1. Sean McDermott listed as a favorite first-time head coach to win Super Bowl
Bills head coach Sean McDermott is one of 23 current NFL head coaches who have yet to win a Super Bowl. McDermott enters his fifth season as Buffalo's head coach and many analysts and writers with NFL.com believe he has the highest chance of winning his first this season. Out of six analysts and writers, four think McDermott could be raising the Lombardi Trophy in February. Here are their explanations as to why.
Joe Thomas, NFL.com analyst
I have to go with Sean McDermott. After falling one win short of making a Super Bowl appearance in January, the Buffalo Bills went to work and improved their roster this offseason. Josh Allen had to be happy with the additions to the O-line, backfield and receiving corps, which included veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders,while the defense retained linebacker Matt Milano and corner Levi Wallace and bolstered its pass rush in the draft. It's a competitive AFC field, but Allen only seems to be getting better with a team that rallies around him.
Marc Ross, NFL.com analyst
Fresh off a 13-3 season and an AFC Championship Game appearance, Sean McDermott boasts the top squad of the league's 23 coaches still seeking the elusive Lombardi. While several top teams face uncertainty at the quarterback position, the ever-evolving Josh Allen looks poised to take the Bills' offense to even newer heights in 2021. The Bills also addressed their biggest weakness in their failure to dethrone the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs by selecting talented and versatile pass rushers (Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham) early in the draft. Add that to the stellar job McDermott has done in Buffalo over the years, and he is clearly the favorite.
Nick Shook, NFL.com writer
Sure, the Bills showed us they weren't quite ready to take down the reigning champs in 2020, and yes, the AFC is again loaded, but a new year brings new opportunities, and Buffalo seems about as well-prepared as anyone to give it another go. While we spent plenty of time gushing over Tampa's ability to retain its 22 starters, Buffalo followed a very similar path in a much quieter manner, retaining its core while making savvy additions (Emmanuel Sanders, Matt Breida) that could help the Bills get over the hump. Let's also not forget where they found themselves in January -- leading the Chiefs 9-0 in Kansas City -- before things fell apart. That experience will be incredibly valuable, and Buffalo proved in 2020 it knows how to concoct a winning mix. Now the Bills just need to give it another shot at relying on their strengths and established culture, and making sure they don't overcook their dish this time around.
Gil Brandt, NFL.com analyst
There is more optimism about the Bills reaching the Super Bowl than at any point since the early 1990s -- understandably so. Almost every key player is back from the squad that put the team in the AFC title game for the first time since the 1993 season. Josh Allen, meanwhile, should continue to build upon his elite-level talent. The biggest challenges will be winning a division where Miami and New England are poised to contend and finding a way to slow the Chiefs after Kansas City embarrassed them in a pair of 2020 losses, including a 38-24 defeat in that conference championship match.
2. Stefon Diggs ranked 2nd last season for this
We all know Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the league in receptions and receiving yards last season. Diggs was pretty close to leading the league in several other categories, too. According to Next Gen Stats, the receiver was the second-best pass catcher when it came to his catch rate over expected difference.
2. WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Catch rate: 76.5%
Expected catch rate: 64.8%
Diggs led the league in receiving yards (1,535) partially because no one saw a greater volume of targets in the NFL than him. Diggs' 166 targets produced a league-best 127 receptions. He did so by catching passes at a rate that was 11.7 percent higher than expectation, per Next Gen Stats. Diggs was the only qualifying receiver to break 11 percent, and did so with an interesting combination of tactics. Diggs recorded the most receiving yards (685) on play-action targets in the NFL, and also caught 50 passes for 490 yards on hitch routes -- a simple 5-yard, start-and-stop route designed to deliver passes quickly to the receiver when opposing defenses are typically playing softer coverage. Diggs' hitch totals were the most receptions and yards by any player on any route in 2020, per Next Gen Stats.
As anyone who watched the Bills in 2020 will acknowledge, Diggs was a threat any time he was on the field, especially when aligned on the perimeter. The veteran caught 93 passes for 1,173 yards and five touchdowns on 120 targets when aligned wide, the second-most receptions and yards in the NFL. He's also been an incredibly tough cover for the last half-decade, helping quarterbacks record a 97.4 passer rating when targeted in tight windows since 2016, the second-highest rating among all pass catchers.
3. Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams rank here on PFF's top tackles list
The Bills offensive line welcomes back many familiar faces for the 2021 season. Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams could have ended up elsewhere as free agents, but chose to stay in Buffalo. After a standout first season with the Bills, Williams showed his value at the tackle position.
He and left tackle Dion Dawkins landed on PFF’s Top 32 offensive tackle rankings. Dawkins comes in first for the Bills at No. 21 and Williams makes the list at No. 28.
21. DION DAWKINS, BUFFALO BILLS
Dawkins is the model of consistency when it comes to protecting the quarterback. His career-low pass-blocking grade sits at 76.2 (2018), while his career-high is 79.2 (2020). His run blocking has been shakier, but he was more impactful in that facet in 2020 than in the two seasons prior to that. Dawkins earned a 75.1 run-blocking grade last year, which was more than 10 grading points better than his 2018 and 2019 marks and closer to his 2017 rookie campaign number.
28. DARYL WILLIAMS, BUFFALO BILLS
After an injury-plagued, up-and-down five-year stint with Carolina to begin his NFL career, Williams joined the Bills prior to the 2020 season to be their starting right tackle. Not only did he play in all 19 games, but he also played at an extremely high level. His 80.0 pass-blocking grade ranked fourth among right tackles. If Williams can stay healthy and piece together another season like that in 2021, I suspect he will shoot up this list.