1. The Bills are one win away from claiming the AFC East
Don't look now, but the Patriots will not win the AFC East for the first time since 2008. It's down to the Bills and the Dolphins. Buffalo can take the AFC East division title and clinch the playoffs with a win over the Broncos. Bills Mafia has waited 25 years for this moment and it could be just a few days away.
This has been a goal since Bills head coach Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane arrived in Buffalo. They set their standard at a 'Playoff Caliber' level of play and believed they could earn and play for championships with the right people. In their fourth season on the job, they could check it off their list of goals for this season.
"I wanted us to by this point at least be in the hunt to win the division," Beane said after signing his contract extension. "That's been our goal all along to host playoff games here, and the only way you do that is to win the AFC East. Obviously we haven't done that yet, but I do think this is a good point for where we're at. Is it on course, is it on par? I don't know if I said, hey with four weeks left in season four that we're going to be leading or not, but I'm excited that we're in position to win it."
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows what winning the AFC East would not only mean for the franchise, but for the fan base.
"That was goal number one going into the season - to win our division because of what it assures us," Frazier explained. "It's a big deal. We're working as hard as we can to achieve that goal because that's the first step towards our ultimate goal. Our players are well aware. Sean [McDermott] has made it very clear what our goals are and how we need to work to achieve those goals. If we can win the AFC East, what a big deal for our organization and our fan base."
2. Can the defense continue its streak of takeaways?
The Bills defense has takeaways in eight straight games and multiple takeaways in four of the last five games. This is the type of stat the defense has been pushing for all season. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and several players have said they want the identity of this defense to be one that makes a team one-dimensional, stops the run and takes the ball away with an aggressive approach.
Buffalo had two interceptions against the Steelers and have 10 since Week 7, which is the second most in the NFL in that span. They are tied for fourth with 21 takeaways this season. The Denver Broncos are at the bottom of the league with 29 giveaways. Broncos quarterback Drew Lock has thrown 13 interceptions this season, which is the second most of any quarterback. Lock has fumbled the ball seven times, but only lost two of those fumbles.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier thinks the defense is playing at a higher level at the perfect time.
"Probably following the KC game I think our defense has steadily improved in a number of different areas along the way," Frazier shared. "One of the emphasis' we had early on was we wanted to get better as the season went on. We really didn't want to look back and say we played our best football in September or October.
"Our guys are improving at the right time and that's what you need to be able to do in our league. You really want to be getting to your plateau in late December and on. Our guys are really moving in the right direction."
3. Stefon Diggs on the verge of breaking franchise records
Stefon Diggs continues to be a game changer for the Buffalo Bills when they need a spark on offense. In Week 14 against the Steelers, the Bills struggled to put plays together in the first half. Their answer was finding Diggs in the third quarter where he had six receptions on six targets for 83 yards and a touchdown. With three games left in the regular season, Diggs has already set a new career-high for receiving yards with 1,167. He also is the first player this season to make it to 100 receptions in the NFL.
Diggs is one catch away from breaking the franchise record of most receptions in a single season most recently set by Eric Moulds who had 100 in 2002. He's also three catches away from passing a career best for most receptions in a season. The first-year Bills receiver also needs only 202 yards to set a new team-record for most receiving yards in a season. No matter his stats from game-to-game, his teammates and coaches love what he's added to the locker room.
"He's a team-first guy," McDermott said. "He makes others around him better. That's what selfless and unselfish players do. I think that's probably some of the gravy that we didn't know we were getting when we traded for him. Kudos to Brandon [Beane] for doing his research. He's a heck of a competitor. I just really appreciate whatever he's asked to do he does and does it to the best of his ability, and he wants to win. Not once have I ever heard him complain that he didn't get the ball enough or if he's out blocking on the perimeter of the run game, which I appreciate."
4. Rookie wide receivers a plenty
We all know the quality of wide receivers that were in this year's draft class. Remember when most of us spent all of February gawking over what wide receiver the Bills would take in the first round? I think we are more than okay with the way it played out because Buffalo ended up with a wide receiver who has changed the Bills offense for better and a rookie who is playing at a level higher than a fourth round pick.
A couple of the rookies on the Broncos may sound familiar because Denver used a first and second round pick on two receivers — Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Jeudy has 40 receptions for 636 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His 636 receiving yards rank sixth among rookie wide receivers. He leads the Broncos averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Hamler has 29 catches for 377 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He's coming off a performance against the Panthers where he had two touchdown receptions for a combined 86 yards.
Bills rookie receiver Gabriel Davis is the first Bills rookie to have three-straight games with a touchdown reception since 2010. Davis has 28 catches for 441 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He leads the team in touchdown receptions and his 15.8 yards per catch average is third best among rookie wide outs.
"Gabe has definitely stepped in and stepped up as a young player," Stefon Diggs said. "His maturation process is beautiful to watch from a different prospective. Just to see his approach, and he's been doing all the right things. I'm not surprised he's been scoring touchdowns. He's supposed to have like 10 touchdowns by now, he's had a lot of them called back. We're just going to get back in the lab and get grinding. He's a guy that wants to grind and get better all the time. I'm looking forward to his success."
5. Road warriors
Last season, the Bills were 6-2 on the road with big wins against the Titans, Cowboys and Steelers. This season Buffalo is 4-2 on the road with two remaining games away from home — Denver and New England. They've had impressive road wins against the Raiders and the 49ers. If they win their final two road games, they'll become the first Bills team in franchise history to win six road games in consecutive seasons.
Traveling during a pandemic hasn't made road trips any easier this year. The team has to follow several protocols on the road, and Bills head coach Sean McDermott said in Week 15 they've become a part of the routine.
"I think really outside of the protocols that we had to inform our players of early on in the season, when we did go on the road for the first time, outside of that, I think it's been fairly similar, albeit no fans or a few fans in some of these away stadiums," McDermott said. "It's been fairly similar once we all got on the same page in terms of the protocols that we are under and want to abide by."
Besides the protocols on the road, the team has carried the same resilient demeanor on the road that they had last season. Buffalo is also one win away from going 3-1 against the AFC West this season.