bills weren't as dominate against the run but still had solid numbers in all the same metrics as their top ranked passing defense.
If the Bills were so good last year and didn't even make the Super Bowl why do I think they are the best team this year? Going back to the postseason overtime loss to the Chiefs, it truly felt as though that game came down to a coin flip. So much so that the NFL actually changed the overtime rules for this coming season so there wouldn't be a repeat of what happened last year. Most analysts had the Bills at the end of last season as a top 5 if not a top 3 team. So what improvements have they made in the offseason to become even better? Via free agency adding veteran presence to the defensive and offensive lines. The biggest name addition is no other than 2021 Super Bowl champion Von Miller (yes the Rams last season had Von Miller and Aaron Donald but Miller also won Super Bowl MVP when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50). Jamison Crowder as a slot receiver is a sneaky good signing of what I consider an underrated player. Former 1st round pick TE O.J. Howard could prove to be a good pickup in both run blocking and receiving. In the draft Buffalo spent their 1st round pick on cornerback Kaiir Elam. An already amazing strength of the Bills could be even better, or at the very least have more depth. I'm very interested to see what this year's 2nd round draft pick, running back James Cook can bring to the game. Time will tell how much he can add but football is in his blood. You may have heard of his older brother Dalvin Cook, yes that Dalvin, who has been a stud at the running back position for the Minnesota Vikings.
It's also extremely important to note that the biggest names of the 2021 Buffalo Bills are still on the team in 2022. Every year, every team in football deals with turnover. Player contracts expire, players retire, some didn't play well enough, some cost too much and somebody always has to go to make room for the rookies and free agents. But the core of the team and the heart of the team is still intact. They are the favorites to win their division again this year and those Kansas City Chiefs are without their former #1 wide receiver Tyreek Hill who had 150 yards and a game tying 64yd touchdown with just over a minute left in regulation in the Bills' postseason loss last season. So the only thing between the Super Bowl and the Buffalo Bills this seasons is the Buffalo Bills. Anything can happen in football, but with a great offense and best defense in the league, they are poised to be Super Bowl contenders before the season has even started.