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NFL Team Previews: Don’t buy the Buffalo Bills hype

We have seen this story play out before. Don’t be surprised if the Bills fall flat on their face this season.

Wild Card Round - Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are the hottest “dark horse” pick of the offseason. After making a surprise playoff appearance in 2019, many expect them to take the next step in 2020. With Tom Brady out of the division and the New England Patriots reeling, there is currently a power vacuum in the AFC East. It is all for the Bills’ taking.

Buffalo seems like fool’s gold this season, though. They may compete in a weak division—maybe even win it—but they are not nearly the team many are making them out to be. The Bills have some real humps to get over if they are to be real contenders this season, and it all starts with the very obvious problem they have at quarterback.

The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we continue the list with teams on the fringe of the playoff conversation.

22. Atlanta Falcons
21. Indianapolis Colts
20. Los Angeles Rams
19. Los Angeles Chargers
18. New England Patriots

17. Buffalo Bills

Wild Card Round - Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In my version of this list last year, I had the Chicago Bears at 8. In my version of this list in 2018, I had the Jacksonville Jaguars at 11. Neither of these teams—both coming off of a surprise playoff appearance led by a strong pass rush and generating a lot of turnovers, alongside a very bad offense led by a young, mostly-bad quarterback—were anywhere near the playoffs the following year. You might think I am just an idiot, sure, but many others made the same mistake as well. ESPN notably had the Jaguars at seven in their 2018 preseason rankings, while having the Bears in the same slot a year later.

ESPN has Buffalo at 11 in this year’s list, and it is easy to see why. The Bills are a reigning playoff team whose longtime big brother may have just taken a step back. But it also really feels like the same mistake we made with the Bears and Jaguars is being made once again.

The success in 2019 was contingent on the defense playing ridiculously well. Jerry Hughes is one of the more underrated pass rushers in the NFL. Young pass rusher Tremaine Edmunds took a huge step forward as well. Tre’Davious White is at worst the second-best cornerback in the NFL, and he has two star safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde playing alongside him.

Winning games via defense is not sustainable, though. If you’re team cannot regularly score points, you are going to lose. Defenses will always break, it just takes some defenses longer than others. Both the Jaguars and Bears still had very talented defenses in the years that they disappointed, but the offense did not hold up their part of the bargain, and their style of winning was unsustainable. The offensive failures are also a result of young quarterback—whether Blake Bortles or Mitchell Trubisky—who were viewed through rose-colored glasses entering the season.

And that is where Josh Allen comes in. The Bills’ third-year quarterback seems to be getting much of the same treatment his counterparts did. Allen is not a good quarterback. He is hyper aggressive and attacks downfield as much as any other NFL quarterback despite being among the worst deep passers in the league. He is terrible under pressure and often panics and makes terrible decisions.

The addition of former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs has excited many. He is an all-around great receiver who is dangerous at the deep and intermediate levels. It is hard to see how his talents will be maximized in Buffalo when he is playing with a quarterback like Allen, though.

Buffalo’s offense will struggle this year. Allen may have some big games here and there, and his ability as a runner will surely land him on some highlight reels, but it will not be enough. You can only stumble your way into wins for so long, and it is hard to see how the Bills carry their 2019 success into 2020.

There is one major difference between the Bills and their predecessors, though. Jacksonville had to deal with the return of Deshaun Watson in 2018, while the Bears had two Super Bowl contenders in their division in the Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Buffalo could actually win the division despite their flaws. Unless you think Sam Darnold is going to finally turn things around in 2020, their is no real powerhouse team here.

Do not expect Buffalo to be any more than a bad division winner that gets booted in the first round of the playoffs, though.