For the first time since the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, it is looking like the AFC Eastern Division is coming down to the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. Since the departure of Tom Brady, the New England Patriots have struggled to find a successor in Cam Newton, who got off to a good start this season, but he has struggled recently. The Bills finally got the monkey off of their back in week eight when they beat the Patriots 24-21 in Orchard Park, and that was a confidence-building win. The last time the Bills brought a playoff game home to Buffalo was back in the 1995 season when Bills Stadium went by Rich Stadium with a 22-19 win over the Cleveland Browns, and that was the Bills last ever playoff win. At the time, the Browns were coached by the legendary Bill Belichick.
The last time Buffalo ever hosted a playoff game was back in the 1996 season with a home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills are coming off of a bye week and will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, but they are also coming off of a heartbreaking last-second loss to the Arizona Cardinals. After the Chargers game, the Bills will be in the primetime spotlight against the 49ers and the Steelers, with the first of those games being out west on Monday Night Football. The Steelers game will be on NBC Sunday Night Football, a game the Bills won in Pittsburgh last year and also in primetime.
The Chargers are coming into the game with a 3-7 record, but they have a young talented quarterback in rookie Justin Herbert, and they are always a dangerous team. I do consider this a possible trap game for the Bills for sure, but a positive sign is that the Chargers have struggled on the east coast this season. The Bills will be in their vintage uniforms on Sunday, which I am looking forward to seeing. The first-ever meeting between the Bills and Chargers came in 1960 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. The Chargers won the game by a score of 24-10, and they were the Los Angeles Chargers at the time before they moved to San Diego. Eventual Bills quarterback Jack Kemp was the Chargers quarterback at the time before he would be traded to Buffalo.
The Bills first-ever win over the Chargers came in 1962 in Buffalo by a score of 35-10, and the first-ever win for the Bills in San Diego came in the same season by a score of 40-20. The most talked-about games between the two teams came in the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championship Games, which were won by the Bills by a score of 20-7 and a 23-0 shutout win. The Chargers won their last trip to Buffalo in 2018 by a score of 31-20, and that was in Josh Allen’s rookie season in Buffalo. On Sunday at Bills Stadium, will the Bills be ready to play with two big games the next two weeks? The only way that I can see this being a close game or an upset is that the Bills are expecting to show up and beat the Chargers or if the Bills play a bad game and think they will wear the Chargers down late in the game.
Buffalo’s defense has struggled this season with having big leads and letting teams get back in the game. It finally caught up to them against the Cardinals when they had a 23-9 lead, and of course they ended up letting it slip away, thanks in part to a Hail Mary at the end.
Josh Allen has had a fantastic season, and Stefon Diggs has played a crucial role in that. Allen has also made other connections in the passing game, such as Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Dawson Knox, and Isaiah McKenzie. He has had Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in the running game, but his best-receiving tailback has been T.J. Yeldon.
Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has had a great season running the offense, and I think he will likely be a head coach someday, maybe next season. If the Bills expect to bring a playoff game back to Orchard Park, they need to win the AFC East, but they also need to stay focused on one game at a time. Buffalo is unbeaten in division play so far this season, and that helps to keep the Bills in the driver’s seat, but the most challenging division road game is the trip to Foxboro to take on the Patriots, and the Bills have not won there since 2000. The last time the Bills ever swept the Patriots was back in the 1999 season when Drew Bledsoe led the Patriots. A win and a sweep over the Patriots in Foxboro is another confidence builder to bring a home playoff game back to Orchard Park and to show that the Bills are back. Hopefully, they are just getting started.