After their success in 2019, the Buffalo Bills had high hopes for the 2020 season. With a 13-3 record this season, the Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Their season didn’t end the way they had hoped with a 38-24 loss in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, after a strong 2020 season, the future is bright in Buffalo.
What Went Right
Although the organization had high hopes with Josh Allen and incoming superstar, Stefon Diggs, the first season without Tom Brady in the division was an unknown. With impending free agents after the 2020 season, Bills general manager Brandon Beane knew that 2020 would be the time to make a move. Bringing Diggs in from Minnesota and drafting running back Zack Moss in the third round expanded their offensive capabilities and opened up the playbook for Allen. Although the Bills’ season ended in the AFC Championship game, Allen exploded into an MVP candidate and Diggs produced one of the best offensive seasons in Buffalo history.
What Went Wrong
The biggest issue for Buffalo in 2020 was their defense. Ranked 16th in the NFL in points per game allowed, the Bills’ undoing was allowing 38 points to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. In their three losses this season, the Bills allowed 42 points to the Tennessee Titans, 26 to the Chiefs, and 32 to the Arizona Cardinals. Buffalo only lost one game in the 2020 season when the defense held their opponent to under 30 points.
Buffalo did not focus on defense in the 2020 draft, something that will need to change in the 2021 draft. second-round pick A.J. Epenesa and seventh-round pick Dane Jackson played limited roles in the Bills defense. Consequently, linebacker Matt Milano and corner Levi Wallace will enter unrestricted free agency, who provided over 100 tackles for the Bills last season. If the Bills want to continue to contend moving forward, the defensive unit must be the main priority this offseason.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Josh Allen
Allen was an NFL MVP candidate in 2020, so it is safe to say Allen qualifies as the Bills MVP of the season. Although there is an honorable mention to Diggs, who had 127 receptions for 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns. The combo of Allen and Diggs lit up the AFC for second-most yards per game, second-most points per game, and Allen’s improvement was the biggest reason why. After a sub-par 58 percent completion percentage in 2019, Allen improved to a 69 percent completion percentage in 2020, all while doubling his touchdowns thrown. Allen’s increase in accuracy allowed for the Bills to trust their offense, throw the ball more and become one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Zack Moss
The Bills have lacked a running game for the last few seasons. Although their rushing attack was inconsistent and only 20th in the league, Moss showed promise in limited attempts. The rookie running back rushed for 481 yards on 112 attempts which were good for 4.3 yards per attempt. Devin Singletary was the lead back for the majority of the season, however, Moss saw increased goal line touches as the year went on.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – A.J. Epenesa
The Bills only drafted two defensive players in the 2020 draft, and neither of those players made a huge impact. Epenesa showed promise in limited opportunity, with four quarterback hits coming on 11 tackles. Given the limitations the Bills may have in spending money during the upcoming free agency, Epenesa may have an increased role in the pass rush next season.
Biggest Surprise – Cole Beasley
Beasley had exactly one more target in 2020 than he received in 2019, but he caught 15 more passes in 2020 than he did in 2019. With Diggs opening up the field, specifically with over the top routes, the underneath routes that Beasley specializes in were much more open. With Diggs returning in 2020 and John Brown hopefully healthy for an entire season, Beasley will again be the safety blanket for Allen over the middle.
Biggest Disappointment – Tight Ends
The Bills basically ran a tight end by committee group, which worked fine. However, in the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs, Tyrann Mathieu shut down the Bills committee and forced Allen to rely solely on Diggs and Beasley. With neither Dawson Knox, Lee Smith, or Tyler Kroft truly taking the starting role, addressing the tight end position could open up another dimension of the Bills’ offense to make them truly unstoppable moving into 2021.
One Burning Question
Will Josh Allen Continue his MVP Candidate Ways?
The improvement by Allen from 2019 to 2020 was incredible. Given how defensive coordinators have emphasized the use of film study to make offenses continually adjust their ways, Allen will be facing a steep challenge next season. With the New York Jets full of cap room and potential in the draft, the Miami Dolphins defense showing their capability, and a consistently well-coached team in New England, Allen will not have an easy task before him. Playing a winning schedule in 2021 will also provide an additional challenge for Allen in continuing to improve. Given the weapons available to Allen and his incredible natural talent, the Bills will be just fine and set up well for Super Bowl contention again in 2021.