The Buffalo Bills are having their best season in decades in 2020 and have already won the AFC East, clinching a home game in the NFL playoffs for the first time since the 1996 season, which was Jim Kelly’s last year in Buffalo. Yeah, it’s been a while.
Sadly for Bills Mafia, there have been no fans inside Bills Stadium this season but that could possibly be changing soon as the team is working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health on a plan that would allow up to 6,700 people to be in attendance for Buffalo’s first-round matchup with…well, we don’t know who they’ll be playing yet as a few AFC playoff spots are still up for grabs.
So exactly how do the Buffalo Bills plan to make this happen?
The Buffalo Bills’ last home playoff game was on December 28, 1996
The last time the Buffalo Bills hosted an NFL playoff game, Bill Clinton had recently been elected to his second term as President of the United States and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was the No. 1 movie in the country. Jim Kelly was in his 11th and final season in Buffalo and led the Bills to a 10-6 record and a second-place finish in the AFC East behind Drew Bledsoe’s New England Patriots. If you’re wondering, Tom Brady was just finishing up his first season at the University of Michigan at this time so the division was a little more competitive.
The Bills earned the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs and hosted the fifth-seeded Jacksonville Jaguars at Bills Stadium, then still called Rich Stadium, on December 28, 1996. The game featured nine lead changes or ties but the Jags, who were playing just their second season ever, came out on top, 30-27.
The team just won its AFC title in 25 years
With their dominating 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 15, the Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East for the first time since 1995.
Behind a strong season from third-year quarterback Josh Allen, who has thrown for exactly 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns against just nine interceptions heading into Week 16, the Bills are 11-3 and come into the week holding the No. 2 seed in the AFC after the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are also 11-3, were upset by the Bengals this past Monday night.
It’s the Bills’ first 11-win season since 1999 and 2020 marks just the second time that Buffalo has reached double digits in wins since then, the other being last year when the Bills went 10-6.
The Buffalo Bills are hoping to have 6,700 fans in attendance for their first playoff game
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he would love to be in attendance for the Buffalo Bills’ first home playoff game in nearly a quarter-century and is working with the team and the New York State Department of Health on a plan that could make that possible for him and 6,699 others.
The plan, however, is quite ambitious.
As reported by NBC Sports, part of the plan as of right now would be for all 6,700 fans to show up to the game early (like Bills Mafia doesn’t do that anyway) to get a rapid-result COVID-19 test before entering the stadium. Fans would be required to wear masks during the game, which isn’t difficult, but perhaps the most ambitious part that Cuomo outlined…yes, even more so than administering 6,700 rapid tests that day…is contact tracing every single person afterward to see if the virus spread inside Bills Stadium.
“We’re exploring some options. The Bills proposed 6,700 fans for their upcoming playoff game. The New York State Department of Health is working on a model where fans get tested on the way in and contact traced after to see what the effect is.”New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Cuomo plans to monitor infection numbers in the Buffalo area before making any final decision so Bills fans will just have to wait and see how things play out.
Stats and scores courtesy of Pro Football Reference