The 2022 NFL season kicked off with the game that really should have been Super Bowl LVI. You may be asking "How was a team that didn't even make the AFC Championship Game supposed to be in the Super Bowl?" Well, they got the short end of the overtime stick.
In the Divisional Round, the Bills lost a game to a coin. But they probably deserved to charge into the AFC title game. If they did, there's a decent chance they may have found their way past the Chiefs and into the big game. Since Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay, the Patriots have been on a downswing. And, in that time, the Bills have stepped into the top spot in the AFC East. Some would reason that it's only due to the Pats dynasty coming to a close. But, I hate to break it to your cousin from Boston, but it's actually because the Buffalo Bills are the real deal.
Josh Allen Runs the Bills Mafia like a Boss
Since he was drafted seventh overall by the Bills in the 2018 draft, Josh Allen has stampeded onto the scene. It both feels as though he started just yesterday and that he's been around for ages. As he enters his fifth season, Allen, if healthy, is likely to be a perennial MVP candidate. He wields a cannon for an arm and can run better than a 6-foot-5 quarterback has any right to.
While everyone in the league was gawking over some guy named Patrick Mahomes, Allen was grinding. I don't mean to say he's been completely ignored. That's not the case. But it was only last season that he started to be taken seriously enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Mahomes. In reality, Allen has put up some really fantastic numbers. In the three seasons in which he's been the season-long starter, he's thrown for an average of 31 TDs, 11 INTs, 4,013 yards and a quarterback rating of 94.9.
It was clear Allen was turning into something special, so it was time for the Bills to give Allen and head coach Sean McDermott a reason for Bills fans to believe in.
Josh and the Gang
In addition to their future MVP quarterback, the Bills flaunt a receiving corps of which anyone would be envious. Stefon Diggs leads the way, but just behind him are the likes of Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie and Gabe Davis. Watch out for Davis -- all signs lead me to believe he's on the verge of a breakout year.
In the backfield, stalwarts Devin Singletary and Zack Moss will continue to get the touches. However, rookie running back James Cook will be looking to prove he can make the transition to the cold and fight for the ball. Add tight end Dawson Knox into the equation and this offense will continue to be potent.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills have been OK, but not quite top-defense-in-the-league good. Some say this will be the year they leap that last hurdle and lead the way.
The main key to all of the above is consistency in experience. As this team grows together, they're learning from their mistakes and really could be on the cusp of greatness.
A Kansas City-Sized Hurdle
In 2020, the Bills stormed back into the playoffs and were one game away from Super Bowl LV. However they couldn't quite figure out how to get past the Kansas City Chiefs. Just one year later, they found themselves traveling to Kansas City again, but this time in the Divisional Round. Unfortunately, due to some stupid rules, they found themselves facing the same result.
But something about this year feels different. I mean, third time's a charm, right? Buffalo has only strengthened over the course of the last few years, and they may be better now than they've been since the Jim Kelly days. Josh Allen's ability to read the game and extend plays rivals the best in the game.
Locking Horns to Start the 2022 Season
As I've already pointed out, more than once, the Bills kicked off this season against what likely could have been their Super Bowl opponent in Los Angeles. We expected a prize fight. Instead, the Bills absolutely dominated. Cooper Kupp was probably the only bright spot for an otherwise anemic Rams team. Are we sure that was the reigning champions?
Josh Allen threw three touchdowns and rushed for one. Stefon Diggs pulled in eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Gabe Davis hauled in four for 88 yards and a TD. And the Buffalo defense managed seven sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
They weren't without their blemishes. Moss and Cook both lost fumbles and Allen did throw two INTs himself.
These Aren't the Jim Kelly Era Buffalo Bills
But think about that for a moment. The Bills were not at their absolute best and they straight up smoked the defending Super Bowl Champions. If that's not a sign that the Bills are here to stay, I don't know what is.
It's easy to get excited and make lavish predictions after just one game. But the proof is in the pudding. These Buffalo Bills have been building toward this. They've made improvements without disrupting the core of their team. That experience is going to drive them right back to the AFC title game and, quite possibly, the Super Bowl. They're built to do it.
For so many years, the AFC East was dominated by a coach who was said to be playing chess while everyone else was playing checkers.
Well, after back to back division titles, and a hot start to 2022, it looks like the Bills Mafia will have something for themselves to celebrate for a long, long time.