Surprising Bills win again under coach of the year candidate Sean McDermott

At the midpoint of the season, there are a few teams who have been pleasant surprises: the Los Angeles Rams, the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills.

There wasn’t quite the doom and gloom from prognosticators around the Bills as there was around the Jets when the season began. But the Bills weren’t exactly a hot pick for an up-and-coming squad with it looking like the team wasn’t sold on quarterback Tyrod Taylor and under yet another new regime, this time with a first-time head coach in Sean McDermott and first-time general manager in Brandon Beane (and Beane wasn’t hired until May).

Buffalo rookie head coach Sean McDermott has the Bills looking like a playoff team. (AP)

After Sunday’s 34-14 home win over the Oakland Raiders, who were a preseason pick as a hot AFC team by many, Buffalo upped its record to 5-2, and McDermott is in the argument for NFL coach of the year with the Rams’ Sean McVay.

One of the big things McDermott has done since arriving in Buffalo is creating a culture of accountability, which may have been lacking during Rex Ryan’s brief tenure as head coach. More recently, that was seen in the trade of talented defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who wasn’t a happy camper.

McDermott spent six seasons as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator before arriving in Buffalo, and that unit has forcing turnovers at a tremendous rate in recent weeks. The Bills had four takeaways against the Raiders (two interceptions and two fumbles), their third straight game with at least three.

The Bills have 17 for the season (they had 16 all of last year), against just three giveaways; their plus-14 ratio leads the league.

The single-season record of plus-43 held by the 1983 Washington defense is likely out of reach, but the next-closest, plus-28, held by the 2010 Patriots and 2011 49ers, is possible.

Buffalo also allowed the Raiders to gain just 54 rushing yards on 14 carries, and shut Oakland down on 7-of-10 third-down attempts.

Taylor is certainly helped by the presence of LeSean McCoy, who had 151 rushing yards on Sunday. But Taylor completed nearly three-quarters of his passes against Oakland, and is completing 67.2 percent of his passes thus far this season, which would be a career best.

There’s still a ways to go, but at 5-2, Buffalo has put itself in good position for a playoff spot. The Bills are behind their AFC East rival, the Patriots, in the division standings (New England is 6-2 after a win over the Chargers), but Kansas City and Pittsburgh also have two losses though they have yet to play in Week 8.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Bills haven’t made the postseason this century. Their last appearance was at the end of the 1999 season, when they went 11-5 and lost to the Titans in the wild-card round.

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