It’s no secret that the AFC is absolutely stacked.
With the likes of the Broncos adding Russell Wilson, the Bengals planting their flag amongst the elite teams in the NFL and seemingly the entire conference finding elite young quarterbacks, it’s safe to say the battle for the AFC will be a gauntlet.
Even with the flurry of talent, the Buffalo Bills seem to stand above the rest. After an offseason that saw Buffalo make a plethora of moves, including adding pass rusher Von Miller and bringing in slot receiver Jamison Crowder, you could make the argument that the Bills have the best roster in football.
That said, after two seasons of ascension into NFL’s elite, the pressure is greater than ever for the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl.
Perhaps more than any team in the league.
Because despite the conference being loaded, each team on the Super Bowl bubble has some sort of glaring weakness.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is fantastic, but who are his targets? The Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans will fight for the AFC South crown, but both teams lack an elite quarterback.
The Los Angeles Chargers have one of the best rosters in football, but seem to get in their own way more than any team in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns will likely have an uphill battle if and when the suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson is announced.
Even the Bengals got a few huge breaks on their way to the Super Bowl last season.
Plus, the Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders will poach each other in the battle for the AFC West.
(More on the Chiefs later.)
Seems every elite team has a clear Achilles heel – except Buffalo.
If there is one hole you may be able to poke in the Bills, it’s the running back position. Even then, though, Devin Singletary became a vital part of the passing game down the stretch, and this offense doesn’t need an elite running back to be successful.
Just for good measure, they drafted Georgia’s James Cook in the second round.
The Bills have an elite quarterback in Josh Allen, a good offensive line and have a solid collection of receivers and tight ends.
Defensively, they field a stout front seven, and their secondary features a top-5 cornerback in Tre’Davious White and the best safety duo in football. This team is as close to flawless as you can get.
In a way, though, the Bills may have a metaphorical clock ticking when it comes to how long their roster can be this talented. Allen’s massive contract extension, signed last year, will go into effect next season, seeing his roughly $ 16.3 million cap hit jump all the way up to around $ 39.8 million in 2023.
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While there is no question that Allen is worth every penny, it does limit what Buffalo can do with the others on their roster. Plus, Micah Hyde’s cap hit will double to almost $ 11 million in 2023, and Jordan Poyer will be a free agent barring a contract extension.
The odds of Buffalo paying big money to both safeties while Allen is making so much money are slim. This could be as good as the Bills will get with Allen for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps the biggest reason the Bills are under immense pressure in 2022 is the potential gap year this will end up being for the Chiefs. Each of Buffalo’s previous two seasons have ended at Arrowhead Stadium. With Kansas City in a state of turnover, having let go of safety Tyrann Mathieu and trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the door is open for the Bills to finally topple their metaphorical Goliath on a big stage.
Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes will always make the Chiefs legitimate threats, but the clear downgrade of talent on the roster cannot be ignored. The Bills are better than Kansas City at nearly every position, if not every position.
If these two face one another in the postseason again with the same result, serious questions about their ability to take the next step and get to the Super Bowl will have to be addressed.
This isn’t to say that 2022 is now or never for the Bills, but it is the closest thing to it. The conference is as wide open as it has ever been, and the Bills have all of the pieces to come out on top.
This is a team that has been knocking on the door of a Super Bowl appearance for some time now. This needs to be the season where the Bills finally break through.
Bills offseason schedule
May 31-June 2
TBA at St. John Fisher College and ADPRO Sports Training center
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Jarrett Bailey is a contributor to Bills Central and has written about the NFL for many publications. See links to his work by following him on Twitter at @JBaileyNFL.