The Raiders are officially Las Vegas’ NFL team, but for anyone familiar with the gambling odds going into the season, it’s the Buffalo Bills that have captured the imagination of the gambling mecca.
Not only are the Bills the betting favorites to win their first-ever Super Bowl this season, but quarterback Josh Allen is being chosen for MVP honors, Sean McDermott is in preseason running for Coach of the Year, and Buffalo’s top-rated defense has added pass rusher Von Miller, a seven-time All-Pro and former Super Bowl MVP.
The only gap on the Bills’ stacked depth chart appeared to be at punt, where Matt Haack struggled last season while finishing 27th in fair-catch rate and punting within the 20-yard line. Even more disastrous: A whopping 13 percent of Haack’s punts resulted in touchbacks last season — the worst figure in the NFL.
The problem appeared to be an Achilles’ heel for the Super Bowl candidates until the sixth round of the April NFL Draft, when the team selected All-American Matt Araiza, who earned the moniker “Point God” in the state of San Diego.
But some things are just “bigger than football,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane told reporters last month after stabbing 22-year-old Araiza amid allegations that he and two SDSU teammates have a 17-year-old girl. raped at a Halloween party. party in 2021.
“Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games,” said Beane, who has since removed veteran Sam Martin from the scrap heap.
Araiza is reportedly under investigation by police in California over the allegations in a lawsuit filed in August by now 18-year-old Jane Doe. He has denied the allegations.
The Bills were reportedly aware of Araiza’s impending lawsuit when he got the job as a punter in August. the athleticbut eventually decided to cut him after shocking details of the allegations surfaced.
Controversy, of course, is nothing new for a team that includes accused murderer and convicted felon OJ Simpson on the Wall of Fame. New are the expectations surrounding the team, and the Araiza scandal – serious though it is – has not distracted from that.
So the question remains: are the bills legit?
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) walks off the field at halftime during an NFL preseason football game against the Carolina Panthers on Friday, August 26
Everyone from veteran NFL reporter Peter King to ESPN analysts, to NFL.com, is now predicting a Super Bowl title for Buffalo’s long-suffering fans
The Buffalo Bills have added two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller to a top defense
The Bills sacked esteemed rookie gambler Matt Araiza (pictured) after being accused of rape in 2021
Just 13 seconds away from an AFC Championship game berth in January, the Bills instead found themselves on the losing end of one of the biggest games in NFL history.
McDermott’s team had a few lead in the final two minutes of regulation in the division round before Kansas City kicked an tying field goal and went on to win on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to finish Travis Kelce tight in overtime.
A commotion erupted over the league’s overtime procedures, with angry Bills fans slamming rules that effectively denied their team football in the extra frame.
Those rules have been tweaked, allowing any team to have the ball in post-season overtime, but bitterness continues among Buffalo’s despised fans, most of whom have suffered years of disappointment at the hands of the Bills.
Not only did Buffalo become the only franchise in league history to lose four consecutive Super Bowls from the 1990 to 1993 season, but they failed to make the playoffs in the 2000s for 17 consecutive seasons, during which time they went through seven head coaches, all of whom had been billed as franchise saviors.
The good news for Bills fans is that this team is no longer cursed by its past, which has no tangible connection to Allen & Co. While Buffalo has a long memory, the players have been ready for months to turn the page on that brutal loss.
“I do believe this unit will learn from this,” Allen said after the stunning defeat. “We have a fairly young team. Lots of guys are coming back next year. We just have to use this as fuel for the fire.’
Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills walks off the field after being defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs 42-36 in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 23
That fire is fueled by Miller, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos and, last season, the Los Angeles Rams. The 33-year-old edge rusher signed a six-year, $120 million back-loaded deal with Buffalo that guarantees him $51 million.
It will be hard to keep that contract, but he is coming to a strong season in LA, where he had 9.5 sacks (tied for 18th) and 30 quarterback pressures (31st).
The move came as a surprise, not only because of Buffalo’s willingness to spend money, but also because of Miller’s decision to sign in Western New York, which has traditionally been considered an undesirable market for free agents.
But in yet another sign that things are changing in Buffalo, Miller has embraced the move.
“I remember it like it was yesterday when Coach McDermott said, ‘It’s Buffalo. I know it doesn’t have the optics, but you’ll learn to love this place,” Miller told reporters in the Bills camp.
“When he said it, I thought it was part of the recruiting pitch,” he added. “But now that I’m here in western New York…I just feel at home. I fell in love with the place and it gets better and better every day.’
Of course, it wasn’t the nightlife of Buffalo or the casinos of Niagara that drew Miller to the Bills. It was the team’s Super Bowl odds, which were bolstered by a roster that included Allen, budding defensive tackle Ed Oliver and wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
“You look at clips of Ed Oliver and you see the player he is,” Miller said in April. “You see Josh Allen, Diggs and it certainly helps.
‘I feel like going. I’m ready to win a Super Bowl for the Buffalo Bills.”
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox has reportedly signed a $53.6 million four-year extension, which includes $31 million in guarantees. The deal comes just weeks after the team’s players and fans gathered around the 25-year-old following the sudden death of his younger brother
The Bills had hardly any weaknesses when they went 11-6 in 2021.
The ground game ranked fifth in the NFL with 4.8 yards per carry, thanks to scrambling Allen (763 yards), as well as running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.
Complementing the ground attack, the Bills’ passing game ranked ninth with 252 yards per game, thanks in large part to receivers Diggs and Gabriel Davis, as well as tight end Dawson Knox, who was recently awarded a $53 four-year extension. 6 million.
Of course, that wouldn’t have been possible without an offensive line that delivered just 1.5 sacks per game in 2021 — the fewest in the NFL.
Defensively, Buffalo was perhaps even better, limiting opponents to 163 yards per game through the air while intercepting 19 passes — better than all but two teams.
Stefon Diggs led the bills in a number of receiving categories, including targets in the red zone
Best of all, for Buffalo fans, is the team’s mediocre schedule. Not only do the Bills play in the rebuilding AFC East now three years away from the Patriots dynasty, but their remaining schedule only features a few Super Bowl candidates, such as the Chiefs.
“We really think the Bills are the highest-powered team, but it’s just as important where they play,” said SuperBook director and oddsmaker John Murray. ESPN. “The philosophy is for the AFC West teams to beat each other up and that will put the Bills in a good position to run the AFC Championship Game through Buffalo.”
Understandably, everyone from veteran NFL reporter Peter King to ESPN analysts to NFL.com is now predicting a Super Bowl title for Buffalo’s long-suffering fans. That hardly guarantees the Bills their first Lombardi trophy, but it does mark a clear break from the team’s painful past.
If nothing else, expectations have made the Bills a primetime attraction, which is why they open the 2022 season in Los Angeles against defending champion Rams on Thursday night.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver was cited as one of the reasons Von Miller signed in Buffalo