What a cruel twist of fate this is for the Buffalo Bills. All year long they've done extremely well living up to the hype as Super Bowl favorites, earning the AFC's No. 1 seed to date. They were supposed to get legendary pass-rusher Von Miller back at some point, but now it's been revealed he's done for the year and then some.
It'd be a surprise if Miller managed to bounce back for Week 1 in 2023 given that he'll be entering his age-34 season. Then again, he's one of the freakiest athletes of his generation in the NFL, and has overcome major injuries before. It just sucks that the Bills will be without one of their key contributors for the stretch run as they try to achieve their first Lombardi Trophy.
Miller was such a pivotal player on last year's champion, the Los Angeles Rams. They sacrificed a second-round pick during an in-season trade — and it wound up being well worth it. Buffalo pounced on the chance to pay Miller massive money in free agency. He was injured in the Bills' Thanksgiving win in Detroit and wound up with eight sacks in only 12 games.
By the way: Noteworthy...
I'm a tad more nuanced in my opinion since writing the above blog on the turf vs. grass debate in the NFL. Won't get into it here so as not to stray off-topic. But just saying. On to the pure football side and who needs to rise to the occasion in Miller's absence.
One of Buffalo's strengths is roster depth, and it just so happens there's a good amount of it on the defensive line, particularly on the edge. AJ Epenesa and Boogie Basham were second-round selections in 2020 and 2021 respectively, but the player who'll really be tasked with stepping up is Gregory Rousseau. He was a draft classmate of Basham's as the 30th overall pick and has blossomed into a promising player. In fact, Epenesa and Rousseau just missed multiple games but returned for Week 12's Thursday night win over the Patriots. Basham didn't play on Thanksgiving. Shaq Lawson is also in the rotation. LOTTA DUDES.
While Rousseau's freaky 6-foot-7 length and physical tools allow him to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and defend the run reasonably well, the Bills will be looking to the young gun Epenesa-Basham combo and Lawson to step up in the latter area when the postseason rolls around. Buffalo can take solace in having Josh Allen leading their offense, and the Bills' ability to hang points on anyone can often force opponents to become one-dimensional to play catch-up.
But Miller's absence goes beyond what he brings to the gridiron as a defender. He's a Super Bowl MVP and a two-time champion overall whose experience and leadership would've been invaluable as the Bills try to go all the way. Although he'll still be around the team and serve as a mentor to those who have to pick up the slack in his stead and the other stars in the locker room, I can't emphasize enough how much this sucks. Even as a Bengals guy, I want to see every team as healthy as possible when all the marbles are on the line. Everyone deserves to put their best foot forward. Unfortunately for the Bills, they'll be down a big-time star at a premium position who could've built out his legacy to potentially unprecedented levels by sparking a Super Bowl run with a third different franchise.