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The cold weather in upstate New York makes for an incredible backdrop for football. New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY, home to the Buffalo Bills, has hosted many of these epic contests. Continuing to search for their first Super Bowl championship, the Bills faithful pour into this venue week after week, braving the elements to cheer on their hometown heroes.
The Bills originated in 1960 as an AFL team and won back to back championships in their early years. They made it to the AFL Championship in 1966, the third year in a row, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. Following the merger, Buffalo could not seem to replicate their AFL success. A major drop-off in their level of play saw the team make the playoffs only three times between 1967 and 1986 with one postseason win to their credit.
1986 marked a change for the Bills as Jim Kelly moved from the USFL to the NFL. Buffalo’s 1983 first round draft pick brought with him a tremendous amount of talent and strength. His leadership was exactly what Buffalo was missing. A tough competitor that never backed down, Kelly added to a talented roster that, under new head coach Marv Levy, was poised for a major turnaround. By 1988, the Bills had reached the AFC Championship game, losing to Cincinnati 21-10.
What followed in the next four seasons is as unprecedented as it is heartbreaking. The Buffalo Bills would top the AFC in 1990, 91, 92, and 93, reaching the Super Bowl four years in a row. However, this AFC dynasty would lose each title game. Despite their dominant play and recognizable stars such as Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Cornelius Bennett, Steve Tasker, and other, the Bills could never break through and make it to the stage as the confetti fell on them as champions.
Buffalo has not reached the big game again since 1993. The team pressed forward with success, making the playoffs almost every season until 1999. However, the Bills have yet to make the postseason in the new millennium.
Former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will man the sidelines as the new Buffalo Bills head coach this season. In his first stint as a head coach, McDermott looks to improve on the 7-9 record of the 2016 campaign and shake up the AFC East. In doing so, McDermott will be forced to make tough roster decisions, potentially solidifying Tyrod Taylor as the quarterback going forward. Talented players in LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, and Sammy Watkins (who will become a free agent after the season since Buffalo did not exercise the fifth year of his deal) makes for a potentially potent offense. Pro Bowlers on the offensive line in Richie Incognito and Eric Wood should allow Taylor the time needed to have something develop downfield. The defense is still in the midst of a major changeover, but there is no doubt that the defensive-minded McDermott will build up a powerhouse in no time.
Buffalo’s rich history as contenders has brought some top level talent through their locker room over the years. The greatest competitors for this franchise include Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, OJ Simpson, Cornelius Bennett, Steve Tasker, and Darryl Talley. A more detailed history of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills can be obtained by clicking here.