Why anyone would want to kick a hornet’s nest is a good question, but Buffalo Bills fans will do just that this month. They’re even getting help from Fox Sports in antagonizing fans of the New England Patriots, a team that has routinely finished ahead of the Bills in the AFC East standings for nearly two decades.
The New Patriots have been a high hurdle for the Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills made it to (and lost) four consecutive Super Bowls beginning with the 1990 season. The Bills won three AFC East title in that span and then won another two years later. That 1995 performance marked the last time the Bills won the division.
The New England Patriots are riding a streak of 11 straight division crowns. And even when they haven’t won the division, they’ve still finished ahead of Buffalo in the standings 19 consecutive years.
However, times might be changing. History tells us that no team coached by Bill Belichick should be counted out. But even hardcore fans must concede the Patriots are reeling at the moment. Longtime quarterback Tom Brady took his six Super Bowl rings to Tampa Bay via free agency and the Patriots have had more veterans opt-out due to the COVID-19 pandemic than any other team. New England will have a lot riding on new quarterback Cam Newton in 2020.
On the other hand, the Bills are deep into their rebuilding under coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen. They’ve earned wildcard playoff berths two of the last three seasons. Last fall’s 10-6 record was the franchise’s best since an 11-5 mark in 1999.
There’s no disputing that Buffalo Bills fans are passionate
Fox Sports, which has the NFC portion of the NFL’s Sunday broadcast schedule, has kicked off recent seasons by conducting the Ultimate Fan Bracket, a contest consisting of several rounds that encourages fans to vote on Twitter for their favorite team in head-to-head battles with other fan bases.
The Buffalo Bills faithful, many of whom identify themselves as members of the Bills Mafia, rolled up online voting victories over the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New Orleans Saints. They cast 52.8% of the 84,640 votes in the final to beat Green Bay Packers fans and clinch the contest.
The victory had to be sweet for the hardcore Bills fans after last year’s controversial loss in a head-to-head clash with Tennessee Titans fans. The Bills Mafia looked to have that match sewn up when a suspicious turn in the voting – later attributed to the use of bots — in the final hour flipped the results.
Bills fans then took their revenge by aligning themselves with Browns backers and helping Cleveland beat Tennessee in the final. The only thing more satisfying to the Bills Mafia would have been to beat the New England Patriots instead.
Fox Sports is recognizing the victory with a billboard
Winning the Ultimate Fan Bracket comes with a little bit more than just bragging rights for Buffalo Bills fans. Upon declaring that the Bills faithful had triumphed, Fox Sports announced that it would rent a billboard on behalf of the winners to note their title as the NFL’s best fan base.
It was left up to Bills fans to decide where they wanted the billboard located: Miami; East Rutherford, New Jersey, or Foxborough, Massachusetts. Although the Miami Dolphins are probably still the Bills’ bigger traditional rival, the New England Patriots are the team that Western New York hates most after all that franchise’s years of success.
The Bills Mafia voted overwhelmingly to put the billboard in Foxborough, even at the risk of riling up the 11-time defending divisional champion Patriots.
Fox officials said they would seek a location and announce the unveiling at a later date.