The city of Buffalo and Bills Mafia around the world have been counting down the days until Monday night's home opener against the Tennessee Titans. After a 1-0 start to the season following last week's season opener win over the Rams, the build up of energy has created a buzz around town.
"Monday night, it's showtime back on prime time again," wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. "We're on there for a reason, too. I feel like this team, we've been through the good and the bad. We've been through the rain, we've been through the storm. So, when things do get a little sunny like on Monday night, why not shine?"
Now even though kickoff isn't until the stadium lights turn on, the excitement all around the city will start while the sun is still shining, or maybe even rising. In Bills Mafia fashion, fans will start to fill the parking lots surrounding the stadium hours before kickoff as they patiently wait for the clock to hit 7:15 p.m.
Buffalo native Doug Boechel and seven of his friends from high school already have their camper, "The Shasta," packed for Monday. Boechel, who has been a season ticket holder for 36 years, has stuck with the team through all the ups and downs, and is loving the potential the 2022 Bills roster has heading into this season.
Between the group's tailgate that's starting at 2:00 p.m. and the game itself, the long-time Bills fans can't wait for the energetic atmosphere that's going to be in the air come game time.
"There's never been this much hype for a team," Boechel said. "They seem like they're the real deal. I lived through all the Superbowl years and after those years of a lot of nothingness, it's so much fun again. And it's awfully fun to watch Josh Allen play live."
Knowing what a Bills tailgate entails, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said he expects Monday to be "stupid crazy". Kelly, who played in front of Bills fans for 11 seasons, feels that the atmosphere is different from when he was playing with the heightened level of enthusiasm the younger generation of Bills Mafia brings game after game.
"I've already talked to a few people and they're already thinking about jumping on the tables," Kelly laughed. "Maybe they should lay back and not do too many table jumps yet since it's only the beginning of the season. I can see maybe a two-foot jump, but no 5-10 feet jumps right now. It's too early for that, but I'm pumped up and I'm excited."
"Even though the older generation still brings it, this new generation being called Bills Mafia, I think they've taken it to heart," Kelly added. "They love it, they enjoy it, and they wrap their arms around it."
To further elevate the excitement level for Bills fans of all ages, media personalities Trey Wingo and Kenny Mayne will be in town with the Caesars Sportsbook Truck Tour. Wingo shared that he's not sure if expectations have ever been higher in Buffalo for a team than this year's Buffalo Bills, and added, "Yes, that includes the teams that went to four straight Super Bowls."
"They have everything they need: great quarterback, a great coach, a great defense, and a great culture," Wingo said. "This home opener should be absolutely bananas after the whooping they put up on the Rams last Thursday."
"I broke a chair in my driveway to honor traditions of Bills fans after that hard playoff loss in KC," Mayne said. "Monday, it will be great to be with them at our new Caesars Sportsbook Truck to tailgate and take in my first game in Buffalo."
But with tailgating comes traffic and the last thing Bills fans want is to miss part of the game. So, to make sure all of Bills Mafia are ready for the home opener's opening kickoff, students in school districts surrounding the stadium will be given a half day in hopes of avoiding the traffic rush. Bills QB Josh Allen endorsed the move.
"Half day at school, that's how you create some Bills fans right there, get out of school," Allen said. "I hope they love the Bills. We'll need everybody here and screaming as loud as they can and trying to help us out on third down when our defense is on the field."
Since returning to Buffalo after defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Thursday Night Football, safety Jordan Poyer has felt the energy throughout the city as fans turn their attention to Monday Night Football.
"Just being out and about with my daughter and seeing all Bills fans excited about Monday night and neighbors coming over just excited about Monday night," Poyer said. "You definitely feel the energy. We know we got to prepare well to put a show on in front of our fans and Monday will be here before you know it."
Tight end Dawson Knox senses that everybody on the team loves primetime games and the increased intensity those games bring. Being the home opener back in Buffalo and under Monday night lights, Knox and the rest of the Bills locker room are just as excited as fans are to take the field.
"It's going to be an environment unlike anything we've seen here so far," Knox said. "We know these fans are incredible, we know it's going to be packed, and the energy is going to be off the charts."
All hype and excitement aside, the Bills know the challenge that's ahead of them in facing the Titans.
"I look forward to getting in front of our fans and our home opener here," said head coach Sean McDermott . "I think our players and our team are really just focused on putting in the work right now one day at a time to get ourselves ready to go against a really good football team."
Fans attending the game will want to make sure that they're in their seats early for a special pregame ceremony to honor the victims and recognize the first responders of the tragic mass shooting that happened on May 14th in Buffalo's East Side. Jillian Hanesworth, a poet and social justice activist, will take part in the ceremony before heading to her seat to cheer on her hometown team.
"The best way to heal is collectively," Hanesworth said. "My hope is that we use every moment to rally around one another the same way we rally around our home team. Choose love, choose Buffalo, and Go Bills!"