The Buffalo Bills are getting ready to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday for Super Wild Card Weekend of the 2023 NFL season playoffs. Buffalo enters the postseason on a five-game winning streak, having claimed the AFC East a fourth-consecutive time and also the two seed in the AFC once again. Many believed either of those feats were impossible once the team fell to 6-6 late into November.
But out of their Week 13 bye and off a draining overtime loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bills decided to ignore the outside noise and do what they do best under head coach Sean McDermott: win games in December. Suddenly, those who had written the Buffalo Bills off as destined to be home for the playoffs — well, they were pretending to have lost any receipt to the notion.
Like it or not, NFL, the Bills are back once again. Those consecutive wins to close the regular season found Buffalo winning in myriad, if atypical, ways. From gritty close games where the Bills’ defense made game-saving plays to end a comeback bid, or through dominating performances by the run game, Buffalo was intent on making a statement. Often, close games are harder to win, with more room for error to swing momentum 180 degrees on any given play. And the Bills struggled mightily in close games through the first three-quarters of the season. But not in December. Not when it mattered most, when far too many began to doubt their chances — head coach Sean McDermott and the team found a way to silence the wrong crowd.
Mind you, all’s not perfect within One Bills Drive. There seemed to be a bit of trouble during the end of season putting forth a dominant passing attack. Those turnover issues still pop up more than preferred. Then there’s the new rash of injury concerns, sidelining at least wide receiver Gabe Davis and safety Taylor Rapp on Sunday — potentially cornerback Rasul Douglas and linebacker Tyrel Dodson as well.
So one might expect there’d be a fair amount of Bills Mafia reserved in their confidence. After all, our poll results last week saw a dip following Buffalo’s too-close-for-comfort win over a reeling New England Patriots team. Time changes everything. So does winning within Hard Rock Stadium at the expense of the Miami Dolphins and their playoff seeding.
This week, 84% of voters said that “yes” — they’re confident the Buffalo Bills are headed in the right direction.
All that said, this weekend’s game in Orchard Park, NY is expected to feature a heavy dose of winter weather thanks to a massive lake effect storm that’s predicted to drop between one and two feet of snow, ushering in howling winds and bitter cold.
On paper, and among the opinions of many, that doesn’t favor a signature passing attack from quarterback Josh Allen and the offense. Thanks to Old Man Winter, had a dangerous two-seed Bills team found itself in a poor matchup against a bruising Steelers club?
With the stakes as high as they’ve been yet this season, we asked fans if they believed the Bills would defeat the Steelers. Respondents were even more confident Buffalo advances in the playoffs, with 90% of voters saying “yes” to the idea of a Bills win.
Sunday is an opportunity for the Bills to make amends for last season’s early playoff exit against another AFC North foe, the Cincinnati Bengals — a game also played in challenging elements. The snow’s not going away, so the Buffalo Bills must find their midwinter rhythm and identity. Come Sunday evening, we’ll find out what lessons they’ve learned.