With Denver win, Bills have rallying cry for '16

With Denver win, Bills have rallying cry for '16
Posted at 9:26 AM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 09:33:40-05

If you're a fan of football, odds are you've heard the cliché that will support the Denver Broncos claim to the throne this season:

Defense wins championships.

For years, teams without a franchise-level quarterback pointed to the Baltimore Ravens from 2000 as a shining beacon of light. The team that broke through for a Super Bowl victory with an elite level defense, and extremely average-to-below average play from their quarterback.

Finding a franchise quarterback is no easy task, so for years teams that have struck out finding the quarterback have done everything in their power to copy that Ravens model that started off the new century.

Since then, the Tampa Bay team of 2002 (even though Brad Johnson played at a much higher level than Trent Dilfer did for Baltimore in 2000), and now, the 2016 Denver Broncos represent the continuation of that line of thinking.

Peyton Manning, who will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, was blatantly average in 2015 -- which made the Broncos rely on two things: allowing their defense to dictate the game, and the run game to lead the way offensively.

And that, is music to the ears of Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills.

In 2014, the Bills had the fourth-best defense in the NFL -- so the talent is there for Buffalo to make a jump back up the rankings from their 2015 mark of being 19th overall in the league.

With Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, and Aaron Williams, the Bills think they have the right pieces in place to have an overwhelming defensive attack for the 2016 season, and the high-powered rushing attack with LeSean McCoy to go along with it.

Of course, the Bills will hope that Tyrod Taylor takes the next step and is the franchise quarterback they've been waiting for since Jim Kelly. But, if he plays at a similar, or slightly heightened level from what he did in 2015, the Bills will point to the Broncos as a reason for hope and optimism as to why they can bring home the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 51.

That line of thinking, though, is convenient because that's what just happened.

Since Baltimore paved the way after the 2000 season with Trent Dilfer, there have been great defenses that have gotten teams to the Super Bowl. However, for 13 of the past 16 seasons, the Super Bowl has been won by a team that has a top-10 quarterback leading their offense.

The names of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Dilfer, Tom Brady, Brad Johnson, Brady, Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Brady, and Peyton Manning again.

Some would argue against Joe Flacco, but his level of play during the 2013 NFL playoffs was as good as we've seen.

Over that same 16-year span, history has shown that a good defense is needed to make it to the Super Bowl, but a great one is not needed to win the Super Bowl. Just take a look at the numbers: 

Of the last 16 Super Bowl runners up, the average defensive rank? 10th.

Now, how about the last 16 Super Bowl Champions, the ranking has to be higher, right?

Not exactly. The average defensive rank for Super Bowl winners is also 10th.

The difference, 81.3-percent of the time over the last 16 years, is all in the quarterback play. Teams that have great defenses have made it to the playoffs, and sometimes even to the Super Bowl. But, way more often than not, those teams have fallen short of the ultimate goal.

Should that dissuade the Bills from moving forward with that formula? Absolutely not.

The likelihood that they find a franchise quarterback out of thin air this offseason, or with the 19th overall pick, are not that good. And if Taylor doesn't take those big steps forward, they'll have to rely on the defense once more.

Their goal, before anything else, is to make it back to the postseason, which they can absolutely do with the Denver formula.

If there's anything they should take away from that Denver victory, it's that their main focus on what to add to their defensive attack should be an impact pass rusher -- and it's likely one can be had where they're selecting in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

That doesn't mean they should neglect adding to the quarterback position, which history shows is the most vital in the game. But if they can't land the big time prospect at that position, their likeliest of directions for the offseason was just affirmed even more by Denver's victory on Sunday.

And that's not a bad thing for this Buffalo Bills team, because above all else, the one thing that will make 2016 a successful year is if the franchise can finally get back to the playoffs. And while great defenses don't always win championships, great defenses often get into the playoffs.

Once they do the latter, then the focus becomes the former. Then, the need for the quarterback conundrum to be solved will be even greater.

However, whether it's the right line of thinking or a short-sighted one, the goal is to make the playoffs at long last -- and the world champion Denver Broncos can serve as their newest inspiration.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia