ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. [WKBW] — As the Buffalo Bills shift their focus to the playoffs, it's time to look back on the players that helped the team punch their postseason ticket.
Here are our 2021 regular-season awards:
Offensive MVP: Stefon Diggs
Despite a dip in production from 2020 to 2021, Stefon Diggs is an elite receiver and a mismatch that benefits the Bills every week. Diggs is the first receiver in franchise history to finish with multiple 100-reception seasons.
While his reception and yardage totals declined in 2021, Diggs finished with more touchdowns  than in 2020 . Diggs is a top-five wide receiver in the NFL and the Bills would be wise to lean on him in the postseason.
In the first half of their regular-season finale, the Bills targeted Diggs a ton and it was when their offense was the most effective. Quarterback Josh Allen said after the game that Diggs' decreased workload will ensure he's ready for more targets in the playoffs. When Diggs is rolling so are the Bills and they'll need him to step up in the playoffs.
Defensive MVPs: Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde
Yeah, this is a bit of a cop-out, but it's nearly impossible recognizing one of the safeties and not the other. Both Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde have put together impressive seasons and helped take the Bills' defense to a new level.
Without Tre'Davious White down the stretch, the safeties have elevated their play in pass coverage while also helping the defense stop the run [usually]. Poyer and Hyde each had five interceptions this season and are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. Hyde signed an extension before the 2021 season and has two years left on his deal. Poyer is entering the final season of an extension he signed before the 2020 season.
Rookie of the year: Spencer Brown
At the beginning of the 2021 season, I certainly didn't think Brown would be the Bills' most impactful rookie as the team heads to the playoffs. After a hot start from first-round pick Greg Rousseau, the young pass rusher who has cooled off seemed to hit 'the rookie wall' for the middle portion of the schedule. His inconsistencies shouldn't be a major concern, especially considering he didn't even play football last year.
As for Brown, he's also been inconsistent this year and has had some issues with penalties. But what the third-round pick has brought the offensive line is so important. His ability to line up at right tackle has allowed the Bills to slide 2020 starting right tackle Daryl Williams to guard.
After Williams struggled early in the season at tackle, this move to guard has helped the entire line. When Brown missed time while on the COVID-19 list the Bills line struggled. Brown's play has been a pleasant surprise this season and he looks like someone this team can build around for years to come.
Unsung Hero: Ed Oliver
Ed Oliver has become a big problem for opposing offenses. In the first half of the season, Oliver was making his presence felt but the numbers weren't there. In the second half, Oliver exploded and tallied 3.5 sacks in the Bills' final three games.
He and Harrison Phillips, who he's often been lined up next to, have earned more playing time and responsibility on this defense. When the interior line is creating pressure the Bills edge rushers are far more likely to get after the quarterback. That was evident against the Jets when the Billa posted nine sacks, the most they've had since 2011 when they had 10 against Washington.
Most Improved: Dawson Knox
In an interview earlier this season, I asked Dawson Knox how many times he heard the name Zach Ertz in the offseason. He said it felt like every day he would hear or see something about the Bills improving the tight end position heading into the 2021 season.
Remember all the Zach Ertz rumors this summer?— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) October 16, 2021
So does Dawson Knox.
And he's better because of it #BillsMafia @WKBW pic.twitter.com/UClNixBtTQ
Knox used that chatter as motivation and put together his best season as a pro. The Bills' third-year tight end more than doubled his numbers from 2020 in almost every major category.
Knox finished with nine touchdowns in 2021, four more than he had in his first two seasons combined. He also finished the regular season with 49 catches for 587 yards, a significant jump from the 288 receiving yards he had last season.
MVP: Josh Allen
Josh Allen might not be in the conversation for NFL MVP this season but he's easily the Bills' most valuable player for the second consecutive season. Even with a slight slip in stats from 2020, Allen solidified his status as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.
In 2021 the Bills star quarterback threw for 4,407 yards and 36 touchdowns. Allen added a career-best 763 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Despite his impressive numbers, Allen did throw five more interceptions this season than he did last year.
At the end of the day, Allen is the lifeblood of this team. When he's at his best, they're a hard team to beat. As the playoffs approach he's their most important player.
Josh Allen finishes the regular season with:— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) January 10, 2022
-42 total TD [36 passing/6 rushing]
-4,407 passing yards
-763 rushing yards
-15 INT #BillsMafia @WKBW
(AP Photo/Joshua Bessex) pic.twitter.com/lBpJEkSq3z