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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 now has one full season of coaching under his belt. After a respectable 9-7 record and a second place finish in the AFC East, management is making moves so that McDermott will hopefully have an even better roster to work with in 2018. Names like Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, and Richie Incognito will be absent this year as both players have been shipped out of Buffalo to make room for Josh Allen, the number seven overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft and star receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Allen played quarterback at Wyoming in college and is hoping to be start a long and successful career in Buffalo. AJ McCarron sat behind Andy Dalton in Cincinnati for the past four years and will be ready for the Bills at a moment’s notice. Kelvin Benjamin, meanwhile, was the number one receiver in Carolina, but was traded to Buffalo midway through last season. A full offseason in Buffalo will allow him to fully familiarize himself with the Bills playbook, priming him for a great 2018 season.
The Bills also have plenty of returning talent players like LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay, which makes for a potentially potent offense. The defense is also 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. He already got a boost from the selection of Tre’Davious White in the first round of the 2017 draft and the signing of former Green Bay Packer Micah Hyde at Safety. Shaq Lawson, veteran Lorenzo Alexander, and former Colt Vontae Davis will also play key roles on this side of the ball.
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.