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Bills under the radar season mirrored by their coach in Coach of the Year candidacy

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The Buffalo Bills have somewhat flown under the radar this year. A case in point was after their recent Thanksgiving Day victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Most of the press buzz after that game was focused on Dallas’ performance and what it meant for the future of Jason Garrett.

Despite sitting in 2nd place in the AFC East at 9-3, mention of the team’s success has been pretty rare. Is it because they’re considered a smaller market team? Or play a throwback brand of football with a tough running game and dominating defense? Or the fact they place in the AFC East which has been dominated for so long by the New England Patriots?

Underrated Buffalo

Sean McDermott’s team’s current record would put them as division leaders in the AFC South and AFC west over much more ballyhooed franchises such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans.

This season McDermott has led a team which has rebounded from a 6-10 record last year to a winning record this season, with the team sitting in the first AFC wildcard slot for the playoffs. In addition, working in conjunction with general manager Brandon Beane, McDermott has managed put together a much-improved record without adding expensive, household names in free agency who could disrupt team chemistry.

McDermott shines

McDermott’s specialism is obviously defense, and that has helped power the franchise’s resurgence this season. The Bills currently rank 3rd best in the league in yards allowed per game, a standing only bettered by the transcendental defenses of the San Francisco 49ers and the Patriots.


Of further credit to McDermott is that this has really been a team effort on defense. Buffalo don’t have a player in the top 5 in the league for tackles, sacks or interceptions, demonstrating that there aren’t one or two lights out performers who are distorting the Bills ranking. The former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator is doing all of this with a unit built up through the draft, as well as under the radar additions like defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. The ex-Dolphin is 20th in the league with 7.5 sacks, whilst rookie Ed Oliver has chipped in with 5 of his own. Even former first round defensive end Shaq Lawson who appeared destined to be a draft bust has accumulated 5.5 sacks. In the secondary, cornerback Tre’Davious White has already matched his career high in INTs (4) and has put together 15 passes defended, which is only 3 off his career best.

This blue collar, team centred approach continues with the Bills 5th ranked running game, where ageless veteran Frank Gore and electric rookie Devin Singletary share the load with over 550 rushing yards each.

Sophomore quarterback Josh Allen has shown tremendous growth from his rookie year improving both his completion percentage (52.8% to 61.5%), average yards per completion (6.5 to 7.1) and TD: INT ratio (10: 12 to 16: 8). This showcases an improvement in his accuracy as a passer, though offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has still retained Allen’s threat as a runner. The ex-Wyoming signal caller is actually attempting more rushes than last year though for much less yards. This indicates teams are locking him down as a running threat but he’s demonstrating growth as a passer to still beat those opponents.

Leading a young QB

The growth in their young quarterback also helps put paid to the league wide trend that franchise’s with quarterbacks drafted in the first round in recent years must have an offensive guru as their head coach. McDermott’s specialism is clearly on the defensive side of the ball, though his impact as a leader of his whole roster can be seen in the team’s overall performances. The production put together by all members of the roster is credit to McDermott and his staff for knowing how to put those players into position to succeed, whilst building a well-oiled football machine.

Disadvantaged by schedule

The key factor that may restrict McDermott’s ability to win this award, though, is the Bills’ schedule: outside their division they’ve faced the Giants, Bengals, Redskins, Broncos. On top of that they lost to tougher opponents (on paper) in the Eagles, Pats and Browns; whilst the current losing records of Philly and Cleveland is a black mark on McDermott’s grade paper. Upcoming games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh will show if this team is just a paper tiger.


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