Much of this season’s playoff field enters January with urgency derived from their respective contention windows. At the other end of the spectrum from the Saints, Vikings or Patriots are the Bills, who were not expected to sniff the postseason.
Before the season, Buffalo (10-6) was pegged at 10,000-to-1 to win Super Bowl LIV. Buffalo’s championship chances remain slim given the inferiority of their roster compared to the AFC powers’. But the Bills are simultaneously a live underdog against Houston in the wild-card round and playing with house money. In an era of short contracts and limited windows to maximize roster blueprints, this is a “can’t wait till next year” team.
Unlike most of this year’s postseason teams, Buffalo has a chance to be significantly better in 2020. The Bills have no core player set for free agency and are projected to hold more than $88 million in cap space -– the league’s fourth-highest figure.
Each of this year’s other AFC playoff entrants feature much more complex issues than Buffalo faces. With Tom Brady’s status unknown, the Patriots may be at the end of their unprecedented modern run. The Ravens and Chiefs boast the conference’s best rosters but face major financial decisions. The Texans do not have a GM and traded much of their 2020 draft capital; the Titans’ equation will change once they pay soon-to-be free agents Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry.
The Bills possess by far the most cap space among playoff teams, $30 million more than any other team in the AFC bracket. With defensive end Shaq Lawson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillip as their most notable free agents, the Bills have many avenues to improve the roster.
In 2018, Buffalo’s offense was astonishingly inept. Commanded by improved second-year QB Josh Allen, it was close to average this season. The Bills can further equip their quarterback with support and add an impact pass rusher — its main need — to a defense that does not possess many deficiencies.