The NFL season is 16 games and can be divided into 4 quarters. I will take a look at the state of the Bills and at the end of each quarter and assign a grade based on their performance.
The first quarter of the season consisted of back-to-back away games at MetLife Stadium against the Jets and Giants followed by back-to-back home games at New Era Field against the Bengals and Patriots. The Buffalo Bills went 3-1 in this stretch, beating the Jets, Giants, and Bengals. Following the release of the schedule, many Bills fans hoped for a 3-1 start and it certainly seemed attainable. The Jets had some optimism coming into the season with the progression of Sam Darnold and the addition of Le’veon Bell, but they were never really looked at as a real threat. The Giants were expected to be terrible and the Bengals were also projected to be a basement team in the AFC. The Patriots were expected to be the Patriots.
The first game of the season was a very messy one. Josh Allen threw 2 INT’s and fumbled twice early in the game and the Jets jumped out to a 16-3 lead. Allen and the Bills’ offense slowly started to come together and put drives together, eventually scoring 14 straight points to secure the 17-16 win. Bills fans were ecstatic after his comeback win as it showed the team’s resilience and character. They were also a little worried, however, as you can’t win many games turning the ball over 4 times.
Allen and the Bills clearly learned from the mistakes in the first game, as their performance was much better in the game against the Giants. Allen went 19/30 for 253 yards and 1 TD, with no INT’s or fumbles. After giving an early lead to the Giants, the Bills once again played the role of the Comeback Kids and stormed past the Giants. The offense was fully in sync and the defense was stout. The new offseason additions of Cole Beasley and John Brown combined for over 150 receiving yards and the Bills’ rushing attack scored 3 TDs. The Bills were flying high after this win and were excited for 3-0 prospects.
The Bills got off to an early lead in the game against the Bengals, going ahead 14-0 at the half. They were clicking on all cylinders and it was looking like a blowout was about to ensue. However, the Bills fell flat in the 3rd quarter and into the 4th. After giving up 17 straight points, the Bills found themselves with one last chance to drive down the field and get a win down 17-14. After coming back in the first 2 games, they did it once again on a strong drive from Allen, finished off by Frank Gore. The Bengals started driving down the field, but Tre’Davious White ended their hopes with his second INT of the day. The Bills were 3-0 for the first time since 2001 and all was well.
The Patriots came to town and the Bills let a massive one slip away. The Bills were plagued by turnovers, as Allen could not stop throwing interceptions. He ended up with a less than 50% completion rate and 3 INT’s. He looked shaky in the pocket and was seemingly intimidated by the team on the other side. The Bills defense played outstanding and limited the Patriots offense to only 1 TD. Tom Brady has a subpar game with only 150 passing yards, but the Bills offense didn’t do enough to win this game, losing 16-10. It was truly a heartbreak and handed the Bills their first loss of the season.
The Bills would’ve received an A had they found a way to pull out a win against the Patriots. However, in all 4 games they are depending on their offense to catch up and that is not a formula for long-term success. The defense is elite and Super-Bowl caliber, but the offense is going to need to hold its end down if the Bills want to be competitive. Overall, the Bills still sit 3rd in the entire AFC and primed for a playoff berth after the first quarter of the season. If they tighten up the offense and continue playing lights-out defense, they should be in the thick of the playoff discussion after the next quarter.