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Sean McDermott enjoying successful first season

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McDermott’s process has Bills in the playoff hunt

The Buffalo Bills (8-6) are playing meaningful football games late in December, something that many national pundits didn’t see coming back when the preseason projections came out.

While it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for McDermott — he unwisely benched Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman during a 54-24 Week 11 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, fell to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots 23-3 in Week 13, and suffered embarrassing setbacks in back-to-back weeks vs. the New York Jets (34-21) and the New Orleans Saints (47-10) — for the most part, McDermott has put together a successful first season coaching in Western New York.

Buffalo traveled to Atlanta and handed the reigning NFC champions a 23-17 setback in Week 4. The Bills scored 30+ points in back-to-back wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30-27) and the Oakland Raiders (34-14). And McDermott led the Bills into hostile territory — Kansas City’s notoriously raucous Arrowhead Stadium — and emerged with a grind-it-out, 16-10 victory following one of the worst three-game stretches in franchise history, when Buffalo was outscored 135-55 during losses to the Jets, Saints, and Chargers.

McDermott, who has already guaranteed he will finish his first season in Western New York with at least a .500 record, is closing in on a rare coaching club: Bills coaches who have posted a winning record in their first season in Buffalo.

With a win against either the New England Patriots Sunday on Christmas Eve, or at the Miami Dolphins in Week 17, McDermott could become just the fifth head coach (out of 20) in franchise history to post a winning record in their inaugural campaign. Only Lou Saban (7-6-1 in 1962), Joe Collier (9-4-1 in 1966), Wade Phillips (10-6 in 1998), and Mike Mularkey (9-7 in 2004) have accomplished that feat.

While Bills fans are hoping for a playoff berth in McDermott’s first season, with one more win Buffalo’s rookie head coach can at least join a select club among Western New York football coaches. And that’s certainly something that wasn’t expected when the season began.