By record, the AFC East is one of the toughest divisions in football. The Patriots once again sit at the top at 5-2, but both the Dolphins and the Bills are right behind them at 4-2, and the Jets are staying competitive at 3-4. for the last half-decade or so we’ve been waiting for the Bills to take the next step towards competing in the division, and it seems they’ve finally done it under first-year head coach Sean McDermott. In a division, and an AFC conference that seems open for the taking, can the Bills be a playoff contender this year?
Defense wins championships
The Buffalo Bills have been bringing it defensively so far this season. Opponents are averaging just 16.8 points against the Bills’ defense this year. A big part of their success is a tough run defense. Buffalo won’t allow teams to run the football, surrendering just 84.5 rushing yards per game. Because teams can’t run the ball on Buffalo, they have struggled to punch the ball in when they reach the red zone. Bills opponents score a touchdown on only 38.9 percent of red zone trips this year, sixth best average in the league for any defense.
The Bills defense is also doing a nice job of forcing turnovers. Buffalo is fourth in the league with 13 takeaways this year, including four interceptions from Micah Hyde in his first year in Buffalo. But make no mistake it has been a team effort on defense for the Bills. Seven different players have contributed at least one of the team’s 13 forced turnovers. And while there aren’t any guys on this team racking up huge sack totals, eight different players have tallied at least one sack in their first six games. Right now you can say they Bills’ defense is greater than the sum of its parts.
Just enough on offense
The Bills’ offense isn’t lighting up the scoreboard, but they are doing enough to complement the defense and win games. Although the Bills aren’t scoring a lot (averaging 19.8 points per contest), they have been able to extend drives and eat clock to give their defense a rest. The Bills are rushing for 117.7 yards per game, and more importantly are converting on 43 percent of third downs, keeping their offense on the field and continue drives. That combined with only three turnovers (only Kansas City has fewer) may not make Buffalo the most exciting offense, but a very effective one.
The question is whether the Bills can maintain their effectiveness on offense and continue forcing turnovers on defense. Typically, these stats will fluctuate throughout the season, and without elite playmakers on either side of the ball, wins and losses will fluctuate as well. If the Bills can keep playing the way they have been however, There’s no doubt they’ll be in the mix at the end of the year.
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