In the middle of a very hot summer, the Bills’ training camp opened this week. You can almost feel the fall air.
I’m not going to get into what defensive end is on the bubble or which receiver does not have much of a chance to make the roster. The Buffalo News sports department has been in overdrive with that sort of stuff for weeks now.
What’s really fascinating for most Bills fans is the heady feeling that something really good might be happening this year. Years of wide-right, no-goal (ok, that was a hockey game), Tennessee miracle, and 13 seconds have tempered most of us. Like it or not, fans need for this season to proceed on a game-by-game, week-by-week basis.
That’s not to say that there is not a lot to be excited about. Josh Allen may be the premier quarterback in the league, and he’s surrounded by a solid crew of stars and significant role players.
The AFC East could bring more competition for the Division title than it did last year. Miami has some talent and they added more. Bill Belichick can make a contender out of a high school JV team.
The Conference has a bunch of good young quarterbacks that will make their teams highly competitive. Patrick Mahomes is still the class of that bunch, but Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are developing quickly.
So what could make the Bills the cream of the crop besides Allen and the assembled, talented crew?
The NFL Network in the off-season re-plays broadcasts of previous seasons, including what they call the ten best games of 2021. Included in that series is last January’s Bills-Chiefs divisional round playoff game in Kansas City. Calling the game one of the best of 2021 does not do justice to it. It is recognized as one of the greatest games ever played in NFL history.
I watched the replay recently. At the end of the first quarter the game was tied at 7. They were tied 14-14 at the half. After three quarters it was KC 23, Buffalo 21.
But then as they did on so many occasions in the past couple years, the Bills showed what they were made of. They ran a seven-minute, 75-yard drive that put them ahead 29-26 with 1:54 to go in the game. The Chiefs answered with a touchdown of their own, making it 33-29 Chiefs.
Josh Allen responded with another touchdown drive, moving the score to 36-33 Bills with 13 seconds to go. What happened then is still hard to understand – a regular kickoff rather than a squib kick. The Chiefs kicked a field goal, sending the game into overtime. Twenty-five points were scored in the last one minute, 54 seconds of regulation.
And then, most Bills fans will agree, the game was lost on a coin flip. KC got the ball and scored a touchdown, ending the game. The Bills didn’t get to touch the ball in overtime.
The league rules, of course, were changed after that happened, and if the new rule had been in effect the Bills might have won that game.
So how does a loss like that set things up for the new season? It means the team has something to settle up, to make amends for. They are good enough to do that.
The opening game of the 2022 season is a great one, with the Bills traveling to Los Angeles to take on the World Champion Rams on the first Thursday night game of 2022.
Last season, as good as it was, could have been much better. Think about the shoulda/coulda/woulda losses to Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay. A first-round playoff bye could have been theirs.
Great teams like the Bills learn from the things that could have been. They will play well with prime opponents this year, but they will not let the easier games slip away.
We can all look at the season scheduled and project what we think might happen. My view is that the Bills in 2022 will go 13 and 4 in the regular season. They will win the AFC East, get a first-round bye, and take on the best the NFC has to offer on February 12th in Glendale, Arizona. This will be the magic season.
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