Oh boy. Three times in two years, the Buffalo Bills have played in “The Game of the Year.” And in all three, the Bills have come up short in devastating fashion. And in their most recent game, Buffalo seemed to invent a new, more devastating way to lose. With the Bills on their first losing streak of the season and now sitting at third place in the division, perhaps it will be cathartic to dish out some blame.
Josh Allen started the season playing at such an unbelievable clip. It would have been unimaginable to think we would have been writing about him in this context just a month ago. But dating back to the second half of the Packers game, the most crucial piece of the Bills’ offense has been the most problematic. The quarterback’s last three games have seen passer ratings of 75.1, 46.8, and 78.6, with six interceptions, including multiple red zone interceptions. Over those three games, Josh Allen ranks 16th in EPA per play.
Impressive second-half offensive turnarounds marked the theme of the first quarter of the season. The Bills rank second in first half EPA and 13th in 2nd half EPA. The numbers get worse when you get to the red zone. Outside of the red zone, the Bills rank 1st in EPA in passing, but once they get inside the red zone, they plummet to dead last.
Since week 8, the Bills are 19th in EPA per play. Ever since the Bills’ bye, their offense has been sputtering. The challenging part here is to parse out is, just how much Ken Dorsey is getting out game-planned versus how much is simply Josh Allen is playing poorly. The problems extend beyond the passing game into the running. The Bills are 28th in EPA on non-Josh Allen running plays. Teams have appeared to figure out the Bills’ offense, and Ken Dorsey has yet to find his counter punch.
If we were ranking who should take the most blame on this roster, the defense would, by far, earn the least amount of blame. To drill down on who is responsible for the Bills’ defensive failings, look no further than injuries. Buffalo has missed several vital defensive contributors for at least short periods. Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, Gregory Rousseau, Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds, Michah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, and Christian Benford have all missed starts this year. But even noting this, the Bills’ run defense ranks 25th in EPA per play. Jaquan Johnson was such a net negative on defense that they traded for Dean Marlowe and tried their backup nickel corner at safety. The Bills’ run defense has also struggled, ranking 22nd in EPA per attempt against the rush and 31st in first down percentage allowed.
Alright, that is a lot of numbers to tell you that the Bills are hurting, especially of late. So what can the Bills do? For one, get healthy. Luckily on defense, the only player with an unknown timeline to return is Jordan Poyer. (Micah Hyde is also done for the year.)
The Bills should return most of their starters, including pro bowl corner Tre’Davious White. On offense, Josh Allen needs more help. The Bills need someone Josh can throw to who isn’t Stefon Diggs.
For the Bills’ season to end where they want it to end, Dawson Knox, Gabe Davis, and the running backs need to be more effectively schemed into the offense. It bears remembering the Bills found themselves in a similar spot during the 2021 season, where they lost an embarrassing game to the Jacksonville Jaguars.