(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Bill Polian interview fast-forward to 22:35 of the attached audio)
The last time the Buffalo Bills won a division championship was 1995. The last time they went to the Super Bowl was 1993. That’s over two decades of cold, dark winters without football in western New York.
But that may be about to end.
Both streaks are in jeopardy as the Bills, now 7-2 and first in the AFC East, seem poised to make a runs at division and conference championships. Granted, that’s a tall order for one season – especially in a division with New England and a conference with unbeaten Pittsburgh and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.
But it’s possible … if you believe.
Former Bills’ GM Bill Polian does, and he explained why on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com. Except he made sure to include a critical caveat when asked if he’s ready to go the distance with this year’s Bills.
“I am,” he said, “with reservations. First of all, I root like the devil for them. I still have a lot of friends in Buffalo. I correspond with them every week. They have their thoughts on the game and so forth, and they’ve been tremendous. The organization’s been tremendous. I’m friendly with Brandon (Beane, Bills” GM) and with Sean (McDermott, head coach). So I root for my friends, and they’re among them.
“I hope that the defense can measure up, and they’ve had (linebacker Matt) Milano out (with injuries), who’s really a big part of it. I don’t know if they have quite enough pass rush when it comes to going against Kansas City. That’s my worry. But if you’re a Buffalo fan you always worry about something.”
There’s good reason. A year ago, the Bills ranked third in total defense, 10th vs. the run, and fourth against the pass. While their 44 sacks were 12th among the league’s 32 teams, their 5.23 yards per pass play was third, behind only San Francisco and New England, and they ranked seventh in third-down efficiency.
Best of all, the 259 points the Bills allowed were second only to New England (225).
One year later, that has changed. Where the Bills allowed an average of 195.2 passing yards a game in 2019, they surrender 277 today. Where opponents produced 16.18 points per start a year ago, they’re up to 25.9 now. They rank 21st vs. the run, 15th against the pass, and 18th overall. They also allow the most rushing TDs (tied at 13) and rushing first downs (79). And the 233 points allowed? That’s only 26 shy of last season.
Bottom line: Defense is a concern.
The offense is not, with quarterback Josh Allen within one TD pass of last year’s total (20). He has five 300-yard passing games, two 400-yarders, a 107.2 rating, and the league’s leading receiver in Stefon Diggs. He has 63 catches and 813 receiving yards.
So while the defense has Polian worried …
“Everything else is top-shelf,” he said. “What the quarterback has done with Diggs …. That was a great move first of all by Brandan. Great trade. And, secondly, he’s (Allen) coming on strong. So they’ve got enough there offensively.
“They’re always going to be well coached defensively because of Sean and (defensive coordinator) Leslie Frazier. But I hope they have enough pass rush when it’s all said and done. Because that’s who you’re going to have to get after – Patrick Mahomes or Big Ben (Roethlisberger).”