What’s next for Bills after playoff loss to Chiefs? 5 key questions about Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs & more

What’s next for Bills after playoff loss to Chiefs? 5 key questions about Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs & more

The Bills have been in the AFC playoffs for five consecutive seasons and six of the past seven under Sean McDermott. With Josh Allen, they have won four straight AFC East titles. They’re still, however, looking for their first conference championship with that coach-QB combination, and their Super Bowl appearance drought is now up to 30 years.

As the No. 2 seed, the Bills were positioned to beat the No. 3 seed Chiefs in a home playoff game. Instead, Buffalo evoked the pain of playoffs past with Tyler Bass missing a potential game-tying field-goal attempt late in a heartbreaking 27-24 divisional-round loss.

While the Chiefs advance to a sixth consecutive AFC title tilt with Patrick Mahomes in pursuit of a third ring, the Bills are once again left to pick up the pieces ahead of a long offseason. Buffalo is 0-3 vs. Kansas City in the playoffs, still looking for some of the same answers:

MORE: Tyler Bass joins Bills’ playoff lore with another ‘wide right’ moment

Here are five key questions clouding the Bills ahead of next season:

1. Do they like this new offense with Josh Allen?

The Bills’ goal when they fired former offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey during the season was to operate a more efficient offense that complemented the defense. A big part of that was helping Allen cut down on turnovers and getting more support for him from the traditional running game.

After replacing Dorsey with new play-caller Joe Brady for Week 11, the Bills won six of the final seven regular-season games. They also smashed the Steelers at home in the wild-card round. Brady was a lot more committed to James Cook in the rushing attack and was unafraid to establish Allen’s relentless self on the ground. It worked, as Allen went two playoff games without a giveaway. The ball-control approach also finished well in the red zone.

Unfortunately, despite the re-emphasis on the running game and short-to-intermediate passing game to youngsters Dalton Kincaid and Khalil Shakir, Allen got too aggressive at the end of the Chiefs game at the worst time. Given Stefon Diggs’ decline and Gabe Davis’ absence, it didn’t make sense for Allen to be unleashed as a deep passer again. For all of Brady’s success, he didn’t quite rein in Allen enough at the most important time. Overall, the Bills should be happy with Brady and want to promote him to full-time, but Allen needs to adjust more, too.

MORE: Patrick Mahomes dodges snowballs from upset Bills fans

2. How much do they need to address wide receiver?

Davis will be a free agent. Diggs, who seems perpetually unhappy, will turn 31 next season. Shakir is a keeper, but he’s more of a slot ace vs. a downfield perimeter field-stretcher. Allen will need a true No. 1. Pending free agent Mike Evans would seem to be ideal to pair with Allen, but the Bills’ atrocious salary-cap situation will likely cause them to lose a lot more than they can afford to add.

Luckily, after the Bills used a first-rounder on Kincaid as a tight end/wideout hybrid in 2023, they can tap into another deep draft class at wide receiver to find a well-rounded deep threat for Allen. They have 10 picks in total, now starting with No. 28 overall where either LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. or Florida State’s Keon Coleman would be attractive targets. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if they tap into the position twice to keep restocking the weaponry for Allen.

RELATED: 2024 first-round mock draft

3. How will they replenish the front four for Sean McDermott?

This is the biggest personnel issue for the defense. Von Miller is carrying a hefty cap hit, so a restructuring of his contract will be necessary. Beyond that, he needs to show he’s not done as an effective NFL pass rusher at 34.

Here’s where it gets really scary: Ends Leonard Floyd, A.J. Epenesa, and Shaq Lawson and tackles DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle, Poona Ford, and Linval Joseph are all pending free agents.

The Bills won’t keep much there and need to attack both positions hard in the draft along with wide receiver. Greg Rousseau, their best pass rusher, also will need an extension soon.

McDermott and GM Brandon Beane have plenty of work to do trying to both keep their passing game explosive for Allen and have enough guys to get after Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and other elite AFC QBs.

MORE: Crying Bills’ fan goes viral after playoff loss

4. How much do they need Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano healthy?

White at cornerback and Milano at linebacker are top-notch, irreplaceable cover men. White suffered another season-ending injury, this time a torn Achilles’, in October. That same month, Milano went down with a fractured right tibia on top of an MCL sprain.

Although the Bills got fine play from fill-ins, their absences were felt when Mahomes was rolling with his deep receivers, not worrying about White, and tight end Travis Kelce was roaming free, not concerned about Milano. Buffalo likely will need both difference-makers injury-free in 2024 to complete a Super Bowl run.

5. Will they still be the favorites in the AFC East?

The Dolphins pushed the Bills through the Week 18 matchup in Miami and will once again be highly competitive under Mike McDaniel. The Patriots are no longer a worry for a while with Bill Belichick gone and an unsettled QB situation.

However, the Jets won’t be doormats again, assuming Aaron Rodgers has a little MVP form left in him after returning from his torn Achilles. The Dolphins fell just short as a rising team, and the Bills had one less team about which to worry in the division than expected.

Buffalo should still be favored over Miami and New York, but it’s been hard enough to get to the Super Bowl as a division-winning playoff team with at least one home game. Trying to do it as a wild-card entry with a roster bound to take a few more hits will make it that much harder to get past the Chiefs, Ravens, or any other AFC power.

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