Josh Allen shines again, Bills clinch first AFC East title since 1995 with win over Broncos

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The 1995 Buffalo Bills was the last hurrah for one of the most talented rosters in NFL history. Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith led the Bills to a 10-6 record and an AFC East title.

That was the Bills’ sixth division title in eight years. Nobody could have known it would be 25 years until their next one.

The Bills continued their best season this century, clinching their first AFC East championship since 1995 with an easy 48-19 win on Saturday over the Denver Broncos. The Bills improved to 11-3. Josh Allen was the star, with 359 passing yards and four total touchdowns, two passing and two rushing.

Those Bills teams from the 1990s famously came close to a Super Bowl but never won one. There are a few contenders behind the Kansas City Chiefs that gave a legit shot to win it all this season, and the Bills might be at the front of that line. They showed again on Saturday they’re one of the NFL’s best teams.

Bills dominate Broncos

The Bills had been building toward this season. The New England Patriots had owned the division for what seemed like forever, but Tom Brady’s departure opened up the division. The Bills had a good season last year with a strong young core and made a strong offseason push, trading multiple picks (including one that became Justin Jefferson) to the Minnesota Vikings for Stefon Diggs.

That move has changed the Bills’ trajectory. Diggs has been even better than Buffalo could have hoped. He has been a true No. 1 and helped accelerate Josh Allen’s ascension to being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Diggs recorded his 105th catch of the season on Saturday, breaking Eric Moulds’ team record for receptions in a season. He had 11 catches for 147 yards. Diggs led the NFL in catches and receiving yards after Saturday’s big game. Diggs did leave the game late with a foot injury, which is a concern. The good news is the Bills already have clinched the division and can rest him if needed.

Allen’s improvement has been rapid. He has taken a huge step this season and that was on display again Saturday. He threw two touchdowns and ran for two others. On more than a few passes he showed off his cannon arm and squeezed a throw into a tight window for a big play. There was no guarantee Allen would ever harness his impressive physical gifts and become a big-time quarterback. He has exceeded all but the most optimistic of expectations for his third season.

Allen is the main reason the Bills are AFC East champs, but it’s a team that has a lot to like.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, above, celebrates with teammate offensive tackle Dion Dawkins after scoring a touchdown. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, above, celebrates with teammate offensive tackle Dion Dawkins after scoring a touchdown. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Bills will be dangerous in playoffs

The defining moment of the Bills’ division-clinching win came late in the second quarter. The Bills had first-and-goal at the 30-yard line after penalties. Two plays later Allen threw a laser over the middle to tight end Jake Kumerow for a touchdown.

The Broncos were in it after a touchdown late in the first half, but the Bills quickly put it away. Allen rushed for his second touchdown of the game, and 17 seconds later a strip-sack of Drew Lock led to a nice return by Jerry Hughes for a touchdown.

The Bills have three losses this season. They lost on the road to the Tennessee Titans, who might win the AFC South. They lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, the best team in football. And they lost on the road when the Arizona Cardinals, another likely playoff team, hit a Hail Mary with two seconds left. Other than those three understandable losses, they have been fantastic.

The AFC playoffs will be tough. It’s a deep field led by the Chiefs, who have one loss this season. But the Bills will have a shot. And thanks to their division title, they’ll be hosting a home game for the first time since December of 1996. Allen was seven months old.

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