Buffalo Bills: nfl FUTURES & BETTING ODDS
The Buffalo Bills, like division rival the New York Jets, were born into the AFL in 1960. A bottom-dweller for its first three season, the Bills would find instant success with the signing of QB Jack Kemp, who had previously played in San Diego. Coach Lou Saban and Kemp won consecutive AFL titles in 1964 & 1965, then made another appearance in the championship game in 1966. A bet on the Buffalo Bills in that game, however, would not pay, as the team lost its bid for a three-peat to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Buffalo would again regress to the bottom half of the league, going through four head coaches through the end of the decade. In 1968, Kemp was injured, leading to a 1-12 season. The Buffalo Bills odds to improve after that season, however, were good – they selected future HOF RB O.J. Simpson with the #1 overall pick in that year’s draft.
The Bills rehired Saban to coach Simpson, and the pair would make its only playoff appearance of the decade in 1974, when it would lose to eventual champion Pittsburgh in the divisional round. Although Simpson put up gaudy numbers, leading the league in rushing four times, that would end up being his only playoff appearance. He would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985, nine years before his infamous trial and subsequent acquittal for the murder of his ex-wife.
Former Los Angeles Rams head coach Chuck Knox was hired in 1978 to bring the Bills out of obscurity. He would improve on the team’s dismal showings in ’76 & ’77, leading the team to its division crown (since the AFL-NFL merger) in 1980 and another playoff appearance in 1981. A bet on the Buffalo Bills in both games would not pay, however, as the team would lose to San Diego and Cincinnati, respectively, as six-point underdogs in both games.
Buffalo again dove back down towards the bottom of the standings. Knox was fired in 1982, and the team rotated through two more head coaches before it settled on Marv Levy. Levy had coached the Kansas City Chiefs for five seasons, compiling a modest 31-42 record. It was only with the Bills that Levy would create his Hall of Fame resume.
Levy inherited a team that acquired QB Jim Kelly after the collapse of the USFL. Kelly had actually been drafted by the Bills in 1983, but had decided to play for the Houston Gamblers instead. After the USFL folded, Kelly joined the squad that drafted him, and the Buffalo Bills odds for turning things around improved.
Kelly wasn’t the only talent acquired in the late 80’s, however. In 1985, the Bills drafted future HOF DE Bruce Smith first overall, then snagged future HOF WR Andre Reed in the fourth round. In 1988, Buffalo selected future HOF RB Thurman Thomas with the 40th overall pick. Kelly, Thomas, Reed, and WR James Lofton would comprise a dominant offense that ranked in the top-3 in four consecutive seasons, from 1989-1992, making the Buffalo Bills odds for success as high as it would ever be.
The year prior, Kelly and Levy burst onto the playoff scene, as they won the AFC East for the second time that decade. A bet on the Buffalo Bills to make the Super Bowl would not pay, however, as the team was beaten by Boomer Esiason and 4-point favorite Cincinnati. In 1989, the Bills again won their division, but were ousted in a high-scoring affair by the favored Cleveland Browns, a game in which Kelly threw for over 400 yards in the loss.
That playoff experience would propel the Bills to a dynasty of sorts – at least in the AFC.
A bet on the Buffalo Bills anytime in the ‘90’s would’ve been profitable, as the team made the playoffs in eight out of ten campaigns. Most notably, the Bills won four consecutive AFC titles. However, the Buffalo Bills odds to win the Super Bowl were not great, as the team would be favored in only one of the contests – SB XXV against the New York Giants. Achingly, kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired, and the Bills – the only team to appear in four straight Super Bowls - would go on to lose all four.
The Bills would stay relevant, however, unlike so many teams that appear in the big game and falter the rest of the decade. Kelly and Levy would make two more playoff appearances, in 1995 and 1996. A bet on the Buffalo Bills would not have paid, however, as the team lost to the Steelers and Jaguars, respectively.
When Levy and Kelly retired, the Buffalo Bills odds of staying competitive took a hit, but new coach Wade Phillips and underdog QB Doug Flutie kept the team afloat, earning wildcard berths in ’98 & ’99. But the Dolphins would beat the Bills in 1998 for Dan Marino’s last playoff victory, and a year later the Bills would suffer heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Titans after the Music City Miracle knocked them out of the playoffs.
The miracle set off a 17-year playoff drought that was broken by an upstart 2017 Bills team led by new head coach Sean McDermott. The Buffalo Bills odds to earn another wildcard berth with rookie QB Josh Allen seemed like a longshot, but in Allen’s sophomore season the team earned a postseason berth again, losing to Houston in overtime.
It all came together for the Bills in 2020, however. After a 13-3 regular-season campaign, the team won its first playoff games since 1993--home dates over Indianapolis and Baltimore--before falling in the AFC Championship game at Kansas City. With New England not at the level it was over the past two decades, the division now seems to be in the Bills' hands.