What happened to the Buffalo Bills?

This was supposed to be their season. An agonising defeat in the Divisonal round of last season’s playoffs led to the Buffalo Bills taking stock and adding depth in their locker room, and the club came into this season as favourites to finally win a Super Bowl, three decades on from a time when they were right in the middle of a four-year showpiece game losing streak. Losing the first seeding in the AFC was unfortunate, but they still had home advantage right through to an expected rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs, which they would be more than capable of winning.

Instead, the Bills will be watching the conference championship on TV after a bruising loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, who now have the chance to repeat last season’s shock win in Kansas and progress to the Super Bowl. That’s not something Bet365 NZ customers will have had their money on ahead of a game against a beat-up offensive line, so what gives? Why did it not happen for the Bills this season, and have they blown their best chance to lay the early-90s ghosts to rest?

Allen didn’t hit his heights

Let’s preface this point by saying that Josh Allen against the Bengals gave a performance that would be good enough to earn him a starting job at many NFL teams. But with Tom Brady visibly winding down, Allen was meant to be the main challenger to Josh Mahomes for the crown of the NFL’s best quarterback. To realistically claim that crown, he needed to deliver an elite playoff performance, and falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter gave him the chance to lift the whole team onto his back and drag them to the next round. In the end, 14 points were enough for the Bengals, Allen leading his team to just one touchdown as they lost 27-10. Although far from the worst offender, the quarterback underperformed.

Ken Dorsey isn’t Brian Daboll

In retrospect, the most painful aspect of the preceding twelve months may not have been the loss in Kansas that ended the Bills 2022 Super Bowl hopes. The departure of Brian Daboll to the head coach role at the Giants deprived the Bills’ offense of the co-ordinator who gave them an elite offense – possibly the league’s best overall. His replacement, Ken Dorsey, worked hard to give the offense more balance, but when you’re trying to come back from a two-touchdown deficit in the postseason, you don’t want balance, you want fireworks. Those didn’t materialize against the Bengals.

Their best chance may be gone

The Buffalo Bills are not in possession of an ageing team that can’t ever win if it doesn’t win now. Allen is still well in his prime, looking ahead to his sixth season; that’s about a quarter of a Tom Brady. What is worrying is that in that time, he’s had just one AFC Championship appearance, while callow third-year pro Joe Burrow is about to play in his second. Patrick Mahomes already has a Super Bowl ring, and Trevor Lawrence is finding his feet in Jacksonville. It’s going to get harder for Buffalo to take that next step, not easier. So the reality may be that their best chance for a Super Bowl in this generation just slipped through their hands.

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