Josh Allen, Bills Clinch 2019 NFL Playoff Berth with Win vs. Steelers

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2019

Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates with running back Devin Singletary (26) and others after scoring on a pass from quarterback Josh Allen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

For the second time since the turn of the century, the Buffalo Bills are heading to the playoffs.

The Bills clinched a spot in the 2020 postseason Sunday with a 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. The Bills also earned their first 10-win season since 1999.

Buffalo still has an outside shot at winning the AFC East, with a critical trip to New England upcoming on Dec. 21.

Long the division's most woebegone franchise, the Bills have swiftly turned things around under Sean McDermott. The third-year coach has led the franchise to the playoffs twice, their only playoff berths of the 2000s.

Much like the 2017 iteration, these Bills are led by one of the NFL's best defenses. Buffalo ranks second in the NFL in points allowed, and Football Outsiders' DVOA metric put the Bills fourth among all defenses this season heading into Week 15.

The unit has been particularly strong at producing negative plays for opposing offenses, with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier attributing that to growing chemistry.

"I think that's a big part of it," Frazier told reporters. "The guys have been executing in this defense, and the familiarity allows you to anticipate some things. When a call comes in you know what the strengths and weaknesses are and it enables you to play a little bit faster."

While the offense has been far from explosive, second-year quarterback Josh Allen has shown massive year-over-year improvement (following stats entering Week 15). Allen has drastically increased his completion percentage (52.8 to 59.8), touchdown rate (3.1 percent to 4.2 percent) and yards per attempt (6.5 to 6.8) while lowering his interception percentage (3.8 percent to 2.0). Six of his eight picks came in the first five games, and Allen has been mostly solid over the second half of the season.

The Bills have also gotten a boost from rookie running back Devin Singletary and an underappreciated receiving corps spearheaded by downfield burner John Brown. Altogether, the Bills are in the best shape they've been to win a playoff game since the 1990s.