Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen finished second in NFL MVP voting last year, and it's garnered him more respect from executives around the league heading into the 2021 season.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday on SportsCenter that Allen's dual-threat ability has made him a popular MVP prediction among execs ahead of next week's season-opening home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium:
"There's some sneaky MVP buzz around Josh Allen right now because I've informally polled some execs around the league about who they think is going to win the award. Allen's name has come up a lot because this is a guy who's in a great offense, a team in contention. I'm hearing Allen has been a lot better at mastering the nuances of the game, the pre-snap protections, all those things you need to win at the quarterback position. And he's going to have the ball in his hands more than Luka Doncic. This is a guy that they're either going to pass or run, probably more than 700 times or around there this year. So, he's set up to potentially win it. I'm sure Patrick Mahomes and those gentlemen will have something to say about that, though."
Buffalo's selection of Allen with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft was widely chastised, and it initially appeared the critics may have been right.
The University of Wyoming product struggled as a rookie with nearly as many turnovers (14) as touchdowns (18) while completing just 52.8 percent of his throws across 12 games.
Allen made steady progress in 2019 and then took his game to an elite level in 2020.
Last year, he posted a 69.2 percent completion rate—a 10.4 percent single-season increase—along with 45 total touchdowns (37 passing and eight rushing) while guiding the Bills to a 13-3 record for their first division title since 1995. He ranked third in ESPN's Total QBR behind only the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers, who won the MVP Award, and Mahomes.
Allen and the Bills ultimately advanced to the AFC Championship Game before getting eliminated from the playoffs by Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Buffalo rewarded the 25-year-old California native for his breakout season with a six-year, $258 million contract extension that runs through 2028.
"At the end of the day, it's still a lot of money. As someone alluded to earlier, it's generational wealth and something to be super proud of," Allen told reporters after signing the deal in early August. "The ultimate goal for now is winning, and it's not going to matter if we don't win."
Buffalo's championship window is open for the first time since the '90s, and its ability to potentially chase down the first Super Bowl title in franchise history is directly tied to Allen continuing the play at the MVP level he started to reach last year.
Neither the 2020 Pro Bowl selection nor the Bills as a whole are going to catch anybody off guard in 2021, though. They're now among the hunted in a top-heavy AFC that also counts the Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns as legitimate contenders.
Allen and Co. do have a chance to start strong with three home games over the first four weeks, starting next Sunday against the Steelers.