The Buffalo Bills have made massive strides in the AFC East and as an organization the last several years. They’ve made the playoffs two out of the last three seasons. They have quality leadership in the front office, coaching staff, and in the locker room. And their on-field product is a quality mix of talented veterans and youth. For all intents and purposes they look like a team primed for success in the short, and long term. The end goal is to win the Super Bowl. Step one in that journey is for a team to win their division, and get a home playoff game. With the current rise of the Buffalo Bills and Tom Brady no longer being in the division, the Bills are a popular pick to win the AFC East. But should they be?
Buffalo Bills Can Win AFC East in 2020 but It Will Be Tough
To quote Ric Flair, “to be the man you gotta beat the man”. Tom Brady is gone. However, the New England Patriots are still “the man” in the AFC East. They’ve won the AFC East 19 out of the last 24 seasons, including 11 straight and 17 out of the last 19. This coming season looks good on paper for the Buffalo Bills, but until they beat the Pats and win the AFC East they are not “the man” in this division. Add in the jump that third year quarterback Josh Allen needs to make in his game, along with a very tough schedule, and things may be less certain than people realize.
Beating the Man
Buffalo Bills fans, and the AFC East as a whole, rejoiced the day Tom Brady officially left the division. And with good reason. Brady leaving the Pats is a seemingly large blow to New England. But would anyone really be surprised if the Pats didn’t miss a beat without Brady? Would it really be that surprising if Jarrett Stidham came in and was a really good quarterback, or if the Pats won 10 or 11 games? After all, they went 11-5 with Matt Cassel in 2008. New England should never be counted out.
Even with Brady last year, the strength of New England was their defense. In 2019 the Patriots defense allowed the least amount of points per game and the least amount of yards per game. In 2020, that defense has lost some pieces but the core returns. Plus, they added to the defense by spending their first three draft picks on that side of the ball. And they still have Bill Belichick as their head coach.
Belichick is one of the greatest football coaches of all time, specially on the defensive side of the ball. He schemes well and his teams play sound situational football. And his knowledge of the rules and how to bend them to their breaking point is unmatched. If Brady leaving does create a hole, it is hard to believe Belichick will fail to hide it. The 2016 Pats went 3-1 with inexperienced and unproven quarterbacks. With Belichick, and that defense, you cannot count out the Pats.
Bills Offense and Defense
But if all else fails, the Buffalo Bills should be able to hang their hat on their defense. In 2019 their defense was second in points allowed per game and third in yards allowed per game. The defense kept them in every game last season. That has to continue in 2020 for the Bills to win the AFC East.
Offensively the Buffalo Bills need to make a leap. And Josh Allen in particular needs to make another jump in his game. The truth about Josh Allen is out there and in 2020 the pressure is on him to improve and lead an offense now filled with quality pieces. The 2019 Buffalo Bills offense was not one that set the world on fire, especially against top level competition. The offense has to pull their own weight this year if the Bills hope to win the AFC East and make noise in the AFC as a whole.
And neither of the two above paragraphs are givens. Yes the Bills defense is good and returns a heavy majority of starters. And they’re deeper and more versatile than last year. But last year they remained relatively injury free as a unit. That’s rare and hard to replicate and sustain. And for the offense, Josh Allen is still a project who looks promising but still presents risk along with his upside. Overall the hope and promise is there for the Bills, but there are no guarantees.
Strength of Schedule
Collectively the AFC East has the hardest strength of schedule in the NFL in 2020. All four AFC East teams rank in the top five for the toughest schedule based on 2019 win percentages. The only good news for the Bills is that the other three teams in the AFC East have a statistically harder schedule as of this moment. If the Bills are going to win the AFC East, they will have to legitimately earn it. There are no cupcake games. Every week will be a test in some form or fashion.
In 2019 only one of the Bills 10 wins came against a team that finished the year above .500. Granted, teams can only play the schedule they are given, but the Bills will have a tougher go of it, at least on paper, in 2020. Furthermore, the AFC East itself will be tougher. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins both had good off-seasons. Neither one of those teams will be pushovers in 2020.
The Bills are a better team on paper in 2020 than they were in 2019. And that should translate to the field. Which is good. Because the schedule the Buffalo Bills have in front of them is much harder than the one they faced in 2019.
The Buffalo Bills have quickly become a popular pick to win the AFC East in 2020. And with their recent upward trend and successful off-season, it’s easy to see why. However, the road to winning the AFC East will not be as cut and dry as it may seem. The New England Patriots are still a team that the Bills will have to overcome. Their defense will have to continue its high level of play and their offense will have to improve. They will also have to survive the gauntlet of a schedule they have in the regular season. The Bills can win the division in 2020, but it will be a daunting task to do so.