Bills big winners of Super Wild Card Weekend
The Bills: Their manhandling of the Patriots was a resounding reminder of what a masterful job of team building has been performed in Buffalo since 2018, when the Bills had a rookie Josh Allen and a whole lot of money being paid to players who were no longer on the team. The Bills are the new boss of the AFC East, and it was hard not to feel like they were delivering a message with this stomping. But the Bills have been talking about the Chiefs being kings of the AFC hill since they lost the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium last year. The Bills have won five in a row, but their two best performances of the year came in their last two games against the Patriots -- there were real struggles against the Falcons and Jets at home in the final two games of the regular season. Now it's time to play like this against an even greater opponent than the Patriots next week -- likely the Chiefs again.
Josh Allen: He rifled passes, he broke ankles, there was nothing the Bills quarterback couldn't do Saturday night. Allen was a one-man wrecking crew -- throwing for 308 yards and rushing for 66 more -- but the Bills' offense collectively was unstoppable. They scored a touchdown on each of their four first-half possessions, running out to a 27-0 lead. Getting out to a lead was a point of emphasis for the Bills, who wanted to force the game into Mac Jones' hands. Done. Then they kept going. The Bills haven't punted against the Patriots since early in the third quarter of the first meeting between these teams this season. The Bills finished with a perfect offensive performance, scoring a touchdown on every single drive until the kneel down. Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips raved about the offense saying, "That sounds like some Pop Warner stuff. Maybe you did it on Madden."
Micah Hyde: The Bills safety gets singled out from an outstanding overall defensive effort because of one of the most athletic and timely plays you'll ever see. With the Bills leading by a touchdown, but the Patriots moving the ball at will on their first possession of the game, quarterback Mac Jones had the Patriots with a first down at the Bills' 34-yard line. He heaved a pass toward Nelson Agholor, who was streaking down the left sideline -- wide open -- into the end zone. Hyde had an angle and raced to the spot where Agholor would have met the pass. Tracking the ball all the way, Hyde made a Willie Mays-style catch, turning a certain touchdown into a jaw-dropping interception that ended the Patriots' early momentum. The Patriots' offense never recovered its rhythm.
The Bills' coordinators: Both offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are candidates for head coaching jobs. This game will be a nice line on their résumés.
Is Josh Allen the best player in all of football?
Simms: I don't know if the football world is grasping what we're seeing here. First off, like you talked about, we've never seen anybody do that to a Belichick defense, let alone on a year with ever the number four defense in football and the number two scoring defense in football. That's insane. And then it's two games in a row where the team hasn't punted. They don't punt! They went into New England and did the same thing. And that game at least they went to four down a few times and had to go for it got it. This game they never even went for fourth down. It was machine.
… Is Josh Allen, the best player in football? I think it's a legitimate question. He's in that conversation. I know Mahomes is right there, and Rogers, of course the way he plays and still playing at such a high level. But Josh Allen has games like this, and he's had a bunch of games like this, where I just go, I don't know if there's a better player in the game."
Florio: It's incredible that it happened at all, amazing and inexplicable that it happened against Bill Belichick's Patriots. Of all the teams in the NFL, past, present, or future that we would not think this would happen against, its Bill Belichick's Patriots. But the tone was set with a play that looks a lot like The Catch, from 40 years ago. Josh Allen said he thought he was throwing it away, Dawson Knox thought otherwise and jumped up and made the catch. That was the moment where it's like, 'uh oh, the Bills came to play tonight. This is the Bills team we thought we were gonna get from week one onward.
Three Bills earn awards after Wild Card performance
Offensive Players of the Week
Josh Allen, quarterback, Buffalo. Seven possessions against the number two defense in football. Seven touchdown drives, including five touchdown passes. Humbling the great Belichick 47-17, and it felt like it could have been 77-17.
Defensive Players of the Week
Micah Hyde, safety, Buffalo. He made one of the most athletic and graceful interceptions a safety can make, and it changed the course of the Bills' wild-card rout over the Patriots. The Bills led 7-0 midway through the first quarter, and New England was driving, with a first down at the Buffalo 34-yard line. Nelson Agholor went deep up the left side, and Mac Jones threw what appeared to be a beautiful ball, leading Agholor perfectly. Hyde flew in from the right, two yards deep in the end zone, and with Agholor expecting to catch the ball for a touchdown, Hyde plucked it from about two feet above the Patriot's grasp. Instead of the Patriots tying the game at 7, the Bills took advantage of the turnover and went 80 yards for the second TD of the game, and it was 14-0 minutes later. In the fourth quarter, Hyde added a 52-yard punt return that was nearly a touchdown. He tripped over his own guy.
Coaches of the Week
Leslie Frazier, defensive coordinator, Buffalo; Todd Bowles, defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay. On the weekend when the NFL was down to exactly one employed Black head coach (Mike Tomlin), two Black coordinators had noteworthy performances in the wild-card round. Frazier's Bills embarrassed the Patriots offense, while Bowles' unit in Tampa Bay kept the Eagles flustered all day. Will Frazier or Bowles get a chance in the current hiring cycle? That's to be determined. But the NFL badly needs to figure this out.
Bills' offense is one winner of Super Wild Card Weekend
Winner: The Perfect Game
Buffalo beat New England 47-17, and although the Bills didn't set a scoring record and didn't gain 500 yards, they were inarguably perfect offensively. The Bills scored seven touchdowns. Josh Allen didn't throw any interceptions, and the team didn't lose any fumbles. The Bills didn't attempt any field goals or kick any punts. In fact, the Bills never even faced a fourth down. (Apologies to punter Matt Haack, who was forced to stand outside in the Buffalo cold for four hours and entered the game only to hold the football on extra points.) The only time the Bills got the ball on offense and didn't score was when they kneeled to end the game. It was the first game in NFL history where a team didn't turn the ball over, kick a field goal, or punt.
Allen seems to have evolved into his final form, a galloping giant who also throws perfect passes. He finished the game with more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four). On top of his 300 passing yards, Allen also had 66 rushing yards, sprinting past some defenders, barreling through others, and turning one unfortunate Patriot's legs into Jell-O.
Allen was unstoppable in the truest sense of the word—the Patriots did not stop him once. He was so good on Sunday that he even scored a touchdown on a play where he wasn't trying to score a touchdown. He confirmed after the game that this pass was actually an attempt to throw the ball away. But it didn't go far enough, and Dawson Knox caught it in the end zone:
… I suppose the Bills could have been better — for example, if they'd scored a touchdown on every single play. But what they did isn't a statistical oddity. Scoring a touchdown every single time is the goal of football. There is no beating a team that scores a touchdown every time, unless you also score a touchdown every time and convert more two-point conversions than the other team. This was The Perfect Game, and nobody had ever done it until the Bills. We can view it as a monument to statistical greatness — but the rest of the teams still alive in the playoffs have to view it as a warning.
The Bills are the team to beat in the AFC
Defensive coordinators have nightmares more pleasant than what they saw if they watched the Bills beat the Patriots on Saturday night. The final score was 47-17, but that really doesn't do it justice. Buffalo scored touchdowns on each of its first seven possessions and knelt the clock out to end the game on the eighth. It was the first game ever in which a team did not kick a field goal, punt or commit a turnover. The only fourth down the Bills had all night was the one that resulted from their third-down kneel-down that allowed them to run out the clock without running another play.
They played a perfect game on offense -- against Bill Belichick, by the way -- and the defense has been pretty consistently outstanding all season. The No. 3 seed in the AFC, the Bills still have to go to Kansas City and then likely Tennessee if they want to get to the Super Bowl, but no team has looked better in wild-card weekend than Buffalo, which has asked its punter to punt in only one of its past four games.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The road won't be easy. Unless the Bengals spring the upset in Tennessee, the Bills don't get to play at home again. But this is a team that was among the preseason favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl after losing in the conference championship game a year ago. The Bills had an uneven regular season and had to finish strong to repeat as division champs. But they did both of those things, and this might be a legitimately great team that's playing its best football of the year at exactly the right time.
It also might be that we shouldn't judge them against an overachieving Patriots team that was playing with a rookie quarterback and had a bunch of holes on defense that started showing up once it wasn't forcing turnovers at an incredible rate, but that's some real glass-half-empty stuff, and I'm just not here for it.
My preseason Super Bowl pick was Bills-Packers, and after watching the Bills on Saturday I feel better than ever about it. And don't ask me how they're going to beat the Chiefs, because I don't know and again, you're just too pessimistic. Now excuse me while I go jump through a table.
(3) Buffalo Bills at (2) Kansas City Chiefs
6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Jan. 23, CBS
Opening line: Chiefs -2 (54.5)
FPI prediction: Bills, 52.1% (by 0.7 points)
What to watch for: The Bills crushed the Chiefs by a score of 38-20 in Week 5, one of the most eye-opening games of the Chiefs' 3-4 start to the season. Bills quarterback Josh Allen was dominant, throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns while running for 59 yards and two more scores. But the Chiefs are in a much different place now. In their 9-1 finish to the regular season, the Kansas City defense ranked No. 7 in QBR against (39.5). The Chiefs' opponents threw more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (12) and faced the NFL's sixth-highest pressure rate (30.7). Allen is coming off an excellent game in the wild-card round, but he'll face a more energetic defense in this one.
Why the Bills will win: Allen is coming off one of the few performances in his career that was clearly superior to what he did against the Chiefs earlier this season. He threw five touchdown passes in a dominating 47-17 win against the Patriots, getting all five of those scores on play-action plays -- the most of any player in any game since ESPN began tracking such throws in 2006. And guess what? Kansas City opponents had great success with play-action, totaling 1,545 passing yards (third most in the NFL) and compiling an NFL-best 80.2 QBR. In other words, Allen could be set up for another big outcome in the play-action game.
X factor: Chiefs pass-rushers Frank Clark, Chris Jones and Melvin Ingram III. The Chiefs are going to have to speed Allen up in the pocket, but they're going to have to do so within a structure that keeps him in the pocket. Allen actually ranks better among NFL passers when he is pressured (No. 4 by QBR) than he does when he is not (No. 11). When he is pressured and stays in the pocket, Allen had a 23.4 QBR during the regular season. When he got outside, however, his QBR was 64.6. The Bills are going to move the ball and score points, but the Chiefs can limit the damage by keeping Allen corralled.
Divisional Round Preview
(3) BUF Bills at (2) KC Chiefs
When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+
Line: Chiefs -2, O/U 54.5
Divisional round weekend will commence with a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game. It is also between two teams that scored a combined 89 points in wild card wins over New England and Pittsburgh. On Saturday, the Bills became the NFL's first team to not punt, attempt a field goal or commit a turnover while scoring seven touchdowns against the Patriots. On Sunday, the Chiefs scored on six consecutive drives that included five touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs posted a 38-24 win over the Bills in last year's AFC Championship Game. But they were on the short end of a 38-20 score back in Week 5. Josh Allen torched the Chiefs' defense to the tune of 315 yards and three touchdown passes. Buffalo's defense forced two interceptions off of Mahomes, who attempted. season-high 54 passes. The game's critical play was turned in by Bills defensive back Micah Hyde, who gave his team a 31-13 lead after returning an interception 26 yards for a score midway through the third quarter.
The Bills will win if…
No. 3 Buffalo Bills at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs
When: 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS
Line: Chiefs by 2.5, over/under 54
The Chiefs hosting the Bills is a heavyweight battle that will feel like the AFC Championship. I cannot wait. The team with the ball last might be the winner.
The Bills will win if they play offense like they did against the Patriots.
The Bills we saw Saturday had the most perfect offensive game in NFL history, but that Bills team has not shown up much this season. Now, of course, a historic night won't happen more than a few times in a lifetime, but the Bills' offense is capable of being nearly unstoppable. And with Josh Allen, this version of the offense can win a Super Bowl.
When Allen is accurate and making plays with his legs, when the offensive line is run-blocking and when the play calling keeps defenses off-balance, the Bills' offense is a scoring machine. But the Bills are 31st in Football Outsiders variance, which means that week to week, they are the 31st-most consistent team. At times, they look unstoppable, and other times, they score six points against the Jaguars.
In this game, the Bills just need to be consistent. They need a calm and relaxed offense to pair with their excellent defense.