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Can Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills go one step further this season and reach the Super Bowl?

The Buffalo Bills are a more “mature” team entering the NFL playoffs this year, says Phoebe Schecter, as they get set to host their rivals the New England Patriots on Super Wild Card Weekend.

Schecter, Great Britain’s first-ever female NFL coach, spent 11 months as a coaching intern with the Bills from 2018-19, witnessing the beginnings of their journey from NFL also-rans to Super Bowl contenders under head coach Sean McDermott.

The Bills hadn’t won a division title, nor a playoff game, since the 1995 season, until that all changed last year when, riding a 13-3 record, the team ran all the way to the AFC Championship game before being defeated 38-24 by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs watches on as the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate after beating them in last year's AFC Championship game

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs watches on as the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate after beating them in last year’s AFC Championship game

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A second-successive AFC East division title has followed this season, though Buffalo’s play has been a little more up and down. The Bills owned a 7-6 record only a month ago and were in danger of missing out on the postseason completely, but they’ve got hot down the stretch with a four-game win streak.

“The Bills can be their own worst enemy,” Schecter told Sky Sports. “We’ve seen it a couple of times this season – losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-13), for example – where they’ve just made silly mistakes.

“It would be too easy to say that this is going to be their year, but I do genuinely think that they’re in a much more ‘mature’ place now than they were last year.

“Going up against Kansas City in the AFC Championship game, it almost seemed like the stage was too big for them in a lot of ways.

“But, earlier in the year, when they played the Chiefs again, they looked like a different team, won that game and looked ready to step up a level.”

Highlights from the Week Five matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Highlights from the Week Five matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Highlights from the Week Five matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.

In that win over the Chiefs, quarterback Josh Allen threw 315 yards and three touchdowns, outduelling his opposite number Patrick Mahomes, who was picked off twice by a rampant Bills defense.

It was the last of a four-game, early-season win streak for Buffalo that appeared to be signalling their intent for a Super Bowl run. What followed, however was a run of only three victories in eight.

But, as Schecter rightly puts it, “despite some, at times, inconsistent play from the team as a whole – the defense has been so dominant this whole time”.

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Bills defense snub is ‘almost insulting’

The stats back that up. The Bills rank first in the NFL in both total defense (272.8 yards per game – more than 30 yards fewer than next best) and scoring defense (17 points per game). They’re also the best in the league against the pass, on third downs and in allowing big plays.

As for the offense, the Bills are still a more than dangerous outfit, ranking in the top five in yards per game (381.9) and points (28.4). Allen, meanwhile, though not quite reaching his 2020 heights, has had another stellar campaign in throwing for 4,407 yards and 36 touchdowns, to 15 interceptions. He has also rushed for a massive 763 yards and six TDs.

Schecter believes both have been disrespected this season. “Look at the Pro Bowl, not a single defensive player from the Bills has made it – and that is something voted for by coaches, players and the general public.

Buffalo Bills safeties Micah Hyde (L)  and Jordan Poyer (R) are standouts from the number one ranked defense in the NFL

Buffalo Bills safeties Micah Hyde (L) and Jordan Poyer (R) are standouts from the number one ranked defense in the NFL

“It’s almost insulting. How do you not have any players represented from the number one defense in the league? These guys have worked their butts off over the last few years, and that has shown in what they’ve been able to do.

“I don’t know why there hasn’t been more of a conversation about [defensive coordinator] Leslie Frazier getting a head coaching gig over the years.

“As for Josh, for me he is an MVP contender. But, again, he wasn’t named in the AFC Pro Bowl roster, which seems a bit wild to me – he is electric.

“I think if the team was more consistent, he would have gotten more recognition. But they haven’t, so maybe that is why he is not getting any MVP buzz.”

Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is confident the Bills can reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.

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Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is confident the Bills can reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.

Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is confident the Bills can reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.

Perhaps the lack of recognition coming Buffalo’s way could work in their favour heading into the playoffs? Much fancied as winners from the AFC last year, their Conference Championship no-show against the Chiefs was a big anti-climax.

‘New England have been their kryptonite’

This season, the Bills are somewhat flying under the radar. Though if they’re to make another run, they’ll first need to get past their great nemesis, New England, on Saturday night as part of Super Wild Card Weekend.

The Patriots lead the all-time series 77-46-1 and are 36-8 against Buffalo in the Bill Belichick era, in which they’ve won six Super Bowl titles.

“The Bills will want revenge, because New England have been their kryptonite,” says Schecter. “But, also, the Patriots are a division rival and so that edge is always going to be there – especially while Belichick is there as head coach.”

Watch the best of the action from the clash between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 of the NFL season.

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Watch the best of the action from the clash between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 of the NFL season.

Watch the best of the action from the clash between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 of the NFL season.

And it was Belichick who was lauded for a coaching masterclass when these two teams met in their first regular-season meeting, a 14-10 road win played out in 35mph winds and gusts approaching 55mph in Buffalo. The Patriots ran to the tune of 222 rushing yards in that game, with rookie quarterback Mac Jones throwing on three pass attempts!

“I think that game against New England did really scar the Bills,” adds Schecter. “Buffalo are going to have to work on their run defense, predominantly, finding answers with their defensive line and linebackers – because that is what damaged them.

Damien Harris scored on a career-long 64-yard touchdown run as the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills on the road in Week 13.

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Damien Harris scored on a career-long 64-yard touchdown run as the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills on the road in Week 13.

Damien Harris scored on a career-long 64-yard touchdown run as the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills on the road in Week 13.

“They’re going to have to ask their safeties and cornerbacks to get more involved in tackling, stopping the run as it’s looking likely to be very cold, -2 degrees Celsius for the game and so it’s not going to be easy to catch with frozen fingers.”

‘Everybody wants to do it for Bills Mafia’

Saturday’s matchup will serve as a best-of-three decider of sorts, with the Bills gaining some revenge with a 33-21 win in New England on Boxing Day, one of the four-straight wins they’re riding into the playoffs. The Patriots, meanwhile, have stumbled their way in somewhat with a 50-10 hammering of the Jaguars their only victory since that windy night in Buffalo.

Are the Bills peaking at just the right time? Schecter, hopes for their long-suffering fans that’s the case and this is the year to finally bring Super Bowl success.

Bills Mafia celebrate securing a second-successive AFC East division title

Bills Mafia celebrate securing a second-successive AFC East division title

“Everybody in that building wants to do it for Bills Mafia, for the fans,” she says.

“Buffalo is not a very lucrative area. There is a lot of poverty, and the fans save up all year long just so they can attend a Bills game.

“When the team would land back at the airport at night after a road game – sometimes at 3am in the morning – there would still be fans lining up at the airport, in the freezing cold, waiting to cheer on their team.

“You’ve got to believe.”

Beat the six-time Super Bowl-winning Patriots on Saturday night and that belief will only grow stronger.

Watch the Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots as part of Super Wild Card Weekend in the NFL playoffs, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am on Sunday morning.



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