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Bills still knocking on the door, hoping to get past Chiefs and Bengals

13 July 2023

The Buffalo Bills have been on the precipice of going to the Super Bowl for the last three seasons. They have a dynamic offense led by quarterback Josh Allen, and have demonstrated the ability to light up the scoreboard and dominate opponents.

But they were beaten in the AFC title game by the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2020 season and have fallen in the divisional round of the playoffs the past two years.

That’s not exactly progress.

It leads to the following question: Is the window starting to close on the Bills? It seems reasonable because Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have won the Super Bowl in two of the past three seasons, and the Bills also appear to have been bypassed by Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals.

It would be a mistake to write off the Bills for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the incredible head coach-quarterback combination of Sean McDermott and Allen. McDermott is a smart leader who excels at finding the right strategies to dominate the AFC East and combines that intelligence with a fire that leads to maximum effort week in and week out.

Allen may not have multiple titles like Mahomes does or a Super Bowl appearance like Burrow, but he probably has the strongest arm in the league and the guts to put his body on the line without fear.

Many quarterbacks talk the talk, but Allen backs it up regularly. He threw for 4,283 yards while completing 63.3% of his passes last season. He also had a 35-14 touchdown to interception ratio and combined his passing numbers with 762 rushing yards and 7 TDs. As long as he does not take his past playoff defeats with him when he steps on the field during the 2023 season, he should be ready for another huge year.

He has one of the best receivers in the NFL in Stefon Diggs, who runs some of the best routes in the league.

Diggs is coming off a season in which he caught 108 passes for 1,429 yards and 11 touchdowns, and it’s clear that he is the receiver Allen looks to when the game is on the line. Gabe Davis is the team’s No. 2 receiver, and he contributed 48 receptions a year ago, but it’s clear that Diggs is the team’s go-to playmaker. Diggs signed a four-year, $96 million contract with the Bills a year ago, but he is not thrilled with the deal and that could put the Bills in a mode to trade him at some point. They will most likely hold on to him, but the thought of him wanting to put together a new deal after just one season can’t sit well with ownership.

The Bills are depending on James Cook and former Patriot Damien Harris to give them a dependable ground game this season. Cook, the brother of ex-Viking Dalvin Cook, ran for 507 yards and 6 touchdowns a year ago. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and should be poised for a big year.

Harris signed with the Bills as a free agent and he ran for a pedestrian 462 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. However, he is just one year removed from the 2021 season in which he had 929 yards and an eye- catching 15 touchdowns.

McDermott is expecting Harris to give the Bills balance in the running game with his ability to pound the ball into the end zone.

Defensively, the Bills are counting on Von Miller returning to form as a game-changing edge rusher. Miller recorded 8.0 sacks before he tore his ACL last year, but he should be healthy for the upcoming season.

34-year-old Miller is a 3-time first-team All-Pro and an 8-time Pro Bowler.

He has had double-digit sacks seven times in his career, and the Bills are counting on him to reach that figure again.

There’s no doubt on how much the return of Safety Damar Hamlin will mean to the team after he suffered a cardiac event on the field in a Week 17 Monday night game against the Bengals. Hamlin’s recovery became a national story, and he is a symbolic leader as well as a solid tackler who contributed 91 stops last year before his injury.

The Bills face a critical season, and it would be wrong to believe that a downturn is at hand. They are talented and motivated, and the 2023 season could finally see them get past the Chiefs and Bengals.