When the 2019 NFL season ended, there seemed to be one AFC team that was a player away from possibly going to the Super Bowl. That changed last week when the Buffalo Bills acquired former Maryland star receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings.
He is a game-changer and a play-maker.
So now, put the Bills up there with the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs as favorites to win the conference title. In exchange for Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick, Buffalo gave up first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks this season and a 2021 fourth-rounder, but that’s what happens when a team believes they have found a difference-maker.
Forget about the baggage Diggs might bring — the angry tweets and salty attitude. The city of Buffalo might end up getting that elusive Lombardi Trophy.
Other teams improved, but they still have holes. The Las Vegas Raiders got better with a slew of free agents, including linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski and tight end Jason Witten, but the Raiders aren’t there yet.
The Indianapolis Colts picked up quarterback Philip Rivers and the Denver Broncos added running back Melvin Gordon to go along with Phillip Lindsay in perhaps one of the best backfields in the NFL. Cleveland made some significant moves, but after last season, no one will take the Browns seriously again until the next millennium.
But the Bills, they are scary.
They already had a strong defense led by Tre’Davious White, who might be the best cornerback in the league. They also have middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who, like White, is young and a centerpiece of the defense.
The Bills added several free-agent linemen like A.J. Klein, Mario Addison and Quinton Jefferson, which should improve a defense that was ranked second last season in points allowed (16.2) and third in passing yards allowed (298.2).
It was the offense that was inconsistent and holding the Bills back, especially with a passing game ranked No. 26, averaging only 201.8 yards through the air.
That will change with the addition of Diggs.
He is big, tall and can make plays on the inside with his route-running or outside with his speed. He has had over 60 catches in four of his first five seasons, including 63 for 1,130 yards and nine touchdowns last year — his second consecutive season over 1,000 yards.
He is a great complement to former Ravens speedy receiver John Brown, who starts on the other side. Brown had 72 catches for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns last season. Unlike in Minnesota, where Diggs had to share the spotlight with other receivers like Adam Thielen or Kyle Rudolph, he will be the top draw in Buffalo.
We could see a Baltimore vs. Buffalo playoff game. The Ravens and Bills are similar in style and both have good, hard-nosed coaches. The Ravens have John Harbaugh and Buffalo has Sean McDermott. Both teams believe in playing strong, physical defense.
The Ravens have a better running game, with halfbacks Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards, but the Bills counter with Devin Singletary, who, like Ingram, has toughness and exceptional body lean to help him gain extra yards.
One difference is that the Ravens still don’t have a legitimate No. 1 receiver, and the Bills now have Diggs. Another is the Ravens have a major advantage over Buffalo at the quarterback position with Lamar Jackson over Josh Allen. Both are young and growing.
The Ravens have added some play-makers as well, but on defense. Last week, they traded for Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowl defensive Calais Campbell and signed former Los Angeles Rams lineman Michael Brockers. Maybe they will be the great equalizer to Diggs.
Kansas City, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is still the team to beat because no one fears the New England Patriots without quarterback Tom Brady. The Houston Texans, a playoff team a year ago, made the most questionable move of the offseason so far, trading receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for very little in return.
Without Hopkins, the Texans offense becomes mediocre, and so does their overrated quarterback, Deshaun Watson.
That brings us back to the big three: Chiefs, Ravens and Bills.
Both the Ravens and Bills made some big moves this offseason, but the Bills were bold.
They’re as good as any team in the AFC now, and with a little luck and improved play from Allen, they could go to the conference title game.
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