The energy and enthusiasm that quarterback Josh Allen brings to the Buffalo Bills is no secret in western New York.
But more and more, the rest of the country is seeing it too, thanks to a spate of primetime NFL games for the team.
“If you take a proud tradition and a fan base that hasn’t seen much success, you get a lot of energy,” said Jon Lewis, owner and writer at SportsMediaWatch.com, which tracks viewing trends and analytics for professional sports. “There is a lot of interest in the atmosphere and the underdog story.”
No doubt about it, Buffalo has plenty of both when it comes to football and that’s what helps decision making at TV networks, even if Buffalo is one of the smallest markets in the NFL. But it’s also Allen’s dynamic and the revival he’s leading for the Bills that draws attention, not to mention TV channels.
A big help is the team’s success with three consecutive winning seasons and three consecutive playoffs. Especially after the team ended a drought of 17 consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance in 2017.
But more than winning, there’s another brilliant metric: Prime time games.
For much of the 2000s and up to two seasons ago, the bills were an afterthought for television networks and national audiences.
But a lot has changed. In his four seasons, Allen played in 11 prime-time games.
In the 18 seasons prior to Allen’s arrival (1999-2017), nine different Bills played QBs in 16 prime time games.
“You’ve got a young, star quarterback on the rise and that’s always a great story,” Stewart said. “The pull of the underdog and the crazy behavior (of fans) add to the mystique.”
The Bills aren’t exactly breaking the ratings record for matches aired on national television, but it’s clear it’s a draw, Stewart said. That goes back years, even to the string of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the 1990s.
“That created some relevance to the bills,” he said.
Losing all four Super Bowls helped forge Buffalo’s underdog image and typically Americans enjoy witnessing that journey with the hope of a happy ending.
That alone can be a fascinating story to follow. In those circumstances, add the vibe of Buffalo’s weather and the antics of the Bills Mafia and you have an attractive product.
“A small market with a personality can be a draw,” said Lewis.
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Sure, the numbers don’t lie.
During the 18 years prior to Allen, the Bills had never scheduled more than two games for prime time, and during five of those seasons (2002-2006), that number was zero.
But this season, Buffalo had four prime-time games between Sunday, Monday and Thanksgiving Day games. The Bills also had four prime-time games scheduled for the 2020 season, but they became five after the game against Tennessee was moved to a Tuesday night due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Even in 2019, Allen’s first full season as a starter, the Bills entered the season with only the Thanksgiving Day game against Dallas as the only prime time slot. That was the game in which the Bills surprised the Cowboys and undoubtedly played a part (along with the playoff ramifications) in the NFL’s decision to change Buffalo’s game against Pittsburgh two weeks later to a Sunday night game. . It was Buffalo’s first Sunday night game since 2007.
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The Bills won the AFC East title for the second consecutive season in 2021, a clear sign that the team is once again a championship contender. It’s something Bills fans have been waiting for for years, making football life in western New York fun again.
And thanks to more prime-time exposure, it’s a football celebration that’s gone national.
Prime time records in the regular season for Bills by QB (since 1999)
Josh Allen: 7-4
Tyrod Taylor: 1-4
Trent Edwards: 0-3
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 1-1
Derek Anderson: 0-1
Kyle Orton: 0-1
EJ Manuel: 0-1
Alex Van Pelt: 0-1
Rob Johnson: 1-0
Doug Flutie: 1-0
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills enjoy primetime football party with a national audience