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Josh Allen getting last laugh with historic start to season

scottteaser-215x160Extrapolating numbers can be an exercise in futility, but I couldn’t help myself. So, just for the fun of it, I got out my phone calculator and did some multiplication. If Josh Allen were to continue doing what he’s done over the course of a 16-game season, he’d finish with 5,304 passing yards, 48 touchdown passes, four interceptions and 12 rushing touchdowns.

Dizzying numbers. Historic numbers. MVP numbers. Super Bowl-contention numbers.

The Buffalo Bills wunderkind quarterback probably won’t be able to sustain this frenetic pace, especially if he takes more scary hits like the one that smashed his non-throwing shoulder awkwardly against the turf in the second quarter of Sunday’s road victory against the Las Vegas Raiders. But who knows? If Allen stays healthy, maybe the aforementioned mind-boggling stats are achievable. Maybe this is Josh’s year. And Buffalo’s year. Heaven knows, these Bills are a few decades overdue.

Look at the video-game numbers Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson posted the past two seasons, and you realize anything is possible in this new-age, passing-crazed NFL.

Clearly, four games does not a season make. The last time Buffalo stampeded to a similar unblemished start back in 2008, it stumbled to a 7-9 finish and missed the playoffs. Of course, that mediocre record would become a Dick Jauron staple. He guided Buffalo to three such finishes, before being fired midway through his fourth season. That fast-starting team a dozen years ago was quarterbacked by the “immortal” Trent Edwards, a highly touted prospect who epitomized the parade of Bills’ signal-calling busts during the post-Jim Kelly era.

Allen, though, appears cut from a different cloth. He already has 12 TD tosses — one more than Edwards managed the entire 2008 season — so there’s no reason to worry about history repeating itself this time around. This Bills team is vastly more talented. It’s going to make the playoffs, and might even contend for a Super Bowl.

Before this season, we wrote the Bills would go as far as Allen took them. So far, he’s taken them to the top of the AFC East, where they already hold a two-game lead over the team that has owned them — the New England Patriots. I’d be shocked if the Bills don’t win the division and at least one playoff game. By doing both, they’d end two more droughts, and if the crazy stats I calculated above were to come true for Allen, another famine might end. For the first time since Thurman Thomas pulled off the feat in 1991, a Bill could win the league’s MVP award.

And what a trip that would be for Allen, a player who’s spent a lifetime proving skeptics — me included — wrong. The 24-year-old former University of Wyoming quarterback has made remarkable strides since arriving at One Bills Drive three years ago as the highest drafted quarterback in Bills history. His anemic college completion percentage against non-Power-Five-Conference foes underwhelmed many NFL scouts and draftniks. Cynics sneered Buffalo had squandered the 7th overall pick on a QB who didn’t dominate sub-standard collegiate competition.

Allen would be justified in blasting Toby Keith’s song, “How do you like me now?!” Instead, the fiery competitor is content to let his play speak for him. And through four games this season, it’s spoken more loudly than a packed crowd at Bills Stadium following a home-team touchdown. Allen currently is second in the NFL in passing yards (1,326), touchdowns accounted for (15) and passer rating (122.7). And the accuracy questions that dogged him since he completed just 56 percent of his passes at Wyoming are being answered. After an injury-truncated rookie season that saw him connect on just 52.8 percent of his throws, he’s now completing 70.9 percent of his attempts. His 49-yard bomb to Stefon Diggs and laser touchdown pass to Cole Beasley were sights to behold. Allen’s astounding red zone production has other teams seeing red. During his brief career, he has 25 touchdown passes, 19 rushing touchdowns and just one interception inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.

The additions of Diggs and rookie Gabriel Davis to a receiving corps boasting John Brown and Beasley clearly has helped. So, too, has the mentorship and play-calling of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the former University of Rochester football player whose name is being mentioned for NFL head coaching vacancies. But the lion’s share of the credit belongs to the hard-working Allen.

“He’s a competitive sucker and he loves to win,’’ marveled Bills Coach Sean McDermott. “I can’t say enough about him. He loves to play the game, loves to win, and puts his heart, soul and body into everything in this game. As a teammate, how could you not love him?”

He also is mature beyond his years. He isn’t letting his superlative start go to his head.

“Things are rolling now,’’ Allen said of the Bills offense, which is churning out nearly 31 points per game, almost 12 above last year’s average. “We understand, throughout the year, we’ll probably hit some adversity at one point or another, so we’ve got to continue to stay strong, stay together.”

Tougher tests await. This week, the Bills travel to Tennessee to meet an unbeaten Titans team coming off a coronavirus-induced bye. Then, there’s a Thursday night home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, led by Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP. The remaining schedule also features two games against those pesky Patriots, plus contests versus the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. Mahomes and sublime Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson are top candidates for 2020 NFL MVP honors, but that could change after their head-to-head confrontations with Allen.

The Bills first true franchise quarterback since Hall-of-Famer Kelly is off to a stupendous start. Allen already has a sugary cereal named after him — Josh’s Jaqs. And if he keeps chalking up these kinds of stats and victories, he may soon have something even sweeter.

Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist. His latest book, “Remembrances of Swings Past: A Lifetime of Baseball Stories,”  is available in paperback and digitally at amazon.com.

3 comments

  1. I just love reading your articles, my friend.
    This kid is the real deal. Like the rest of us,
    We just have to keep him healthy.
    This is the first time since Doug Flutie
    That I have been so excited about Sunday
    Afternoon and Bills football.
    If only they could put fans in the stands.

  2. Interesting perspective. Well written. Thank you Scott.

  3. Thank you, Max and Frank. Josh’s health will be the main issue. He’s too fearless for his own good at times. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Thanks again for reading. Be well.

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