As I See It.
While the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers get ready for Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas February 11th, 2024 – the Niners are early 2 point favorites – the Bills and 29 other teams are already focused on the 2024 regular season. ALL the eliminated franchises have a lot to do, tackling salary cap issues and other personnel evaluations required to build a championship roster.
Lots of frequent flyer miles and dinner receipts will be turned in everywhere.
Despite being ousted by the Chiefs, the Bills are one of only a handful of teams that have a realistic chance in 2024. Las Vegas has the 49ers #1, Chiefs #2 and Bills #3 in their Super Bowl 59 early ratings.
Right here I’d like to shout out to Atwal Eye Care, the Bills official vision experts who did a fantastic job on both my eyes with cataract surgery last summer.
BluTuskTech in OP for all your used and new computer needs.
GlobalVendingGroup of Buffalo, which is providing book vending machines around the world to increase child literacy.
The Bills are far from crushed by their 27-24 loss to the Chiefs in their AFC Divisional playoff game in Orchard Park, although obviously disappointed. Fans aren’t forgetting this quickly of course, and they’ve become spoiled by success. Anything less than a Super Bowl win is “settling” to some fans, ridiculous in my eyes but you have to love the passion. Still, it was close after a spirited rally from a 6-6 record turned into one or two plays from playing in this very Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.
The Chiefs solid 17-10 road win over the favored Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship made it plainly obvious the Bills were a much tougher challenge than the Lamar Jackson led Ravens. Even if we concede that Patrick Mahomes deserves the accolades he receives and should rank ahead of the Bills Josh Allen, it’s close. Allen has led the Bills to three straight wins over the Chiefs in the Arrowhead Stadium torture chamber, which is incredibly rare, and the obvious edge to Mahomes is earned by three playoff wins over the Bills, including at Highmark Stadium where both Mahomes and Allen played brilliantly. Neither had a turnover and neither was sacked, and the Bills had a 38:00-22:00 time of possession advantage and won the turnover battle.
But close doesn’t cut it now, as many Bills fans are convinced their Super Bowl “window” has closed, even though Allen hasn’t had his 28th birthday yet. Mahomes has two SB championships, with a great shot at #3. Amazing really, and a testament to Andy Reid, who waited more than 15 years to finally win the prize.
By the way, I continue to marvel at how little research is done by some of the national NFL “experts”, as they continue to refer to Allen as a turnover machine. Allen’s playoff numbers are eye opening: in 10 playoff games (5-5) Allen has thrown for 2,723 yards with 21 TD’s and only 4 interceptions. He’s completing just under 65% of his passes. The under appreciated aspect of Allen’s game is his rushing success. In the playoffs, Allen has 563 yards (6.8 per rush) and 5 touchdowns. He’s even caught a TD pass. Mahomes, in seven more games that include two SB’s, has 39 TD’s and 7 INTs.
But, for instance, is anybody else even close to these two? Joe Burrow? Can he stay on the field? Brock Purdy perhaps? No. Didn’t a lot of people think Lamar Jackson was an MVP lock? Not after the KC AFC title game. Jackson was barely over 50% passing, was strip sacked for a fumble, and threw a crippling red zone int into triple coverage in the end zone. He was also sacked four times. I’m not picking on Jackson here, because he’s an exciting player who earns his big salary. But until his playoff performances improve, he is no longer getting the benefit of the doubt.
Despite his success, Sean McDermott continues to be criticized both fairly and unfairly, even though he’s led the Bills to four straight AFC East Division titles. He’s 5-6 in the playoffs and has yet to reach the SB, but his 73-41 record – an impressive .640 mark, puts him in rarified air. He just finished his 7th season, and in my mind may be one of the most unappreciated HC’s in the NFL. Sure, he’s made mistakes, and they all do. But he’s the key ingredient in rebuilding the Bills culture: players WANT to come to Buffalo because the players convince others they believe in him as a leader and as a person.
McDermott’s teams also play with poise and intelligence 98% of the time. The Ravens lost to the Chiefs in large part because John Harbaugh’s team took far too many silly penalties. Extremely undisciplined. Eight yellow flags for 95 yards was a killer. They were so obsessed with intimidation, they made it easier for KC, which didn’t really need the help.
Already, McDermott has made two new hires that will continue to keep the team’s continuity in place as other changes are forthcoming. He elevated Joe Brady to the permanent title of Offensive Coordinator, in no small part because Allen wanted that to happen after their success this season. Remember, Brady took over for Ken Dorsey when the Bills were 6-6 and all but dead. We know how that turned out.
Then, McDermott elevated linebackers coach Bobby Babich to Defensive Coordinator, which is a revealing move for several reasons. First of all, the 40 year old Babich is highly respected by his players after elevating the safeties before moving to LB’s. Babich, whose father was a former Bills assistant coach with a lifetime of college and NFL experience, was receiving job interview offers from Miami, Green Bay and the NY Giants. Word gets around in this league, and his performance has been noticed. Just alone the work he did bringing Terrel Bernard along was impressive.
By doing this, McDermott can now focus solely on his HC duties, which had to suffer some while he wore both hats in 2023. His D was among the tops in the league before injuries hit.
While just plain better luck with injuries will help, the Bills do have some obvious needs. Allen needs a #2 WR with downfield speed and great hands. I fully see Gabe Davis moving on without being renewed. GM Brandon Beane has had Stefon Digg’s back, saying he fully believes Diggs will be an effective #1 despite his drastic falloff this year. I’m hoping he’s right, but there’s the sneaking suspicion Beane had to stay positive because Diggs’ contract makes him untradable. Diggs also showed good faith by having his deal redone last March.
A real conundrum is Von Miller. He was clearly nowhere near 100% after coming back from an ACL, but he did show signs of life in the playoffs. The 34 year old Miller has four years left on a six year, $120M deal in 2020, and he’s due just over $17M in 2024, with a $23.8M salary cap hit. Those numbers will change, as Miller and Allen both had their contracts reworked to help the Bills cap situation, but Miller will be expensive whether he plays or not.
There’s also a huge question about CB Tre White, who missed most the season with a torn achilles. He’s still just 28, but can he make a second career threatening injury comeback?
The NFL Draft and free agency will again be interesting, but the Bills cap numbers aren’t helpful. But. You still have Josh Allen, whose durability is almost freakish. He hasn’t missed a start since his rookie season, even though we’re all familiar with his physical style.
Thanks again to sponsors Atwal Eye Care, BluTuskTech of Orchard Park, and GlobalVendingGroup of Buffalo.
Editor’s babble: We are blessed to have Ed Kilgore contribute to our blog. You can also find Ed on Xwitter @Kilgore2Ed.