The Buffalo Bills aren’t who we thought they were — they’re better

The Buffalo Bills aren’t who we thought they were — they’re better

The Buffalo Bills delivered a statement win against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football and one thing is clear: the Bills are better than we thought.

A rematch of the AFC Championship would always prove to be an interesting story arc. The Buffalo Bills were hoping to exorcise the demons from nine months earlier while simultaneously improving their record to 4-1. The Kansas City Chiefs — the winners of that playoff game back in January — were looking to get back on track and win back-to-back games. In doing so, they would reassert their dominance over one of the standout teams in the NFL so far.

The Bills season so far has been impressive. It started with an ugly loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but since then, they’ve ripped off four straight wins. That includes the 38-20 victory against the Chiefs on Sunday night.

That was the Bills at their best. Josh Allen finished the day with four total touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) and over 300 yards passing, plus another 59 on the ground. The defense wasn’t as all-encompassing as recent games, but the game plan was impressive and clear: Buffalo wanted to take away the deep threat — thus neutralizing Tyreek Hill — and keep the ball in front of them.

It worked. Patrick Mahomes completed a season-low 61 percent of his passes and averaged 5 yards per passing attempt. On top of that, he turned the ball over three times. The Bills were in control from whistle to whistle. It was a statement win if there ever was one.

How did the Buffalo Bills get here?

It was clear that heading into this game, the Bills were a great NFL team. But this win taught us that they’re better than we thought. There were question marks at the start of the season. Josh Allen made one of the biggest single-season leaps in NFL history a season ago. Would it be just an aberration or the new norm for the former first-round pick?

Allen showed glimpses of his former self in the first two weeks of the season, completing just 54 percent of his passes as the team split their opening two games. One of the gripes against Allen since he came into the NFL is that his decision-making can be a bit loose at times. He’s cut down on the interceptions, but still has a penchant for a turnover-worthy play. Allen has the fifth-most turnover-worthy plays this season (9), per PFF.

The reason for that number is quite simple, though. Allen has the third-most big-time throws in the NFL this season (16) — only Derek Carr and Tom Brady have more. He has the arm talent to navigate the ball wherever he wants, and the confidence to attempt just about any throw.

His completion percentage is noticeably down from last season, but Allen is still one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s not just Allen that makes the team tick, though.

The Buffalo Bills defense is among the league’s best

When Sean McDermott first took over as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, the identity of the team was based on its defense. In 2018 and 2019, the Bills defense finished in the top 10 of defensive DVOA, but the emphasis has been placed upon the offense in the last year or two.

Now, in 2021, the Bills seem to have found the perfect formula. Allen, of course, has developed into one of the league’s leading stars, and the defense has evolved into one of the most revered units on the gridiron. The defense is first in DVOA by a considerable margin and in EPA per play. They have one of the highest pressure rates in the NFL (28.6 percent), have the fifth-best third-down defense, and have the highest turnover-differential in the league. Basically, they do everything you want a defense to do.

And it’s done with the perfect blend of youth and veteran experience. Their first-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, Gregory Rousseau, has started the season with three sacks, despite many saying he was a very raw, long-term project. The defensive backfield of Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, Micah Hyde, and Jordan Poyer is a frightening prospect for quarterbacks too.

Admittedly, the schedule has been favorable for the Bills so far and looks to be light the rest of the way. The combined record of the teams they’ve faced so far this season is 8-17 — so not great. But, keep in mind that one of those teams is the Kansas City Chiefs. Even at 2-3, expect them to make the playoffs and make a run for another Super Bowl appearance — their third in as many years.

Declaring the Bills as the best team in the AFC right now isn’t a way of eulogizing the Chiefs. It just means that, right now, the Bills are the team to beat. It was clear that the Bills would be one of the top teams in the AFC, but to be this good? It might surprise a few people. Maybe they just needed that big statement win, just to let everyone know how good they are. Well, statement made. The Bills are not to be messed with.

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