Are the Buffalo Bills ready to play with the big boys?
For the past 20 seasons, the Buffalo Bills have played in a division dominated by the New England Patriots. The Bills have not ended a campaign with a record better than Bill Belichick’s bad boys since the 2000 season. That year, the Patriots finished in their division cellar, and the Bills were three games ahead of them with eight wins and eight losses.
In fact, no team in the Patriots division has finished a season with a better record than the dynamic duo of Tom Brady and Belichick this century. Brady won his first AFC Eastern Division title in 2001, and since 2002, dominated the AFC East. The Patriots have won 18 division championships since 2001, and in the two seasons they didn’t win the title, they had a record as good as the division winner but missed the championship on a tiebreaker.
Brady has now departed the division, playing for the NFC South Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and without him directing the Patriots fortunes New England has dropped like a bear market on bad economic news. The Patriots are not going to win the AFC East this year, probably not even going to compile a winning season, and that leaves the door open for three other teams who have played second, third and fourth fiddle to New England for two decades.
Make that two other teams, the Bills and Miami Dolphins are legitimate contenders, the Jets will remain out in the cold.
It is a little like the strict parents both out of town on the same weekend and the kids left to run wild. Down right liberating.
So, is Buffalo ready to take the lead in this division, something they already have done with five wins in their first seven games? More importantly for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, are the Bills prepared to build on their early season success?
I think so, but further confirmation of that appraisal will be either enhanced or thrown into question based on this week’s game when Buffalo entertains the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks are one of the big boys. They appear in good position to retake their division title, the NFC West, after a pair of Super Bowl teams won it the past two seasons, the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. Two weeks ago, Seattle suffered their first setback of the 2020 season when they dropped a road overtime decision to the Arizona Cardinals in a contest they never trailed in until the home team kicked the winning field goal.
How did Seattle respond to their first loss of the season.
Like all elite teams do, they took it out on their next opponent. In this case, that was the defending National Football Conference Champion San Francisco 49ers, who Seattle beat on their home field by double-digits.
And, what have the Bills done this season after their two losses?
After their first loss they lost again, this time to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Four weeks ago, when the Bills had their four game season opening win streak snapped by the Titans in Tennessee in a lopsided game, 42-16, they lost at home to Patrick Mahomes and company, 26-17.
There was a reason for those back-to-back losses. Not only were they in a trap when they lost in Nashville, but they met the Chiefs after they too were coming off their first loss of the season. Before beating Buffalo, the Chiefs had been downed by the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
Okay, we can give the Bills a pass for losing two straight games. But after that, how did Sean McDermott’s team respond?
They did win, but it could hardly be viewed as a top effort given they didn’t score a touchdown while slipping by the inept Jets with six field goals, 18-10. Last week, the Bills notched another narrow victory, and point spread loss, when they beat their longtime division nemesis Patriots, 24-21.
So, what do we have here?
Two losses and four straight point spread setbacks for the Bills in their last four games. Which is why, when the Seahawks come calling on Sunday we are going to find out if Buffalo is truly ready to compete against the NFL best.
This time, there are no excuses available. The Seahawks are coming off a big home win and traveling cross country. If the Bills are one of the big boys, they would have to show their championship form here.
I think they will, and I suspect a lot more people will view Buffalo as one of the big boys after they pin the Seahawks with their second loss of the season.
Qoxhi Picks: Buffalo Bills (+3) over Seattle Seahawks