The Buffalo Bills have won the AFC East in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990-91, which started a run to four straight Super Bowls. But, for the second year, Buffalo’s season ended in Kansas City in the playoffs.
This time it was one of the most thrilling games in NFL history, but the Bills were unable to prevail in overtime. In turn, this prompted the NFL to make a long overdue change to the OT rules in the postseason.
After quarterback Josh Allen’s awe-inspiring postseason performance, combined with some significant changes around the AFC, the Bills now stand as the team with the highest win total to bet on for this upcoming 2022 NFL season. Many of the top sportsbooks have the Bills with an over/under of 12 wins following their 11-6 campaign.
The Notable Changes for 2022
A record like 13-4 could secure home-field advantage in the playoffs, which may be the final push Buffalo needs to get to the Super Bowl after the team passed multiple challenges last season.
Buffalo ranked highly on both sides of the ball in 2021 with a strong roster that is largely intact, but perhaps no change is bigger for the team this year than at offensive coordinator.
Brian Daboll, the only offensive coordinator Josh Allen has known in the NFL, is now the head coach of the New York Giants. Daboll has received plenty of credit for the development and progress in Allen’s game. Now that role is being filled by former college standout quarterback Ken Dorsey, an in-house promotion after he was the quarterback’s coach the last three seasons.
So, there is familiarity there for Allen, and top-tier quarterbacks tend to do just fine in adjusting to new coordinators. But this is something new for the offense as Sean McDermott is a defensive-minded head coach.
As for Allen’s receivers, the Bills were wise to lock up Stefon Diggs, one of the best in the league, to a long-term deal through the 2026 season. But the Bills did not bring back the second and third-leading receivers on the team:
- Cole Beasley, who has been a security blanket out of the slot and important third-down receiver for Allen.
- Emmanuel Sanders, a veteran who remains a free agent.
Fortunately, Gabriel Davis had that monster playoff game in Kansas City (201 yards and four touchdowns) and looks to be ready for a third-year breakout. The Bills signed veteran slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who has 409 career catches. Buffalo also can elevate Isaiah McKenzie to Beasley’s role.
When Beasley missed the key matchup with New England in Week 16, McKenzie shined with 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. The Bills should be fine on weapons as they also added second-round pick James Cook (Georgia) to the backfield of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. Meanwhile, tight end Dawson Knox is coming off a career year.
The offensive line will see a new left guard in Rodger Saffold after the 34-year-old veteran made his first Pro Bowl for the Titans last season. Saffold has started at least 15 games in each of the last six seasons.
Right tackle Spencer Brown had a trial-by-fire rookie season, but his 12 starts should prove invaluable for this season, and he was the starter for both playoff games when the offense was nearly perfect.
Defensively, the Bills could be starting five of their recent first-round picks, including rookie corner Kaiir Elam. But there’s no player they will gladly welcome back more than All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White, who tore his ACL on Thanksgiving.
A strong corner paired with Von Miller has been a Super Bowl recipe for a couple of teams in the past, and the Bills hope to become a third after acquiring the future Hall of Famer from the Rams.
Miller is 33 now, but he still had 9.5 sacks last season, which would have easily led the Bills who only had one player (the departed Mario Addison) with more than four sacks in 2021.
Just one more pressure on Patrick Mahomes could have advanced the Bills in the playoffs, so they now have a player who can do that in a big moment, as well as their best cornerback.
Is This the Last Real Shot for Allen and McDermott?
With Josh Allen entering his fifth season as Buffalo’s starting quarterback and Sean McDermott in his sixth season as head coach, no one is viewing 2022 as the last great shot for this team to win that elusive Super Bowl title with a special season.
However, NFL history would suggest some real caution. Call it The Five-Year Rule, as no team in NFL history has started the same quarterback under the same head coach for more than five seasons and seen that duo win its first championship. With 2022 being the fifth year together for Allen and McDermott, this may be the duo’s last great shot.
Want the proof? Of the 39 head coach-quarterback combinations to win a Super Bowl, only three were together for more than five seasons when they won their first.
Madden and Stabler
The first such duo was John Madden and Ken Stabler for the 1976 Raiders, their seventh season together, but it was only the fourth year that Stabler was the starting quarterback.
Young and Seifert
Likewise, Steve Young was only in his fourth year as a starter for George Seifert when the 49ers won the Super Bowl in 1994.
Young won a Super Bowl as a backup for Seifert in his first season as head coach in 1989.
Hostetler and Parcells
The only other example is when long-time backup Jeff Hostetler was in his seventh season for Bill Parcells with the Giants, and he had to win the Super Bowl in 1990 after starter Phil Simms was injured late in the season.
Buffalo fans know this example very well because of the Super Bowl loss to the Giants that came down to a missed field goal.
Levy and Kelly
That 1990 example also speaks to The Five-Year Rule. Marv Levy and Jim Kelly were in their fifth year together for the Bills, and never has Buffalo come closer to winning a Super Bowl than it did that season. But Scott Norwood missed the game-winning field goal and the Bills kept getting beat badly in the next three Super Bowls. Levy and Kelly never won a Super Bowl in their careers.
There are other duos, including four MVP-winning quarterbacks, who peaked in their fifth season with a Super Bowl loss and never got over that hump together with their coach
- Dan Reeves and John Elway (1987 Broncos)
- Sam Wyche and Boomer Esiason (1988 Bengals)
- Jeff Fisher and Steve McNair (1999 Titans)
- Ron Rivera and Cam Newton (2015 Panthers)
On the other hand, NFL history is also loaded with teams who turned disappointing playoff losses into fuel for a championship run the following season. But if the Bills fall short of their goal again in 2022, do not be surprised if the number of future seasons is very limited for this pairing of Allen and McDermott.
If last postseason is any indication, then McDermott is going to be the one forced out as the Bills look to find the coach who can get Allen to the championship podium.
2022 Bills Prediction
No team in the AFC won more than 12 games last season, which is what Buffalo must do to hit the over for your NFL picks this year.
Most seasons are not like that, but the AFC does again look uniquely deep and competitive for 2022 with Matt Ryan (Colts) and Russell Wilson (Broncos) joining the conference. However, the Bills are only playing those two teams in the preseason and not the regular season.
While there is a disadvantage to starting the season on opening night in the champion’s house, the Bills do have several schedule quirks in their favor. A September game in Miami should be offset by getting the Dolphins in Buffalo weather in the middle of December.
Looking at the Early Schedule
The Week 4 trip to Baltimore is an early start instead of prime time. The Bills get a bye week in between playing Kansas City and hosting the Packers. They get a full week to prepare for the Patriots on the road in a Thursday night game in December, and they get to end the regular season at home against the Patriots should that game be relevant for the division or seeding.
Even if the Bills manage to disappoint in every big road showdown and lose to the Rams, Chiefs, Ravens, and Bengals, they are still good enough to win the other 13 games because the division foes are not trustworthy enough to overtake them in the AFC East.
The Bills are also more than capable of winning on opening night in Los Angeles, and we saw them win by 18 points in Kansas City last regular season.
Home Field Advantage
Teams like the Chiefs and Packers look to be taking a step back this year after losing their dynamic receivers, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, while Buffalo should be a team that is balanced and will not blow every close game like in 2021.
Buffalo has been building towards something special, and this team is a legitimate preseason favorite to win it all. Take the over as the Bills look to eliminate traveling (and overtime) in the playoffs in their long quest to win their first Super Bowl.
2022 Bills Season Wins: Over 12 wins (-130) at Bovada
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.
On the Last Season of “The Bills”: Thirteen Seconds to Tears
Thirteen seconds separated the Bills from hosting the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1993 season. Josh Allen’s fourth touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis with 13 seconds left sure seemed to put the Bills ahead for good with a 36-33 lead in Kansas City.
But the team then made an alarming number of mistakes from a touchback on the kickoff to not closely covering either of Kansas City’s best receivers. The Chiefs moved 44 yards in two plays before forcing overtime with a field goal.
In overtime, the Chiefs won the coin toss and Patrick Mahomes marched his offense right down the field for a 75-yard touchdown drive to win the game 42-36. There were 31 points scored after the two-minute warning, making it one of the wildest and greatest games in NFL history.
Some immediately opined that the level of quarterback play from Allen and Mahomes put the rest of the NFL on notice for what it’s going to take in the future to win a championship. That remains to be seen as neither team reached the Super Bowl last year, but it sure did feel like a heavyweight matchup.
New Overtime Rules
The aftermath of the game led to the NFL making a rule change for the playoffs where both offenses will now touch the ball in overtime. If the game is still tied, then it goes to sudden death and the next score wins the game.
That is not much consolation to Buffalo after the fact, but the heartbreaking loss was the end to an uneven season. Buffalo came in with high expectations but played flat in a Week 1 home loss to the Steelers. The Bills then became the first team in the last four seasons to win four straight games by at least 18 points, including a 38-20 domination of the Chiefs in Kansas City after the Bills feasted on four turnovers by the Chiefs.
NBC’s Cris Collinsworth was ready to award Allen with the MVP that night, but the Bills lost a shootout with the Titans in Week 6 after Allen came up short on a fourth-down run.
A few weeks later, the Bills had one of the season’s biggest shockers when they lost 9-6 in Jacksonville despite being a 14.5-point favorite. Josh Allen, the Jacksonville defender, all but put an end to Buffalo Allen’s MVP bid with a sack and interception in the game.
The Bills also allowed Indianapolis’ Jonathan Taylor to score five touchdowns in a 41-15 loss at home.
With the division starting to slip away, the Bills dropped another home game in spectacular fashion to the Patriots in December on an extremely windy night where the Patriots attempted just three passes.
A week later, the Bills fell to 7-6 after a valiant fourth-quarter comeback in Tampa Bay still led to an overtime loss to old nemesis Tom Brady. The Bills went three-and-out on their overtime drive in that game, so the rule change would not have helped there.
Things were looking to go off the rails at 7-6, but the Bills rallied to win their final four games to finish 11-6 and win the AFC East. They also beat the Patriots in a key rematch in Week 16 with Allen playing excellent football as the offense never had to punt, proving that the weather was the real difference in Week 13.
But when bad weather looked to again threaten the Bills at home against the Patriots in the wild card round, there was some concern about how this pass-happy offense would perform. However, single-digit temperatures and snow are no match for extreme winds in this game.
The Bills turned in arguably the greatest offensive performance in NFL history as they scored a touchdown on their first seven drives. The only drive that did not end in a touchdown was the final one where they took three knees to celebrate the 47-17 rout of a Bill Belichick-coached defense.
Looking to the Future
That game should erase any future doubt about whether Allen and this offense can perform at home in harsh January conditions. Allen also turned around his 2020 struggles with the Kansas City defense, but his teammates let him down at the end as he never touched the ball after taking that late lead.
Including the playoffs, Buffalo was 1-6 in close games in 2021, the worst record in the NFL. A close game is defined as one where a team had possession of the ball in a one-score game in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The good news is teams at the bottom of this stat usually regress to the mean or do very well the following season. But these Bills were literally 13 seconds away from Allen possibly going on to have the best postseason ever by a quarterback. Allen led the Bills to 12 touchdowns in 16 postseason drives.
That loss was a tough one to swallow, but it also has a lot to do with why the Bills are the favorites going into 2022.