From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
It’s about time for the Buffalo Bills to show up and demonstrate their mettle.
No more playing second fiddle to the big, bad New England Patriots — the team that everybody loves to hate.
While head coach Bill Belichick remains on the Patriots’ sidelines, legendary but aging quarterback Tom Brady has shuffle off down south to Tampa Bay, and at least eight Patriots have decided to opt out for the 2020 NFL campaign because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bills made the right move toward instant creditability last week when head coach Sean McDermott was rewarded with a multi-year contract extension. McDermott had two years remaining on his deal, so he is now under contract for six years through 2025.
McDermott, the former defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers who has guided the Bills to two AFC playoff appearances in his first three years on the job, has been a model of stability for the franchise.
Before his arrival, the Bills had nine different head coaches — some worked hard but had little talent to work with, some made bad coaching decisions and one was an utter buffoon. Of the past nine, you can figure out who was the nincompoop.
All three of the prominent NFL preseason magazines — Street & Smith’s, Lindy’s and Athlon’s — are all picking the Bills to win the AFC East Division title.
McDermott, 46, has a 25-23 record in the regular season with the Bills. Believe it or not, the 25 wins are already fifth-most on the franchise’s all-time list. The Bills lost wild-card playoff games after the 2017 and ’19 seasons to the Jaguars and Texans, respectively — the club’s first postseason appearances since 1999.
Led by QB Josh Allen and a stingy defense that has ranked in the top-three in each of the past two seasons, the Bills are expected to end the Patriots’ run of 11 straight AFC East crowns in 2020.
The Bills, under Marv Levy, haven’t won the division since 1995 and have since posted only eight winning seasons.
Beginning in 1996, here are the Bills’ finishing order in the AFC East: 2-4-3-2-4-5-4-3-3-3-3-2-4-4-4-4-4-4-2-3-3-2-3-2.
There were six straight last-place finishes from 2008-13, and since 2001, the mighty Patriots captured the division 17 times and claimed six Super Bowl championships.
What do you say? If the Bills don’t win the AFC East this season and if the Patriots aren’t looking upward, then it’s nothing but a big head-scratcher.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org