General manager Brandon Beane’s past with the Carolina Panthers could lead to a brighter future for the Buffalo Bills.
In just four years, Brandon Beane is turning into one of the finest architects Buffalo has ever welcomed…and this is a city well-versed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.
Over his first four years as the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Beane, 44, has ended the longest active playoff drought in the NFL and turned it into a strong Super Bowl case. But if January’s AFC Championship Game proved one thing, it’s that more is needed to truly compete for a Super Bowl. Thus, the Bills will look to pull out all the stops this offseason in searching for a way to topple the Kansas City Chiefs.
Beane has a source of untapped potential at his fingertips, one he hasn’t been afraid to approach before…the Carolina Panthers.
Over nearly two decades (1998-2017), Beane held a variety of roles in the Carolina front office. Several former Panthers have played roles in Buffalo’s resurgence. The overseer of the project, Sean McDermott, was a defensive coordinator clad in teal for six seasons. This season, Daryl Williams proved to be a serviceable replacement after the Bills’ blocking corps was decimated through injuries.
Who might Beane and the Bills target this time around? ESM investigates…
Greg Little and Taylor Moton running two of the decadeâ€™s premier EDGE rushers into one another. Trai Turner hustles back for the assist.
After Williams worked in a pinch last season, it feels like Moton could be a similar case but with an eye on the future. One of Beane’s last Carolina acquisitions, chosen in the second round in his last draft, Moton would be a good candidate to take over the right tackle spot with both Williams and Ty Nsekhe both up for free agency. But the thing that could scare off the Bills, and other suitors, is the fact that Carolina has placed the franchise tag on him, which would lead to a pricy contract…one the Bills might not be able to afford that with the 20th-best cap space in football. They can add to that number and move up the ranking by bidding some veterans farewell, like John Brown (over $6.3 million) and Jerry Hugest (over $5 million).
WR Curtis Samuel
Even the briefest looks at the Bills’ stat ledgers and highlight reels shows that they’re well situated with their receivers for the foreseeable future. While the top three producers (Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis) are locked up for 2021 at least, the aforementioned Brown could be let go for the cap money and Isaiah McKenzie is up for free agency. The Bills might be looking for depth at receiver, but Gabriel could provide another top target for Josh Allen. One of Beane’s final moves in Carolina was overseeing the draft that brought in Samuel with the 40th choice, 24 picks before Moton. He’s emerging from a career-best season earned while Carolina deals with an unstable quarterback situation. It’s likely Gabriel’s looking for a long-term contract in a top target’s role, but his connection with Beane could warrant at least a meeting with the Bills. Buffalo has far bigger needs to fill, but Gabriel would be a weapon worth splurging on.
It didn’t take long for Short, a second-round choice in 2013, to make an impact in Buffalo. He was one of the defensive faces of the Panthers’ run to the Super Bowl in 2015-16, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Short was recently granted his release by the Panthers on February 16 and has stated that several teams have inquired about his availability. It wouldn’t be a shock in the slightest if the Bills were one of them, as they can use all the front seven they can get. The knock against Short is that he turned 32 earlier this month and injuries have dominated the latter half of his career. Short hasn’t played a full season since 2017 and has partaken in a mere five games in the last two years. A short-term for a guy who could not only provide talent to the line but mentorship to young guys like Ed Oliver would be one of the more effective, under-the-radar deals we could see in the AFC East this offseason. In addition to his familiarity with McDermott and Beane, Short has also worked with defensive line coach Eric Washington, who took over the position in Buffalo after nearly a decade in Charlotte.
With apologies to Lexus, the Buffalo Bills have been the true providers of a “December to Remember” in 2020.
With the Christmas season in full swing, the Bills are enjoying one of the most successful and publicized campaigns in team history. Buffalo (11-3) has won four in a row, including each of their three December contests. That trio has each been televised to a national audience, and that trend will continue on Monday when the Bills battle the New England Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN). They can clinch the second overall seed in the AFC playoff bracket with a win over the Patriots and a Pittsburgh loss to Indianapolis on Sunday.
In the midst of their preparation, the Bills did take some time to acknowledge the holiday as they prepare to head to Foxboro. For example, it began to look at lot like Christmas at the team facility this week, appropriately on December 24. Quarterback Josh Allen bore a green sweatshirt under his practice jersey, bearing the insignia “Felic Navidad” and an animated image of namesake and starting offensive lineman Jon Feliciano dressed as Santa Claus. Receiver Stefon Diggs likewise appeared to be clad in such a hoodie. A certain Buffalo defender gave a whole new meaning to “White Christmas”, as cornerback Tre’Davious White wore gold cleats adorned with wreaths, holly, and lights.
The Bills also made time for gift-giving during the week. Fortunately for the fans, these Christmas surprises came not through Sunday turnovers, as they kept the exchange to off-the-field…heck, maybe even off-the-road…endeavors.
Buffalo receivers had a special surprise for receivers coach Chad Hall, coming together to purchase the former Air Force second lieutenant with a new Ford F-150 pickup truck. Hall’s emotional reaction was captured in a video since deleted from Isaiah McKenzie’s Instagram page but preserved by The Bills Wire’s Bradley Gelber.
As a team, the Bills commemorated the holiday by having their players sing the seasonal carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. The video’s introduction features general manager Brandon Beane channeling Randy Quaid’s character fromÂ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, clad in a bathrobe and Bills winter hat. Beane also jokingly laments that he and the front office were unable to find better singers for the holiday season.
Stefon Diggs has reached heights few Buffalo Bills have seen before. Yet, the Orchard Park newcomer is anything but satisfied.
In the history of the Buffalo Bills, 49 men have earned at least 100 receptions. Only two have reached that landmark in a single season. Eric Moulds first set the record in 2002, adding intrigue to an otherwise meaningless season finale against a two-win squad from Cincinnati.Â It took Stefon Diggs 13 games with a charging buffalo on his helmet to get to triple digits.
Diggs, one of the newest players to enjoy the Western New York experience, has wasted no time in leaving a lasting impression on the Bills’ history books. Moulds may be trending over the next few weeks, if only because Diggs is set to break his single-season franchise marks. The pair are currently tied at the century-mark for the most receptions in franchise history (good enough for Diggs to lead the league entering Week 15), and Diggs will have three weeks to earn the 201 yards necessary to pass Moulds in that department.
It also helps that Diggs has saved his best performances for the Bills’ most crucial contests. When NBC’s football cameras descended upon Orchard Park for the first time since 2007, Diggs earned 130 yards on 10 receptions, one of which went for a score in the Bills’ 26-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Six days prior, he had 10 other receptions in a visit to Glendale, Arizona to battle the displaced San Francisco 49ers on ESPN’sÂ Monday Night Football.Â
But after the former performance, Diggs said perhaps the scariest thing an NFL defender could hear going into the postseason.
“I could be a lot better so I don’t think too much of it. I’m just trying to chase these wins,” Diggs said after his latest showing against the Steelers, per Cameron Hogwood of Sky Sports. He was keener to give credit to his offensive comrades, namely quarterback Josh Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
“I give a lot of credit to the people around me, especially Josh Allen. Young quarterback, he put his faith and his trust in me to make plays with the ball in my hands and catching the ball. And coach Daboll, he calls the right stuff, he draws it up upstairs and puts me in the best position to make plays. Then my wide receivers coach Chad Hall, we put in a lot of work in practice. We rep a lot of stuff that is more game-like than anything.”
With Diggs in tow, the franchise quarterback Allen has taken several steps forward in his development, and Buffalo (10-3) has gone from mere playoff contender to potential division champion, one that would be a quarter-century in the making. The NFL has taken notice, as each of the Bills’ four December games will be broadcast on national airwaves. That division title can arrive when the Bills travel to Denver for the league’s traditional late-season Saturday showcase (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network).
A talented roster has been assembled in Orchard Park, one that many see in the postseason on a consistent basis moving forward. But many Buffalo representatives have yet to taste how sweet the playoffs can be, much of their experienced limited to cameos on the road in the wild-card rounds of 2018 (Jacksonville) and 2020 (Houston).
Who better to bring in than the star of one of the most renowned highlights in recent January memory?
Diggs’ time as a Minnesota Viking came to an end after five seasons in March, but his time in purple was immortalized through the “Minneapolis Miracle”, the jaw-dropping 61-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the 2018 NFC divisional playoff tilt against New Orleans. Some place the video on the same playlist as the Immaculate Reception or The Catch.
With Diggs disgruntled in purple, the Bills reached out and sent over four draft picks to obtain him. One of those choices has since become Justin Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick in April’s selection meeting who is well on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
But in a year filled with uncertainty and a team on the cusp of true contention, Bills general manager Brandon Beane wanted a surefire veteran to work with when it came to molding the offense into a fearsome unit. He knew he had that player in Diggs.
“Yes, the draft is stacked with receivers,” Beane said during the offseason, per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. “But I think it became evident with what’s going on around us now, that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have. I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I traded up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in, day one, August 1st, and be ready to roll.”
“Obviously, time will tell if this move for Stefon was right. Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t always translate, but we’re confident and that’s why we swung with a first-round pick. You know I love draft picks and that was not easy for me to part with a first-round pick, but at the same time I view (Stefon) as our first-round pick and I thought it was good for the value of getting a guy like Stefon.”
Brandon Beane’s extension needed little justification, but his Buffalo Bills were more than happy to oblige on Sunday night.
NBC’s Sunday Night FootballÂ last visited Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, New York in November 2007, when the establishment still bore the Ralph Wilson Stadium moniker. This visit was one of the first examples of flexible scheduling, a concept the Peacock network introduced upon their return to NFL broadcasting to gain the most attractive matchups to their slate. A divisional matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England booted a get-together between Chicago and Seattle, a rematch from the previous year’s postseason.
On most occasions, it’d be an honor for the local Bills, in the midst of a rebuild that wound up taking two decades, to be granted such a privilege. But the ensuing edition wasn’t so much a primetime football game as it was a showcase for the visitors…it was as if the Washington Generals somehow got to host a home game against the Harlem Globetrotters. En route to a perfect regular season, the Patriots cruised to a 56-10 triumph, the only Buffalo relief coming through J.P. Losman’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Roscoe Parrish in the first quarter.
Brandon Beane likely wasn’t too concerned about the Bills’ endeavors. As a member of the Carolina Panthers’ front office, he was likely more concerned about their 31-17 loss in Green Bay earlier that afternoon. Heck, he was probably more upset over his alma mater UNC Wilmington dropping a men’s basketball game against Illinois State. Little did he, or anyone, involved in the Bills organization, know, that it would be another 13 years before NBC’s cameras descended upon The Queen City for another football game…or that Beane himself would play a major part in it.
No flexing was necessary for Orchard Park’s latest Sunday night endeavor, as their Week 14 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers was always destined for an evening kickoff. Social distancing endeavors kept jovial hordes of Bills Mafia loyalists out of the seats, but the on-field intensity more than made up for it, as the Bills took a 26-15 decision from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Buffalo (10-3) has now won the first two games of what’s at least a four-game stretch of nationally televised contests. Their upcoming matchup with Denver was recently chosen to open a Saturday afternoon doubleheader (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network) and they’ll play their second Monday night game in three weeks on December 28 against New England.
The impact of winning in prime time hasn’t been lost on the Bills, especially in the hallowed month of December.
“It’s been really tough for us because we have a set amount of time that we can be in the building,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said, per Adam Unger of WKBW-TV. “(Head coach Sean McDermott) and (defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier) have always preached it’s not about how you play football in September, it’s how you play in December.”
Beane’s extension was granted a multi-year extension that will keep him in Western New York for the foreseeable future. Little justification was needed for such a transaction as it was. Under his watch, the Bills have ended many dubious streaks including the lack of Sunday night games in Buffalo and the worst playoff drought in franchise history (17 seasons). Buffalo has also won at least 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998-99. A Miami loss helped them inch closer toward their first division title since 1995.
But, if there were any naysayers who didn’t believe in what Beane had to offer, they were effectively silenced by the time Sunday night’s festivities ended.
The Buffalo showcase coincided perfectly with Beane’s extension, as several of the general manager’s additions came up huge for the Bills in their win. Enough has been dedicated to his drafting of Josh Allen, who recovered after a slow start to throw for two touchdown passes and 238 yards, whose inclusion in the MVP conversation can no longer be denied. But with Allen off to a slow start, Beane’s more polarizing and lesser-heralded decisions rose to the occasion and allowed the Bills to make a stronger case as to why they belong amongst the NFL’s elite.
At the head of the cause was receiver Stefon Diggs, who paced Buffalo with 130 yards on 10 receptions, adding a touchdown at the onset of the second half. Diggs became the second Bills receiver to reach the triple-digit mark in receptions during a single season, tying the mark Eric Moulds set in 2002. Another Moulds record, the 1,368 yards he earned in 1998, is just over 200 yards from falling.
Diggs, a former postseason legend, was brought in from Minnesota in exchange for a sizable deal that sent over four draft picks, including the 22nd overall selection in last spring’s draft. Taking on Diggs and his sizable contract (he will be nearly a $50 million cap hit over the next four seasons combined) seemed like a risk and could’ve only opened Beane to further criticism when the Vikings added LSU athlete Justin Jefferson with the lost first-round choice. Jefferson appears to be on the fast track toward Rookie of the Year honors, leading first-year catchers in most major receiving categories.
The idea of a trade that benefits both sides, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s claims of a completely “mutual breakup” on his titular sitcom, seemed completely taboo, especially in football circles. But the early returns on Diggs have shown that Beane has somehow pulled it off. Teammates are certainly enjoying and reaping the benefits such an association has to offer.
“Diggs is so special that as I see him play, I just want to rip off my captainâ€™s â€˜Câ€™ and throw it on his chest, because heâ€™s a stud, man,â€ offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said of Diggs, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. â€œHeâ€™s been grinding. Heâ€™s come in and he just continues to outperform, outshine and prove to us day in and day out that heâ€™s a different guy and heâ€™s our guy.â€
To get through a tough opening stretch, Allen said that he turned to Diggs to get things rolling. The 19-yard scoring toss to Diggs was part of a stretch of 11 consecutive completions earned during the third quarter.
“I can say with a lot of confidence, I think I like any match-up with 1-4,” Allen said, referring to Diggs’ uniform number in a report from Cameron Hogwood of Sky Sports. “He’s one of the best, if not the best guy in the league, but I have supreme confidence in him. All he wants to do is help his team win football games. He’s a competitor and we have very similar mindsets. I love the guy. He goes out there and competes his tail off and I’m just super blessed that we traded for him.”
The Buffalo takeover carried on through some of Beane’s other choices that might’ve flown under the radar. Taron Johnson and Levi Wallace, both day three draft-related selections through the fourth round and the rookie free agency process back in 2018, earned crucial interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger. Johnson’s interception may well have changed the course of Bills history, giving them a permanent lead just before halftime. Another Allen touchdown pass went to another day three choice, Gabriel Davis. It was his sixth tally of the year and good for third amongst rookie receivers (behind Jefferson and Chase Claypool of Pittsburgh). Siran Neal (fifth-round, 2018) provided strong coverage when Johnson had to leave the game due to a head injury. Sixth-round rookie Tyler Bass booted two more field goals. Excepting a desperation 61-yarder at the end of the first half against Seattle, he hasn’t missed a triple in nearly two months.
With every selection, every acquisition playing a crucial part of the Bills’ success, it’s no secret that they’re inching toward the NFL’s elite and no secret why it won’t be another 13 years before NBC comes back to 1 Bills Drive. It creates a strong unit and a sense of camaraderie that isn’t present in some of the NFL’s other locales.
Such unity was perhaps best displayed even before the opening kickoff. In the pregame hype, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster checked into his second job as a TikTok star by dancing on the Bills’ streaking buffalo at midfield, to the delight of the black and yellow nation. The stunt was noticed not only by SmartPhone viewers, but those who bore the emblem on their white helmets.
But the Bills opted to do their talking on the field. Only when the victory was sealed did they dance, doing so after Wallace took the ball away one last time. Wallace’s celebration was anything but solo…he was joined by his teammates, jovial in earning the first Sunday night victory at Bills Stadium since Moulds, Sam Cowart, and Marcellus Wiley took revenge for the Music City Miracle against Tennessee in the 2000 season opener.
“Seeing them dancing on our logo pre-game and seeing all that, that turns you up a little bit,” defender Jordan Poyer said, per Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “It kind of gives you a little second itch to come out and play with some extra fire. We were hyped up on the sideline, we had a big win. And we were just having fun.â€
If this keeps up, the true fun hasn’t even begun yet.Â
ESM looks back on the winning moves that propelled Beane to a multi-year extension with the Buffalo Bills.
The Buffalo Bills’ 2020 season, one that’s on pace to end with an AFC East title, carries on, but they’re already welcoming back crucial pieces for the journey moving forward. On Thursday, the Bills brought back the architect, signing general manager Brandon Beane to a multi-year extension. Beane took over shortly after the 2017 NFL Draft, replacing the departed Doug Whaley.
â€œBrandon is an outstanding leader, and he has brought a great level of stability throughout our organization. One of the things we appreciate and respect about Brandon is that he is very thorough in his decision-making process,â€ Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula said in a statement on the team website penned byÂ Maddy Glab. â€œNo decision he makes comes without a great deal of study and research. We appreciate his strong communication skills, and he works extremely well with us, with Sean, and with all levels of the organization. We are happy to extend his contract and to have Brandon and Sean leading our football team for many years to come.â€
Under Beane’s tenure, the Bills have ended a franchise-long playoff drought, reaching two of the past three postseasons. Buffalo is also one of a dozen teams in the NFL with a winning record since 2017 at 34-26, good for sixth in the AFC.
How did it get to this point? ESM looks back on the finest moves of Beane’s era to date…
All-In on Allen
Sammy Watkins left behind a complicated legacy in Buffalo. Flashes of brilliance were apparent…it’d be silly to say otherwise after 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns over his first two seasons…but Watkins had trouble staying healthy over the latter stages of his third season and later expressed dissatisfaction with his role with the team, leading to Buffalo declining his fifth-year options. Watkins has since earned redemption as a postseason hero in Kansas City, primarily through a 38-yard reception that changed the direction of Super Bowl LIV.
Either way, Watkins’ time in Buffalo had run its course by the time Beane arrived. In the midst of preparation for the 2017 season, Watkins and a sixth-round pick were dealt to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round choice. Buffalo held onto that pick, eventually shown to be 56th overall, all the way through draft day, when they send it off again, this one going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The swap involved exchanging first-round choices, moving the Bills up from 12th to 7th, and Buffalo sending both of their second-rounders over (Buffalo also obtained a seventh-round choice, the penultimate pick of the draft).
With that first-round choice, Beane opted to take Josh Allen, the third quarterback chosen in a highly-publicized throwers’ class. In the vein of Allen fan Rainn Wilson/Dwight Schrute going from a thumbtack to a telescope through “the art of the swap” on The Office, Beane was able to turn a disgruntled wide receiver into a franchise quarterback.
Perhaps the one downside to Allen’s emergence is the fact that his 2018 drafting has somewhat blurred the success of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who went nine picks after the quarterback. More draft day dealing from Beane, this one through collaboration with Baltimore, allowed them to move up six spots to the 16th overall pick, where they chose Edmunds.
The linebacker has been one of the most consistent contributors in not only the Bills lineup but in the NFL today. Last season, quarterbacks had a 76.3 passer rating when throwing in Edmunds’ area in a year that also saw Edmunds earn 10 tackles for a loss and a safety. He was rewarded with a Pro Bowl nomination at the end of the campaign, shortly after he earned 12 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery during Buffalo’s playoff cameo in Houston.
In addition to the Thursday acquisitions of Allen and Edmunds, Beane managed to find a strong contributor after Mr. Irrelevant had heard his name called.
Wallace was a big part of Alabama’s 2017-18 national title trek, but his name wasn’t called during the selection meeting due to criticisms about his size and speed. Buffalo took him as an undrafted free agent and he has since gone on to become one of the team’s biggest defensive stars. While this season has been marred by both injuries and time spent on the COVID-19/reserve list, Wallace went to become Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded first-year cornerback during his freshman campaign. Notably, Wallace earned a crucial interception during the Bills’ playoff-clinching victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last December.
In addition, the Bills also obtained serviceable reserve receiver Robert Foster in their post-draft scouring of the free agents’ list.
A Minneapolis (Transactional) Miracle
With the Bills’ offensive line relatively solidified, Beane’s next move was to find Allen more suitable weapons for the trek ahead. Opportunity knocked in the form of the trading block, as the Minnesota Vikings sought to move playoff legend Stefon Diggs. The Bills came calling, though it came at a hefty price. Even before the Vikings used one of those choices to take first-year sensation Justin Jefferson, Diggs had a lot to live up to, as the Bill sent over their first, fifth, and sixth-round choices from the spring, as well as a fourth-rounder for next year.
So far, Diggs has risen to the challenge and then some, leading all NFL receivers with 90 receptions entering Week 14 action. Set to be dealt over $45 million over the next four seasons, Diggs is proving to be well worth the investment in the early going and figures to be a lasting part of Buffalo’s ongoing endeavors.
Knight in Golden Armor
It had been a long time since the Bills had given their fans a reason to tune into day three of the draft. Beane has slowly made Saturday an intriguing event, however, as day three has netted hidden gems like Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, Tyler Bass, and Dane Jackson.
Beane’s biggest find to date has likely been Gabriel Davis, the all-time leader in touchdown grabs at UCF. The former Knight was chided for his lack of separation, but the Bills opted to take him in the early stages of the fourth round last spring. Davis has become one of Allen’s more reliable in blue and red, particularly in scoring situations. His five touchdowns are tied for third amongst rookie receivers and his 64.1 percent catch rate is sixth amongst first-year catchers with at least 30 targets.
After ending the longest playoff drought in Buffalo Bills history, Beane has been locked up through a multi-year extension.
The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday that they have signed general manager Brandon Beane to a multi-year extension. Beane has been with the team since 2017.
“Brandon is an outstanding leader, and he has brought a great level of stability throughout our organization. One of the things we appreciate and respect about Brandon is that he is very thorough in his decision-making process,” Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula said in a statement on the team website penned by Maddy Glab. “No decision he makes comes without a great deal of study and research. We appreciate his strong communication skills, and he works extremely well with us, with Sean, and with all levels of the organization. We are happy to extend his contract and to have Brandon and Sean leading our football team for many years to come.”
In his first season at the helm, Beane helped end the Bills’ franchise-long playoff drought at 17 seasons. The team has now been to the postseason in two of the past three years and is currently on pace to earn its first division title since 1995. Buffalo won 10 games for the first time since 1995 during the last campaign.
Head coach Sean McDermott offered his praises after news of Beane’s extension emerged. The two previously collaborated in Carolina, where Beane served in a variety of front office roles. McDermott served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator for the final six years of Beane’s watch and was brought over when the latter came to Buffalo.
“I think for most GMs to have that experience on the business side of the football end of things, I really can’t envision myself working with anybody else but Brandon moving forward,” McDermott said in Glab’s statement. “For coaches, as I mentioned earlier, it’s one thing to be a good coach and develop players. But if you’re not being fed good players, it’s almost like drinking from a dry hose. That’s a hard thing to sustain over the course of time. So being fed good players, being fed players that match what we’re looking for, Brandon has done a phenomenal job. I can’t envision myself working with any other GM.”
Among Beane’s most notable Buffalo moves is the selection of quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and a trade that brought former Minnesota Viking Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. Allen is on pace for career-highs in his third season and has also garnered MVP consideration. Diggs currently leads the NFL with 90 receptions.
The Bills (9-3) return to action on Sunday night, as they battle the Pittsburgh Steelers at home (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). In another sign of how far they’ve come under Beane’s watch, Sunday will mark the first time a Sunday night game has been staged in Orchard Park since 2007.
As the NFL prepares to release the official schedule this evening, Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News has now leaked the New York Jets‘ first opponents. The betting favorites to win the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills will be hosting the Green & White in week 1.
The Jets will visit Orchard Park after facing the Bills in Week 1 & 17 of last season. Theyâ€™re reportedly slated to play at 1 PM to kick off the season. Although there were initial reports that the NFL would structure the season with AFC vs NFC games for the first four weeks to kick off the season, theyâ€™ve now shown thatâ€™s not the case, at least for two AFC East teams.
Breaking Down The Matchup
A brief look at the Bills roster shows you how talented they are. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have built an excellent squad of high character guys in Buffalo. Theyâ€™ve used lots of resources to build through the trenches, just like Joe Douglas has done for the Jets. The difference between the teams to me is in the coaching staff(s). The Jets are still looking to build an identity under second-year coach Adam Gase. The Bills have constructed that identity under McDermott and now been to the playoffs twice under his guidance. As Josh Allen continues to develop and the team added pieces like Stefon Diggs, Josh Norman, and AJ Epenesa to an already talented team, they look primed to contend for the AFC East title.
As for the Jets, although theyâ€™ve had a great offseason, the team has one of the hardest schedules in football and is facing a lot of pressure. Thereâ€™s real skepticism about Adam Gase, and if heâ€™s the right guy to lead this team, if he wins this year and shows he can win with this team, heâ€™ll keep his job, but if he does not prove that he can lead this team to wins, the Jets will be looking for another coach. The Jets QB 1 also faces pressure. As his third year approaches, Darnold has shown flashes of brilliance. When heâ€™s not hurt, the Jets have also been a productive offensive team. If he can stay healthy and produce, he will prove heâ€™s the true franchise QB, but another average or slightly above average season could lead fans to question his ability to lead this team.
Both teams are young with loads of potential, and with pressure to win on both sides of the ball, week 1 canâ€™t get here soon enough.