The Buffalo Bills were just a game away from the Super Bowl last season. In fact, they were just 45 minutes away. Buffalo jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s AFC Championship Game before getting steamrolled by the defending champs, who’d go on to lose to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.
Entering the postseason, many Bills fans had title dreams and thought this may be the beginning of years and years of domination in the AFC. By the end, though, there was this lingering cloud of doubt about whether or not the Bills would even get back to the Super Bowl in such a tough conference, let alone win it.
Can Buffalo Win a Super Bowl This Year? Can It Even Get There?
For the answers to be yes, we need two parameters to be true. The Bills need to first be good enough to reach the playoffs, then they need to, presumably, be good enough to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
Though the first part of that question may seem like a rather obvious “yes,” let’s consider the fact that Buffalo had the benefit of a rather easy schedule last season. The Bills played in only five — yes, five! — games against teams that made the postseason. They went 3-2, beating the Rams, Seahawks, and Steelers, who at the time were on their infamous decline. That wasn’t all that an impressive performance to me, particularly when you consider the Seahawks had massive issues in their secondary all season, and even though the Bills scored 44, they also allowed 34 points in that win.
The rest of Buffalo’s wins came against bad teams. It had the benefit of playing in an AFC East division on another down year, racking up plenty of wins against the struggling Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots.
Well, this year, things may not be so easy. The Dolphins are expected to be even further along in their development, and the Patriots and Jets could both have better quarterbacks under center. Buffalo will also have to play the NFC South, which means two games against the Saints and defending champion Buccaneers. Aside from games with the Texans and Jaguars, the Bills will have to fight for every win. The Colts and Steelers could be two losses, as could the Saints, Buccaneers, and Chiefs — who Buffalo lost to twice last year. Should Buffalo lose even four of those games, the pressure is on to win essentially every remaining game on the schedule.
That said, the Bills did impress us in the postseason, and against some good competition. I do expect them to get back to the postseason, even if I do think it may be closer than people think.
Can They Make It Past the Chiefs?
The answer to that question has to be in the Bills’ defense. Buffalo added Emmanuel Sanders, and Matt Breida on offense, and re-signed three members of its line. That’s all well and good, but the Bills did not add any impact defensive players, and that was a sticking point last year. The Bills ranked just 17th in opponent yards per game, and its rushing defense was a very poor 25th in yards per rush. The Chiefs managed to put up an average of 32 points in two meetings last year, racking up a ridiculous 245 yards on the ground in the regular-season affair and 119 in their AFC Championship game win. In the postseason, Mahomes went for 325 yards and three touchdowns. So, the Bills were flat-out exposed in the box and in the secondary.
I don’t think this Bills team can make it to the Super Bowl this year. Their defense still has a long way to go, and aside from a huge draft, I’m not sure it’s there yet. I don’t care how good you are at scoring, that won’t get you to the Super Bowl, particularly against the Chiefs. The Buccaneers beat Kansas City because they had an insanely good defense, not because Tampa put up 40 points per game. You can ask Seattle how it goes having a great offense to go along with a crummy secondary — it did not turn out well.
I’m still optimistic this team, led by Josh Allen, can get to the Super Bowl in the next few years. However, it’s about time to address this defense already. That will be what holds them back in 2021.