It is very, very difficult to win a Super Bowl. Only one of 32 NFL teams can hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The single-elimination factor of the NFL makes things even more random. But since 1989, the eventual Super Bowl winner has boasted either a top-three DVOA offense or defense in 24 of 33 seasons.
The Buffalo Bills finished 10th in offensive DVOA and first in defensive DVOA a season ago and, on paper, have done nothing to risk suffering a significant dip in defensive production. Meanwhile, Josh Allen is a year more senior, learning to play quarterback at an elite level.
Now, the Buffalo Bills are ready to make the leap.
Why history tells us the Buffalo Bills could be ready for a Super Bowl victory
Back in 2016, Football Outsiders wrote about building a Super Bowl champion. The recent movement of high-end quarterbacks has significantly altered things, with the Buccaneers and Rams winning the Super Bowl in their first season with their veteran QBs.
The Rams finished outside the “elite” range of Super Bowl victors, but they finished eighth in offensive DVOA and fifth in defensive DVOA. The Buccaneers were similarly balanced but ranked third in offensive DVOA, making them part of the “elite unit” club as well. An elite unit has historically been a better indicator of who becomes Super Bowl Champion.
Having two top-10 units feels like it should be another great indicator, but only 13 of the 33 victors since 1989 have ranked inside the top 10 in both categories. But the best indicator is overall balance. While the 2015 Broncos were a poultry 24th in offensive DVOA, their defense was dominant enough to make them the eighth-best team overall.
Since 1989, only three winners have been outside the top eight in team DVOA. The Bills have finished fourth and second over the past two seasons. Unless they suffer unfortunate injuries to key players, there is no reason to think they won’t rank highly again in 2022, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Their sustained success is another good indicator
The Bills have won at least 10 games in each of the past three seasons. While winning the Super Bowl is a bit of a crapshoot, there are rarely any genuine surprises. Most teams that have gone on to win the Super Bowl since 1989 have had consistent success leading up to their Super Bowl victory.
Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were technically a surprise, they were a QB away when they added the greatest ever to the mix. The other recent surprise would be the 2017 Eagles.
25 of the 33 winners since 1989 have not been surprises. Whether consecutive playoff appearances or double-digit win seasons, most Super Bowl winners were consistently “good” football teams before they won the big game.
The Bills have won at least 10 games in each of the past three seasons and have won three playoff games in the past two seasons. They played in one of the greatest games in NFL history against the Chiefs a season ago. It took a Herculean effort from Patrick Mahomes to keep pace with an almost perfect Allen.
Buffalo Bills defense is primed for a repeat performance
Buffalo will be without Tre’Davious White to start the season. He’s still on PUP after not being 100% back from his ACL tear a season ago. Being without White and losing Levi Wallace in free agency would be tough to overcome for most teams. Fortunately for Buffalo, they’re built to withstand such losses.
The Bills added to an already dominant defense from a season ago in the offseason. They already had a young and talented group of defensive ends with Gregory Rousseau, Boogie Basham, and A.J. Epenesa. So during the offseason, they added Von Miller to that unit.
Miller was dominant during the Rams’ Super Bowl run and still has plenty of life left in his legs. But they also returned Shaq Lawson, giving them a ridiculously talented unit that’s five deep.
That pass rush with Ed Oliver sprinkled in is dangerous enough to take some pressure off the Bills’ cornerbacks. But having athletic linebackers, the best safety tandem in the NFL, and Taron Johnson in the slot will take even more stress off an inexperienced outside unit.
When White eventually returns and first-round pick Kaiir Elam gets up to speed, the Bills will boast a defensive unit that can compete against the league’s best offenses.
Buffalo Bills offense has questions, but they have an answer built-in
The Bills’ offense wasn’t what eventually did them in against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. It was their defense that let them down in that single-game scenario. But it was their offense and the remaining inconsistencies from their quarterback that let them down multiple times during the regular season.
Losing Brian Daboll is one of the questions this Buffalo Bills offense must have an answer for. Ken Dorsey has been with the organization since 2019, but this will be his first time calling plays at any level.
Luckily for them, they have a 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback who is reminiscent of the eighth grader who hit puberty before everyone else, so the school administrators don’t allow him to participate in gym class. He’s big, strong, and athletic as a runner. In fact, he led the league in yards-per-carry for the 2021 season at 6.3.
And the scariest part about him isn’t his unfair physical advantage with his legs, either. The scariest part about him isn’t that he has arguably the strongest arm in a league filled with strong-armed, athletic QBs either.
No, the scariest part about Allen is that he’s still improving the finer aspects of being an NFL passer. If his process continues to improve, he has the potential to be the best quarterback in the league.
Living up to the hype
The Buffalo Bills won’t sneak up on anybody in 2022. They are the darling pick of media members to win the big game. But with the instability of the NFL, we don’t know what will happen. This feels especially true in the AFC, which is where most of the league’s talent migrated during the offseason. On paper, that league looks vastly superior to its NFC counterpart.
Every single NFL Gameday analyst picked the Bills to win the Super Bowl. In our own 2022 NFL season predictions, the Bills end up as the champions. But while they may appear to be the best team in the NFL, the league’s randomness can change things instantly. The battle of attrition is on, and Buffalo doesn’t have the easiest schedule to fall back on in 2022.