The Buffalo Bills faced a litany of criticism following their surprising exit during the divisional round of last year’s NFL playoffs. They appeared listless for much of the game, lacking a proper response for what the Cincinnati Bengals threw at them on defense — and unable to perform sound, routine tackles / performances on defense for far too many snaps. We’ve gone over all of it so many times, that we don’t need to fully rehash it in this space. But the fact of the matter is that the Bills have failed to meet the expectations put on them, by their own doing, Bills Mafia, or those outside with ever-ready analytical thoughts.
On this week’s episode of “The SB Nation NFL Show: For Fans By Fans,” RJ Ochoa (Manager/Editor in Chief of Blogging The Boys), Jeremy Reisman (Editor in Chief of Pride of Detroit), and Pete Sweeney (Editor in Chief of Arrowhead Pride) took several minutes to exchange thoughts on the current situation at One Bills Drive, from general manager Brandon Beane, to Von Miller, to Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and more. But what really stood out was where the trio thinks the Bills sit within the pecking order of the AFC, especially after their perceived last of action in free agency.
You can catch it all starting around the 20-minute mark. If you’re like I used to be and find yourself tethered to a very public cubicle, I’ve transcribed the entire back-and-forth for you — contained below, following video embed.
While much of what they say is sensible, this one may be best-enjoyed with your favorite batch of popcorn.
RJ Ochoa: “The Bills were the AFC’s version of the Cowboys last year, and nobody wants to care. That really is a testament to how not media powerful the Bills are that like they completely withered in the playoffs and nobody cared. Like, everybody’s like ‘okay, cool. You lost to the Bengals, fine. We’ll just move on. We’ll forget about you.” Josh Allen had a million interceptions, and I felt like their issue offensively was very similar to Dallas, because Dallas had CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard on offense and other explosive players to help. So what’d they do/ I’m not saying the Cowboys have won the Super Bowl, but they went out and traded for Brandin Cooks. Boom. ‘Alright, we’ve established the problem, we’ve identified it, we have taken measures to solve it.’ What have the Bills done? Like, how have the Bills gotten better? Pete you kind of like, threw some cold water on the Bengals for bringin’ in Orlando Brown Jr. — that was addressing a serious issue, right? Like, that’s been what the Beng — that’s been their bugaboo is protecting Joe Burrow. What have the Bills done? Like — and nobody cares. Nobody wants to talk about them. Nobody’s criticizing the Bills for doing nothing in free agency. They’re just sitting there, like, chilling being idle. I don’t understand it. And I am off — I’m off the Bills’ bandwagon. I’m sorry I cannot be in love with this team that doesn’t want to win.”
Pete Sweeney: “I think the big moves came last year. That’s what’s tough about the Bills’ identity at this stage. Everything was building toward last year. Where you know, you bring in Von Miller — wasn’t able to play late in the season and in the playoffs. And you say to yourself ‘okay, we’re goin’ for it,’ right, ‘we paid the premium for this pass rusher in his 30s.’ One of the greatest of all time, right? But ‘you know, he’s gettin’ up there but we’re gonna give him a six-year deal to get him in Buffalo.’ And you go to the playoffs — a weird ending. We never expected the ending to the season that happened with all the Damar Hamlin stuff. But there was that build of like ‘this is the Bills’ year,’ and ‘they’re gonna knock off the Chiefs,’ and ‘we’re gonna have this neutral game in Atlanta.’ I was talkin’ about it on here. It annoyed me. And then all of a sudden it was over. And it just seems like they’ve almost been relegated back to that cluster in the AFC in what has really become these past two years a conference between the Chiefs and the Bengals. And I think right now, too, and this was concerning for me — or would be concerning for me as a Bills fan and I’m not trying to kill the Bills here I know everyone knows I’m a Chiefs guy but like...when the GM comes out and starts listing excuses and it has to do with ‘well, the salary cap,’ and ‘the Bengals were bad for a few years so they were able to combine Burrow with Chase.’ It’s like man every — I know the rules are not perfect — we’re not saying the NFL rules are perfect — but everyone’s playing by mostly the same rules with the salary cap and everything that goes into it. It’s like, I don’t know, I don’t like — and I know this is a little bit of an intangible — I don’t like the mojo that is surrounding this Buffalo Bills team because it seems like this golden opportunity has passed them by.”
Jeremy Reisman: “Yeah, it does feel like they are sitting on their hands a little bit but in terms of like the media perception I think it’s just that, it’s the Bills were this, you know, franchise that, you know, struggled for years, can’t win a Super Bowl. They’re finally on the ascension, it’s an awesome story. It’s great. As a Lions fan I relate to it. But then the Bengals just like took that spot like right away from them and did the exact same thing, and now the Bengals are that team on the rise and you know there is a certain level of like — okay once you get to the top, how do you stay at the top? And top is relative, don’t get mad at me Pete.”
RJ Ochoa: “You can be in the top without winning the Super Bowl, right.”
Jeremy Reisman: “Right, exactly. And so the Bills are finding out that it’s not easy to stay there and some of that is excuse making, some of that is legit. Like, it’s just...you can make runs. It’s hard to maintain that level of you’re always in the conversation and the Bills, they’re in the conversation — let’s not kid ourselves...”
Pete Sweeney: “Yes.”
Jeremy Reisman: “But in an elite AFC conference, they are definitely not second fiddle even. They’re third or fourth fiddle. And so, umm, it’s an interesting power dynamic shift because it feels like it happened while none of us was looking. Right? Obviously, the Bengals went to the Super Bowl a couple years ago and I think a lot of people thought maybe that was just kind of a flash in the pan. They proved last year that it wasn’t, and so that’s when it happened, that’s when the shift happened, and I don’t know if there’s any shifting back.”
RJ Ochoa: “That’s exactly kind of my point encapsulated, is like the Bills think like the Chiefs are who they wanna be so badly, right? Like the Bills think they’re chasing the Chiefs. Kinda it’s like ‘dude you aren’t even the Bengals!” You know what I mean, that’s not a shot at the Bengals but it’s like, if they — I mean, like Pete, all the ‘Burrowhead’ stuff. Or like if there was a — if Chiefs fans lose sleep at night over a team and they don’t, I mean they just won the Super Bowl obviously, but if there is that team it’s the team in Cincinnati, it’s not Buffalo. Like, Buffalo, you won at Arrowhead last year — cool. You know what I mean, like they’re — the Chiefs aren’t worried about seeing you in the playoffs Bills, they’re worried about the Bengals.”
Pete Sweeney: “And I think like the scary thing about being Buffalo right now too is, like I think the division is slowly getting better. Right? Aaron Rodgers is gonna be in the division. I think Miami was on the verge of a breakout before a mini collapse last year. But look, Miami was right with Buffalo in that cold game and that was a very big game at the time, and that was pre Damar and all that stuff. Jacksonville! Trevor Lawrence is all-world. Justin Herbert and what he’s doing in LA if he can get over the Brandon Staley situation. If Lamar remains with Baltimore. It’s like are we — and like I think that was the key from Jeremy too, it’s like ‘well they’re third.’ Are they third? ‘Well they’re fourth.’ Hmm. A good fourth? Are we looking at the fifth-best team in the conference?”
RJ Ochoa: “It’s like they’re playing like Clash of the Clans and like the territory they’re defending is third place. It’s the bronze place part of the podium. You know what I’m sayi — they’re not even like holding teams off for second at this point in time. Like, to your point, it’s Kansas City and Cincinnati, and then there’s a significant gap before Buffalo is there and my point is, like, Buffalo has done nothing to challenge that and, like, there are other teams who do nothing — like the Eagles, the Eagles lose these players and we’re like ‘well, what’s gonna happen.’ Like, what are the Bills gonna do, like the Bills are just running this back. It feels very reminiscent to me of what — again, ‘cause I went through this with the Cowboys, what the Cowboys did last year...and it was a little bit more dramatic and they traded away Amari and things like that. But like, like people love to throw out when they talk about sports the definition of insanity quote doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. That’s literally what the Bills are doing. Like, why is it going to be different. Like Josh Allen’s gonna have more wear and tear on him. Like, Stefon Diggs is not enough on his own. Gabe Davis isn’t going to become the ‘Robin’ you want him to be next year just because you want it to happen. Like, you had to go out and get somebody and they haven’t done that.”
Pete Sweeney: “I think we’re all on the same page when it comes to Buffalo, and, and for all that teams have in the ‘prove me wrong’ thing. I mean, this is easy, easy story line stuff for, for Buffalo now, where, you know it is gonna be a big ‘alright, Josh Allen — you really wanna be among the best, let’s prove it this year,’ because you almost have to reemerge now that it has been a disappointing ending for two years in a row.”