How soon will Buffalo's interminable championship drought end?
The stiff arm was cathartic. Symbolic, even. Regardless of whether Josh Allen delivers a title to Western New York, he's already proven that the Buffalo Bills are a force.
What Allen did to Los Angeles Rams safety Nick Scott in the season opener is what the football gods have done to Buffalo for generations. The Bills' most recent championship - they reigned over the American Football League in 1965 - predates the Super Bowl. They lost four of those championship games in a row to start the 1990s, the first when Scott Norwood's kick sailed wide right and the remainder in blowouts.
Until Allen became an MVP candidate, the Bills hadn't won a playoff game in his lifetime. They're better off now. The 26-year-old quarterback is surgical and explosive and he smoked the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, finding Stefon Diggs on three straight touchdown passes Monday night to treat the Orchard Park faithful to a show.
Downtown, the Buffalo Sabres report to training camp Wednesday hoping to break their own chronic losing streak. The Sabres are the oldest NHL franchise that's never won the Stanley Cup (the Vancouver Canucks share that record) and they haven't reached the playoffs since 2011.
The Sabres aren't Cup contenders this year - far from it - but smaller goals might be achievable. After missing the playoffs by 25 points in 2021-22, they're on the upswing at the same time as the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators, the Atlantic Division rivals mired in the NHL's next-longest postseason droughts.
These teams have rebuilt and want to upend the division's playoff hierarchy - if not this season, then ASAP. The Bills can relate.
Humbled by the New England Patriots throughout Tom Brady's prime, the Bills have been a juggernaut since Brady switched conferences. Von Miller's arrival bolstered a formidable defense that led the league in points allowed and DVOA last season. Since Diggs got to Buffalo in 2020, he's tied for second in the NFL in catches and ranks fourth in receiving yards, benefiting from his rapport with an elite passer.
On the ice, the Sabres went 16-9-3 over March and April last season to signal that their future's sunny. Jeff Skinner rediscovered his 30-goal touch and first-line center Tage Thompson almost scored 40. Buffalo has four promising forwards who've yet to turn 22 - Dylan Cozens, Peyton Krebs, Jack Quinn, and JJ Peterka - to deploy in front of Rasmus Dahlin and preseason rookie of the year favorite Owen Power.
The club's moved on from its latest lowlight. Like Norwood's missed kick, Brett Hull's foot-in-the-crease Cup winner in 1999 denied Buffalo fans glory in an instant. In contrast, the Jack Eichel split took months to finalize. Deep into their dispute over how his neck injury should be surgically repaired, Sabres management stripped Eichel's captaincy a year ago Friday before the Vegas Golden Knights traded for him last November.
The Sabres' points percentage was .456 over 375 games with Eichel in the lineup. Even as Allen rose to stardom, Buffalonians didn't get to root for two good teams at once.
That sums up local sports history. Since the Bills and Sabres debuted in their respective leagues in 1970, both teams have made the playoffs in the same year a mere 12 times. Half of those seasons happened in the 1990s and the most recent was 1999-2000, when Tennessee stunned the Bills in the Music City Miracle game.
They've won a round in the same season precisely once: The Sabres swept the Boston Bruins in the 1993 Adams Division semifinals - Rick Jeanneret went wild when Brad May clinched the series - a few months after the Bills rolled to their third straight Super Bowl appearance and defeat.
Will their contention windows align soon? That's for fans and the Pegula family to think about, not for the Sabres' young core to sweat, but it'll depend on those players improving fast enough to meet the Bills' standard.
Bills defenders forced three interceptions and racked up seven sacks against the Rams, thumping Matthew Stafford and the reigning champs in prime time. Buffalo leads the league in takeaways (seven), yards allowed per play (3.6), and QB pressure rate, hounding the passer on 60.7% of dropbacks. Meanwhile, Allen's completion rate is 75.4% and he's passed or run for eight TDs already, elevating the Bills' early point differential to plus-55.
Marvelous young quarterbacks crowd Buffalo's path to the Super Bowl. The defense looks special, but to end the title drought, Allen has to outgun his AFC peers in the years ahead. Showdowns loom in the next four weeks with Tua Tagovailoa, Lamar Jackson, and Patrick Mahomes, who tormented the Bills' secondary in last season's playoff heartbreaker.
Sports misery doesn't have to last forever. In 2015, The New York Times ranked Cleveland, Atlanta, and Washington among the five "most cursed sports cities" in the United States, citing gut punches that ranged from Earnest Byner's goal-line fumble to the Capitals' tendency to blow series leads.
Each of those cities went on to win an NBA, World Series, or Stanley Cup title. The laggards on the list are Buffalo and San Diego, which turns out in droves to support the Padres but lost the Chargers to L.A. in 2017.
So things could be worse in Buffalo. Soon, they might even improve.
Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.
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