(Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo Bills named as an AFC Super Bowl LI sleeper team

The Bills aren't just being discussed as a playoff contender...

The Buffalo Bills haven't been to the playoffs in 16 seasons. After finishing the last two seasons with 9-7 and 8-8 records, fans are ready for the Bills to take the next step and make the playoffs. Some Bills fans would be thrilled with a playoff appearance in general, but KC Joyner of ESPN thinks that the Bills could have a 'Super' season. In an ESPN Insider article, Joyner names the Bills as one of his two AFC Super Bowl LI sleeper teams.

In the article, Joyner says the following:

Despite having the longest playoff drought in the league, Bills fans are fired up for where this team is headed, as the club is now over the 55,000 mark in season-ticket holders.

It's easy to see why the fans feel this way, as there are many factors pointing toward Buffalo being an up-and-coming powerhouse.

The first is that the Bills could have arguably the best rushing game in the NFL. Buffalo led the league last season in rushing yards (2,432), yards per rush (4.8) and yards per rush before first defensive contact (3.3) and were tied for first in rushing touchdowns (19). The Bills also finished fourth in the league in my good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) metric that measures how productive a rushing game is when the ball carriers are given good blocking (roughly defined as not allowing the defense to disrupt a rush attempt).

The amazing part of that last figure is the team's 9.1 GBYPA figure was actually higher than LeSean McCoy's 8.9 GBYPA. Considering the fact that McCoy ranked tied for ninth among qualifying running backs in GBYPA, it indicates this club has an elite ground game regardless of who carries the ball. That trend should continue since the Bills were able to keep their offensive line intact.

Buffalo is also a lot closer to having an elite passing attack than it might seem. Last season, Tyrod Taylor had eight games with a Total QBR of 70 or higher. He tied for fourth in that measurement, sharing the ranking with Cam Newton,Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton, some very strong company.

On the defensive side of the ball, Joyner noted that Buffalo's pass defense was very strong. Joyner points out that Buffalo's total QBR rating was 12th in the league last year, 9th in vertical passes, and 9th in yards per attempt. Joyner says the one area the Bills need to improve upon is in terms of pass rush. 

Joyner wrote this article after the news of Shaq Lawson's surgery and Sammy Watkins' broken foot, so he clearly likes what he sees out of the Bills in 2016. Since writing the article, Joyner appeared on The John Murphy Show to discuss how he used analytics to support his claim of the Bills being a Super Bowl LI contender. You can listen to Joyner's interview here: KC Joyner's appearance on The John Murphy Show.


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