NFL

Is it Time to Consider the Buffalo Bills a Legitimate Super Bowl Contender?

The Buffalo Bills went into Dallas and dominated the Cowboys in a 26-15 road win on Thanksgiving Day. With that victory, the league’s most underrated team improved to 9-3 on the 2019 season. Looking around the league at the other teams with at least nine wins, the New England Patriots (10-1), San Francisco 49ers (10-1), New Orleans Saints (10-2), Seattle Seahawks (9-2), and Baltimore Ravens (9-2) are all Super Bowl favorites earning plenty of headlines on a week-to-week basis.

The Bills, meanwhile, aren’t even among the top ten favorites to win Super Bowl LIV. As the wins keep piling up, the lack of national respect remains the same. Is it time to start shifting the narrative on the Bills?

To their credit, the Buffalo Bills do have an elite defense

Regardless of how you feel about the Bills, one thing you can’t deny is that they’ve got an excellent defense. That defense was on display on Thanksgiving when it held the Cowboys to just 15 points on Thursday.

The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers have the top two defenses in the NFL, ranking No. 1 and No. 2 league-wide in both total yards and points per game allowed. But right behind those two units are the Buffalo Bills, who rank third in total yards allowing 300.1 per game and third in points per game allowed with 15.4 per game.

Even in losses of 16-10 at home against the Patriots and 19-16 on the road against the Cleveland Browns, the Bills defense played well enough to give the team’s offense a chance to win. This defense will make Buffalo a pesky out in the postseason this year.

But other signs don’t point to the Bills being a contender

Josh Allen has been good this season, but the Buffalo Bills offense has generally been below-average
Josh Allen has been good this season, but the Buffalo Bills offense has generally been below-average | Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

While the Buffalo Bills have an excellent defense, their offense leaves plenty to be desired. Buffalo ranks 17th in total yards per game with 353 and 20th in scoring with 21.4 points per game. All of the other teams listed above with at least nine wins have top-ten offenses, and all of them will have the edge over Josh Allen at quarterback. When push comes to shove, will this Bills offense be able to do enough on offense to defeat the league’s top teams?

Another issue is that the Bills haven’t really been tested this season. That isn’t their fault; teams have to play the teams on their schedule, and Buffalo has done a fine job of doing so with a 9-3 record. But looking over their wins, the Bills have defeated the Miami Dolphins twice, the New York Jets, the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tennesee Titans, the Washington Redskins, the Denver Broncos, and the Dallas Cowboys.

The only team on this list above .500 is the Titans, who have improved dramatically with Ryan Tannehill under center and were still starting Marcus Mariota back in Week 5. The Thanksgiving Day win over the Dallas Cowboys was a good one, but at 6-6 and with a slew of problems, beating the Cowboys isn’t exactly a signature win.

Two of Buffalo’s next three games come at home against Baltimore and on the road against New England. These will be a good litmus test before the postseason begins.

Buffalo is built for the future

With a below-average offense and no real wins to get excited about on their regular season schedule, the Bills are probably not misdiagnosed by the football world. Despite their excellent record, they are a fringe contender at best.

But this takes nothing away from the huge strides they’ve taken this season. Josh Allen has looked good at quarterback, the defense is amazing, and this franchise has one of the lowest team salary caps in the NFL. Buffalo is in prime position to add pieces this offseason to build on their 2019 success, and a trip to the postseason will only help the young players on this team continue their development.

The Bills are in all likelihood on their way to the playoffs for just the second time in 20 years this season. Regardless of how the postseason unfolds, it’s been one hell of a run in Buffalo.