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These NFL analysts have believed in the playoff-bound Bills since the start of the year

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) touchdown Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 21, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) touchdown Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 21, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes

They were few in number and after a fall back to 6-10 by the Bills in 2018 you could understand why. Even Las Vegas odd makers didn't have a whole lot of confidence in what Buffalo was building in the 2019 offseason listing the team's over-under win total at 6.5.

But for those NFL analysts who kept their ear to the ground on the Bills through every stage of the offseason and saw the pieces coming together, their belief and pronouncements that the team would have a breakthrough year were rewarded.

Sirius XM Mad Dog Sports Radio and CBS Sports Network host Adam Schein was among the first to stamp the Bills as a playoff team long before NFL clubs even reported to training camp. His faith in what the team could accomplish was rooted in one critical component of team building.

"It's the culture of Sean McDermott," said Schein. "He is getting my vote for NFL Coach of the Year. I'm one of the 50 voters for all the awards and what Sean does is amazing. The accountability, the discipline. I think that his way of coaching, his attitude, it permeates through that entire organization. You see it on game day, they play their best when it matters the most. They're smart. They're tough. They don't beat themselves."

Schein was also quick to praise general manager Brandon Beane for a "smart and calculated" series of offseason signings rooted in providing upgrades on offense for Josh Allen.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco, much like Schein, has an affinity for McDermott, and also predicted Buffalo as an AFC playoff team for 2019. He saw a top five defense that could hold a team in games and felt Buffalo's young quarterback with an improved set of weapons could raise the team's offensive production.

"I saw a team on defense that would rally around their coach and take on his personality and that's exactly what they did," Prisco said. "That defense is very good and they play hard and feisty and that's who Sean McDermott is. On the other side of the ball I'm also a big believer in Josh Allen. I know not that many people are, but I am and I have been since he came out. I think he's gotten better and better as the season has moved along."

But the analyst who perhaps stuck his neck out farther than anyone was NFL Network's Michael Robinson. In June, the former NFL fullback made the Bills his pick to win the division.

"The Buffalo Bills had a lot of offseason additions. Frank Gore, a Hall of Famer is going to be there to provide a veteran presence in the backfield. Cole Beasley, a nice guy who is always going to be open for Josh Allen," said Robinson last spring. "They took care of the offensive line and improved themselves at the line of scrimmage. Then Ed Oliver on the defensive side to push the pocket. I like the Buffalo Bills. Right now I've got the Buffalo Bills winning the AFC East. What's the date? June 3rd. Let's get it Buffalo. Put that up on your website."

Even Robinson's colleagues thought he might be overstepping with that prediction at the time. But in Week 16 the Bills had a look at the division title. They just needed to beat the Patriots on the road and win the season finale against the Jets and hope the Dolphins could upset New England in Week 17.

Suddenly, Robinson's seemingly outlandish prognostication didn't seem quite so far-fetched.

Buffalo isn't a perfect playoff team by any means. As his team prepares for the postseason, Coach McDermott still sees a lot of work in front of his team as he continues to preach the daily growth mindset.

Even those who have been high on the Bills from the start aren't blind to some of the team's areas that remain a work in progress.

"The offense isn't perfect," said Prisco. "I go back to the Cleveland game where Dawson Knox drops a back-shoulder fade in the end zone. Allen was late with the throw, but those are the little things. It was a little behind him, but he's got to make that play. He's just not there yet.

"John Brown has had a great season, but they need a big guy on the other side. And that's what Josh Allen is missing. It took them a while to get Devin Singletary going. Now you can't put the ball on the ground, but he's looking like the guy they expect him to become."

All of these Bills backers agree that Josh Allen's game has taken a sizable step forward this season, and it's been critical in getting the Bills in the position they now find themselves. What's even more encouraging for these analysts is they believe there is a lot more ground that Allen's personal game can cover going forward.

"I just think that Josh really has become a quarterback that you can rely on," said Schein. "I think he's the best quarterback Buffalo has had since Jim Kelly. I don't even think he's come close to his ultimate upside. You know there's those who feel he can be more consistent, in terms of hitting the open man, but you know he's a guy you want as your quarterback and it's only his second year.

"I just think, if you're a Bills fan, I mean think about the way the team battled and played against New England on the road. They went down to the final play, and that to me is Bills football for this season. They win double digit games and to be that close to New England – two one-score games against the Patriots. They're right there."

With the AFC Wild Card game coming up this weekend at Houston, these same NFL analysts remain bullish on the Bills.

"It's going to be a tough road," said Prisco. "They have to win at Houston. That's not impossible. They could win that game. That's a winnable game, and then you'd have to play the Ravens, or the Patriots or Chiefs. Those teams are all beatable. They can play with anybody because of that defense."

"I think that the Bills are one of those teams that no one's going to want to play in the postseason because you have to play your best to beat Buffalo," Schein said. "They have the elements. They have an amazing defense. I mean they're great on every level, defensive line, linebackers. Tre'Davious White is a star. I think he's excellent. They're incredibly well coached. They can run the ball. They have a tough, clutch quarterback. Josh can make plays in the passing attack with Beasley and Brown. The tight ends have really come on over the last couple of weeks. I love Singletary out of the backfield, Gore with his invaluable experience.

"They play the Texans in round one in Wild Card weekend and I think they're going to win a playoff game. I think Josh Allen inspires that confidence. Those teams ahead of them in the playoff seedings I think are better teams built for now, but Buffalo can hang with anybody in the NFL as has been proven throughout the course of this unbelievable season."

And whatever the NFL playoff fortunes hold for the Bills, Prisco is already laying out his 2020 outlook for Buffalo.

"I predict the Bills will win the division next year," he said. "I think that's going to happen. You've got to give them credit for the way they've built that team. It's a changing of the guard. They will be the best team in the division next year."

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