2022 NFL Previews: Buffalo Bills

If it wasn’t for a coin toss in the Divisional Round matchup against the Chiefs, the Bills would likely be looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions this season. They were unquestionably one of the best teams in the league last season and have only gotten better since then. Buffalo currently has the best odds to win the Super Bowl (according to FanDuel) and quarterback Josh Allen is the MVP favorite as well.

There isn’t much left that hasn’t been said about Allen. He is undeniably a superstar in the game today and has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The only thing keeping him from truly joining the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady is either an MVP award or a Super Bowl trophy. With either one of those this year, Allen will surely become a household name.

Allen, like Mahomes, is the embodiment of the next generation of franchise quarterbacks. He is an incredible athlete with an absolute cannon for an arm, yet is just as dangerous with his legs as his arm. Allen was the catalyst for the lite Buffalo offense last year which finished third in points scored and fifth in total yards.

He really broke out when the Bills acquired wide receiver Stefon Diggs, with whom he has forged an excellent connection. Diggs has been one of the best receivers in the game during his two years in Buffalo. The key to unlocking Allen’s MVP potential may be the second wide receiver, Gabriel Davis.

The last time we saw Davis on the field he set the record for touchdowns in a game with four in that game against the Chiefs. The Bills are hoping that he can build off that performance and form a lethal wide receiver dup with Diggs. The team has already demonstrated confidence in the young receiver by releasing wide receiver Cole Beasley, who had previously been the second option in the passing game.

Having those two players out wide should help open up the middle of the field for tight end Dawson Knox. The 25-year-old broke out last year, setting career-highs across the board, including scoring nine touchdowns. The Bills also took a flier on O.J. Howard by signing him to a one-year contract in free agency. He is super talented but hasn’t produced up to his capabilities at times but is frankly overqualified to be a backup.

Knox doesn’t have to be an elite tight end, although you could argue he is approaching top ten status, to be effective in the offense. If he operates as a go-to red zone target for Allen again and can be a consistent blocker, then he will greatly contribute to the success of the Bills’ offense.

The two areas that may be viewed as weaknesses on the Buffalo offense are the offensive line and running back.

The Bills addressed the line in the offseason, although it was never a huge weakness. They signed guard Roger Saffold, interior lineman Greg Mancz, and resigning guard Ike Boettger. Those three along with center Mitch Morse should solidify the interior of the line.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins will continue protecting Allen’s blind side, something he has done a good job at the past few seasons. The right tackle spot might be up for grabs with a handful of players in the running for the job.

Cody Ford should have the inside track to earning the job. Ford started his career at tackle before moving inside to guard when he struggled. Now with the Bills having adequate talent on the inside, Ford could get a chance to demonstrate his improvement and lock down the right tackle spot. If he fails to win the job or remains at guard, then it would seem like either veteran Bobby Hart or second-year player Spencer Brown would start at right tackle.

Running back has been a different story for the Bills because they have seemingly accepted that they will be decent at best at that position. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have both shown glimpses of being a reliable starting back at points, but neither has established themselves as the entrenched starter.

Singeltary rushed for 870 yards in 2021 on a bit over 11 carries a game. He is a solid yet unspectacular option for the Bills at running back. He can absolutely be Buffalo’s starter this year, he just may not be the caliber of running back that you can win the Super Bowl with.

If Singletary and Moss both fail to run away with the starting job it could leave the door open for incoming rookie running back James Cook. The younger brother of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was selected in the second round by the Bills in this year’s draft.

He should at least provide a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield, which was his largest role in a very crowded backfield at the University of Georgia. Cook may be the ball carrier that the Bills want to roll with this year and in the future because he is the cheapest of the three and under contract for the longest.

The Bills’ offense is definitely going to be one of the best in the league again this year, but it might actually be the defense that is set up better to succeed. Usually saying a team has no holes on a particular side of the ball is a hyperbole, but I genuinely believe that is the case for the Buffalo defense.

The only position that may have been viewed as a weakness after last season was the second cornerback spot. So, what did the Bills do? They traded up in the draft to select Florida corner Kaiir Elam with the 23rd overall pick. Now Elam should settle in quite nicely opposite Tre’Davious White, letting corner Taron Johnson operate in the slot.

The Bills are so stacked on defense that they were able to sign outside linebacker Von Miller in free agency as a luxury. The contract that Miller agreed to may be a bit questionable but the ability to add a two-time Super Bowl champion to a young team trying to get to the stage is priceless.

Miller will be able to operate in a similar role that he had in Los Angeles. He won’t have to be on the field all the time, which will allow him to keep better care of his body and be effective during his time on the field.

He will also be able to teach a lot to the young pass rushers on the Buffalo defense. Defensive ends Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, and A.J. Epenesa are all just a few years into their career and could really benefit from playing with a legend like Miller.

Another young player that should be able to learn a lot from Miller is defensive tackle Ed Oliver, although he seems to be doing a pretty job in the league already. The former top-ten pick has been productive (12 sacks) and showing improvement (increasing number of pressures) each year of his three-year career. Playing on such a talented defense should give Oliver the chance he needs to enter his name in the conversation of best young interior defensive linemen in the game.

While the Bills’ defensive line is relying on a bit of a youth movement, the back half of the secondary is reaping the benefits of relying on proven veterans. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are a top two safety duo in the league (and they aren’t number two). Despite both being over the age of 30, they are still playing at the top of their game.

Poyer just earned his first All-Pro selection last year when he was named to the first team, while Hyde made the second team for the second time in his career. The two each grabbed five interceptions and combined for 167 tackles. The safety position is certainly a strength of this Buffalo team and it comes in handy against all of the talented quarterbacks across the AFC.

It is fitting that I mention the Bills’ linebackers last because they have been the most overlooked aspect of the defense. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are both very productive linebackers but don’t seem to get as much recognition as some of the other members of the defense.

But they play such a crucial role on the defense and may have been the most responsible for the Bills finishing first in both points and yards allowed last year. Part of why they get so often overlooked is their consistency. Edmunds has tallied over 100 tackles in each of his four seasons in the league. While Milano has quietly been excellent in pass coverage while also playing the run extremely well.

With both an elite offense and defense in tow, the Bills are the clear frontrunners to have the best record in 2022. There are only a few teams this year that will go into every game with the legitimate expectation of winning every game and Buffalo is one of them. Although they certainly won’t go 17-0, double-digit wins are almost a guarantee.

The AFC East could be a bit of a tougher division than last year but the Bills should still at least go 4-2, especially because they get two games against the jets. Add wins against the Bears, Lions, Browns, Vikings, and Steelers and that is already nine wins.

There are a decent amount of tough games on the Bills’ schedule (courtesy of finishing in first place in the division last season in this new scheduling system). The Rams, Ravens, Chiefs, Packers, and Bengals all will give the Bills a tough test. But all they have to do is win one or two of those and not lose any games they should easily win and they should be well on their way to the best record in the NFL.

I think the worst version of this year’s Bills team wins 12 games, which is still a great number. But I think they are more of a 13- or 14-win team this year in actuality. 14 is a lot of wins to predict for a team so I am going to play it a bit safe and declare that the Bills will win 13 games this season.