The phrase “defense wins championships” almost always turns out to be true. Look at last season, where in the Super Bowl the Falcons offense seemed to be unstoppable until a stringy Patriots defense buckled up and shut it down, taking home the Lombardi trophy. The Bills defense is scary, real scary. Through the first 4 weeks, Buffalo has only allowed 1 passing touchdown, to go along with allowing a league low 13.5 points allowed per game. They have already shut down powerhouse offenses such as the Broncos and Falcons. Even in their lone loss, Buffalo shut down former NFL MVP Cam Newton and a Panthers team that just took down the Patriots on the road, holding them to 9 points. For Bills fans, optimism and hope never leaves. In a year where “experts” predicted the Bills to tank, veteran C Eric Wood said that word was not in the Bills’ vocabulary and rookie Head Coach Sean McDermott seemed to agree. The season is still early, and expectations have increased, but the Bills have all the tools needed to end the longest playoff drought in professional sports.
As explained earlier, it all starts on the defensive end of the ball. The heart and soul seems to be newly acquired S Micah Hyde, who leads the league with 3 interceptions, including 2 off of last season’s MVP Matt Ryan. To further bolster the secondary, rookie CB and first rounder Tre’Davious White has shown up, locking down elite receivers while also adding an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown. Keeping last season’s NFC champs to 17 points on the road, even without Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu for the second half, is very impressive and proof that this defense is here to stay. The Bills front 7 has always been a strong suit, and although they were only able to sack Matt Ryan once a week ago they were in his face all day, forcing bad throws. Buffalo’s defense is legit, hungry and at the top of the NFL.
So, let’s not forget about the offense. Tyrod Taylor deserves a huge amount of credit for what he’s done with frankly limited weapons. He went an efficient 12-20 passing for 182 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He made all the right plays, making impressive throws on the run and also using his legs to pick up first downs when needed. He has now thrown for 744 yards, 5 touchdowns and just 1 interception, not eye-popping by any stretch, but efficient. Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over and his ability to use his legs to improvise is unmatched. With Jordan Matthews now expected to miss significant time due to a thumb injury, Taylor will look towards his favorite target, TE Charles Clay, to carry even more of the load offensively. Furthermore, in order for the Bills success to continue, rookie WR Zay Jones has to step up. Jones has already dropped key passes, including a potential game-winner in the Bills Week 2 loss in Carolina. RB LeSean McCoy finally got back on track, going for 108 yards from scrimmage. He was able to run the ball for positive yards on almost every play, a change not seen in the past two weeks. The defense is stellar, the offense is clicking and Sean McDermott has Bills fans believing. But why exactly are the Bills a playoff team?
Looking at the Bills season so far, they have gotten many of the toughest games already off their schedule. Beating two potential playoff teams in the Broncos and Falcons can prove to be huge down the stretch. The Bills now enter six games that are in my opinion winnable, meaning none of the teams significantly overmatch Buffalo. Say the Bills go 4-2 during this stretch, bringing their record to 7-3. The remaining six games include two against New England and one on the road in Kansas City, however there are also two games against Miami and a home game against the Colts. Even a 3-3 record here puts together a 10-6 record, which should be good enough to make the playoffs. Owning the tiebreaker against Denver could prove significant, and a home game against the Raiders will also be a resume builder. The Bills have certainly put themselves in a position to make the playoffs, however fans will remember the 5-2 start to the 2011 campaign which was followed by a 7 game losing streak. A lack of depth at receiver could hurt, but the defense puts the Bills in position to be in every game they play. Are they ready to beat the Patriots? Maybe not quite yet, however the Bills still have 2 months before matching up with New England, giving plenty of time to further define themselves. Optimism is a great feeling for one of the best fanbases in the NFL, and it is my prediction that this is the year the Bills end the drought.