The Bills are in a Super Bowl window

March 27, 2020 - 11:34 am
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The Buffalo Bills are in a Super Bowl window.

Yeah, that's right, I said it. Super Bowl window, folks.

For the first time in my adult life, uttering those words aren't for the retweets or for the sake of scorching hot takes. Which means we're going to have a serious conversation about the Bills entering the 2020 season with similar or better Super Bowls odds than the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.

I hope you enjoyed reading that last sentence as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The fact of the matter is the Bills were fighting for a bye week heading into Week 15 last season. Uh huh, meaningful December football for the first time in two decades. Wins in their final two games against the New England Patriots and New York Jets might have put the Bills in the driver seat to host a playoff game. Just remember all this context as we dive into their 2020 outlook.

We also can't ignore that the moves made by other elite AFC teams either, so before we get into the Bills, let's first take a look at the offseason that a few key AFC teams have had thus far that may have something to say about the Bills becoming legitimate AFC contenders:


Baltimore Ravens:

  • Key FA Additions:
    • DT/DE - Calais Campbell
    • OLB - Matthew Judon (franchise tag)
  • Key FA Losses:
    • TE - Hayden Hurst
    • S - Tony Jefferson
    • DE - Michael Pierce

The Baltimore Ravens were, arguably, the best team in all of football last season, but ultimately ran into the league's hottest team in the Divisional Round and were bounced before they even got started. Lamar Jackson is coming off an MVP campaign and began to look like an elite-level NFL passer, especially down the stretch of the regular season.

That playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans likely revealed some flaws in Greg Roman's offense once they were forced to play from behind. The problem is the Ravens were so efficient offensively that it was extremely difficult to get ahead and put them in an uncomfortable position. The Ravens have yet to add significant pieces on offense outside of tight end Mark Andrews, and will need to find a legit No. 1 wide receiver to compliment Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who enters his second season following a solid rookie campaign.

They'll have a deep draft of wide receivers to look to, but the Ravens decided to invest heavily into their defensive line. However, they saw the signing of Michael Brockers fall through as he returns to the Los Angeles Rams.

It will be interesting to see how NFL defenses will adjust to the league's best rushing attack in 2020. They'll need to layer in a more dynamic passing offense (yes, I know it was really good last year) if they want to take a step past the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.

Kansas City Chiefs:

  • Key FA Additions:
    • DT - Chris Jones (franchise tag)
    • OT/G - Mike Remmers
  • Key FA Losses:
    • CB - Kendall Fuller
    • DE - Emmanuel Ogbah
    • C - Stefen Wisniewski

Last I checked, they had just won the Super Bowl and have Patrick Mahomes under center. They lost a starting caliber cornerback in Kendall Fuller, but otherwise, this is a team, offensively, who should be just as good, if not better with a full season of a healthy Mahomes in 2020. Scary, I know.

They took major strides defensively last season, which was ultimately the reason they were able to get over the hump. Bringing back Chris Jones was a major move to keep that defense intact for 2020 and I expect them to challenge for another Super Bowl in 2020.

Indianapolis Colts:

  • Key FA Additions:
    • QB - Philip Rivers
    • DT - DeForest Buckner
    • DT - Sheldon Day
    • CB - Xavier Rhodes
  • Key FA Losses:
    • TE - Eric Ebron
    • WR - Devin Funchess

Yeah, the Indianapolis Colts are sneaky, and I'm just going to come out and say it - the Philip Rivers move did not move the needle for me a ton. However, he's better than Jacoby Brissett and certainly better than Brian Hoyer under center. So if he can give them 16 games, the Colts should be able to secure the AFC South after whatever it is that Bill O'Brien is doing with the Houston Texans. I'm also not totally sold that the Titans have a sustainable model for success.

Coaching is key here, and head coach Frank Reich is one of the best offensive minds in football who will now have a quarterback capable of running his offense effectively.

We'll see if the DeForest Buckner trade and Xavier Rhodes signing help this defense back to their 2018 form and take a step in the AFC this upcoming season. I know I like their chances.

Los Angeles Chargers:

  • Key FA Additions:
    • G - Trai Turner
    • OT - Brian Bulaga
    • DT - Linval Joseph
    • CB - Chris Harris
  • Key FA Losses:
    • QB - Philip Rivers
    • RB - Melvin Gordon
    • OT - Russell Okung
    • LB - Thomas Davis

I reserve the right to change this if they ultimately decide to enter the season with Tyrod Taylor as their starting or bridge quarterback. I love Taylor and think he's a premier backup, but this is a team in a clear Super Bowl window, and I hope they don't waste a year by going with Taylor as their starter. But if they do, that only helps the Bills.

They have revamped the offensive line with the additions of Trai Turner and Brian Bulaga, but losing Melvin Gordon will have an effect on their running game and the team will likely look to re-tool outside of Austin Ekeler in the draft. Watch out for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Don't we say that every year?

Honorable mention:

Tennessee Titans:

I cannot take anything away from what the Titans were able to do in 2019. Having said that, they shelled out money to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is bound for a major regression in 2020, and running back Derrick Henry. Henry was the work horse of that offense last season, but power running in today's NFL doesn't scream sustained success, and we know Tannehill is never going to play at the level he did for several weeks last season. The sample size is just too big to make me think otherwise. Don't count me among the believers.

Cleveland Browns:

I learned my lesson. I'm never buying Browns stock. Again.

Finally, the most important factor standing in the way of a Bills Super Bowl run: Josh Allen.

I don't want that to sound harsh. He's not a roadblock, but his success in 2020 is easily the most critical factor for any sort of short- or long-term success. I'd argue that 95% of people on the outside looking in are either rooting against Allen or predicting he'll, at least, fail in 2020. Not that that's anything new, it's just interesting to me that even after a very solid second season, most are unwilling to buy in that his third year will be his best yet.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane isn't taking any chances, though. Adding wide receiver Stefon Diggs was a monumental move, and one that has put the Bills squarely into this Super Bowl window. It's the move good teams make to try to be great. It's the move that removes all excuses for their young signal caller.

Allen is, arguably, the Bills' most consequential player in more than three decades, with more riding on his success than just about any young quarterback in football that I can remember. His success would go against nearly every advanced statistic, and for that, I think he's incredibly easy to root for.

Unlike most though, I'm not ready to frame this conversation around what they do if Allen fails. Will Allen fail to take his third-year step and be considered a top-10 quarterback? The prognosticators, the numbers and history alone suggest no, he will not. In fact, it's probably more likely that someone not named Josh Allen will be starting at quarterback for the Bills in 2021.

But you know what, I'm ready to get hurt again. For the first time, there's competence trickling down from the top. If this quarterback fails, I don't believe the general manager or head coach get fired. That's not exactly a given anywhere else in the league these days.

With all that said, my message is this: enjoy this window.

Most times, they just don't last, and all you have to do is look to the Rams or the Atlanta Falcons for prime examples of just how short those windows can be.

I'm just happy to be here, and I look forward to sharing this experience with all of you who simply haven't been here before. It should be fun.

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