Are The Bills True Contenders?

Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, it is unclear.

As the NFL season just passes its halfway mark, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills find themselves stumbling into a dangerous free fall. In the wake of a just downright embarrassing 45-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills were stripped of their title of No. 1 in the AFC East. The New England Patriots wasted no time taking over the vacant No. 1 spot—yes, you read that correctly, the Patriots have fought their way to the top of the AFC East.

The Bills are a talented, well-rounded team, no doubt about it. However, their current 6-4 standing indicates signs of struggle and can be a slight cause for concern. It begs fans to question whether the team will go on to repeat last year’s heartbreaking disappointment or if they can still be considered as serious Super Bowl contenders. 

Over the past two seasons, with quarterback Josh Allen at the helm, the Bills have developed into an offensive powerhouse. Allen is a real deal quarterback. The 6-foot-5, 237-pound alum has one of the strongest arms in the NFL and has worked to improve his accuracy tremendously. This season alone, Allen has accounted for 2,811 yards, 21 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and holds an overall completion rate of 67.7%. Not to mention, Allen is a force to be reckoned with in the run game. Allen comes in as the second-highest rusher on the team with 340 rushing yards behind Devin Singletary, who boasts 415 yards. Aside from Allen, the Bills have a plethora of talent in wide receivers, Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cole Beasley.

From a defensive perspective, Buffalo has one of the best defenses in the NFL. The defense has allowed (in total) only 2,837 yards and has limited teams (prior to the Colts) to an impressive 12.5 points on average a game. In an analysis of Buffalo's four losses—Steelers, Titans, Jaguars, and Colts—it is clear where the shortfalls of the Bills game lie: It is in stopping other teams in the running game. 

In the losses to the Titans and the Colts, the Bills’ defense was basically nonexistent in the run game. Running back, Derrick Henry of the Titans had a field day against Buffalo with three rushing touchdowns and 143 yards. To be fair, however, Henry is a freak of nature and nearly impossible to defend. Nevertheless, the defense then failed to corral yet another running back, this time it came in the form of Jonathan Taylor of the Colts. Taylor single-handedly annihilated the Bills with a whopping five touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 receiving). At the end of the day, this is unacceptable for the Bills defense.

On the other side of the field, the offensive line is solid. The issue lies in consistency and the ability to protect the outside. It can be prone to breakdowns from the outside throughout games which in turn affects Josh Allen’s ability to make plays.

This will all, in my opinion, really come down to the mental side of the game. It is not a question of can they, as they have the talent, but will they?  The Bills must pick themselves up and begin to fight for each possession, and it starts Thursday against the New Orleans Saints. After the Saints, the Bills will not have it easy to close out the season. They will face the Patriots, Buccaneers, then the Panthers. In order to win these games and prove themselves to be a true contender, Buffalo will have to evoke some serious grit and mental toughness.