ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. [WKBW] — At long last, the 2021 NFL season is upon us! Expectations for the Bills are sky-high, but they can't look ahead as they begin with a tough test against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Will they open their season with a win? Our sports team weighs in with their predictions:
Can the Bills pull off the three-peat in 2021? In both 2019 and 2020, the Bills topped the Steelers on Sunday Night Football. But this year, things begin with a 1:00 p.m. Week 1 matchup in Orchard Park.
Pittsburgh boasts one of the best defenses in the NFL, led by All-Pro T.J. Watt. After a contract dispute that lasted all summer, Watt signed a contract extension on Thursday, so he should be on the field Sunday. That certainly complicates things for the Bills because Watt is a game-changer.
Last year, Bills' right tackle Darryl Williams did a great job containing Watt, but as he's shown throughout his career, Watt can make a big play at any moment. His presence also frees up some of the other Steelers pass rushers, who could create problems for Josh Allen.
On offense, the Steelers should lean heavily on their rookie running back Najee Harris. First-round running backs are usually thrown right into the fire and the Steelers will call his name early and often on Sunday. Defending the run was a problem for the Bills in 2020 and Harris will likely break off some big plays.
But with all that said, I'm taking the team led by Josh Allen. After an impressive summer, I think Allen and the offense will be able to pick up where they left off last season. Emmanuel Sanders is another target teams need to worry about and with the amount of depth the Bills have at wide receiver, Allen will have plenty of favorable matchups. If Pittsburgh shifts their focus on Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, and Sanders have a chance to feast.
This won't be a cakewalk by any stretch but I'm not picking against the home team with fans back in the stands.
Bills 26, Steelers 21
Season record: 0-0
Between Josh Allen's arm, the new pieces to the already stacked defense, and fans back at Highmark Stadium, I don't think you can pick against the Bills to start the season.
This weekend's game is going to be close, despite the hype surrounding this year's Bills squad.
Ben Roethlisberger has been around the block or two and is familiar with the Bills defense, playing them for the 3rd straight season. With Najee Harris now in the backfield they may see what the rookie can do, which should give the Bills run defense a good challenge to start the season in an area they had their struggles within 2020. The one area this Bills defense I think can exploit? Four of the five starters from the 2020 Steelers offensive line are no longer with the team. With the improved Bills pass rush, this should be an area to watch on Sunday.
Allen's arm is a dream for so many general managers and coaches and after the things he showed during the preseason, there should be a lot of confidence in the newly-extended Bills signal-caller. With an improved WR corps and a running back room that doesn't need to be leaned on, this Bills offense can do a lot of damage -- if they stay healthy.
The Bills are going to be FUN to watch and I can't remember the last time I or anyone said that at the beginning of a season.
My random predictions for the 1st game? I've got Gabriel Davis scoring the team's first offensive touchdown, and Greg Rousseau grabbing his first career sack.
Bills 29, Steelers 23
Season record: 0-0
The key to the game is the 12th man. In a year where Buffalo never had true home-field advantage, they had their best season in 25 years. With Bills Mafia in full force, Sean McDermott and company will start 2021 on the right foot, too.
Josh Allen needs to get into a rhythm early, though. Some of the worst completion percentages of his career have come against Pittsburgh. The pressure they bring and the man-to-man coverage could cause more of the same on that front.
But the Bills are one of the league’s best on paper, and I expect them to prove it on Sunday. Enjoy the ride; it should be a wild one in the best way this year!
Bills 27, Steelers 20
Season record: 0-0