Josh Allen has most important win of his NFL life vs. New England Patriots


Sunday, fun day. This was Josh Allen’s 63rd NFL game. Of course, the biggest one was the AFC Championship Game last year, when he and the Bills laid an egg in a 14-point loss at Kansas City. But they weren’t expected to win that game. Kansas City and the great Mahomes were.

The Bills weren’t necessarily expected to win Sunday in the de facto AFC East Championship Game either. But this was winnable. It was also crucial to a few things. One: the psyche of this team, beat down three weeks ago in the freaky Monday night weathery loss to New England in Orchard Park. Two: the psyche of western New York, which loves this team the way parent love their first-born. Three: the mental state of the franchise. New England had its two decades and six Super Bowls, and now, post-Brady, this was the Bills’ turn. Damn it, this was the Bills’ turn, and that 14-10 Patriots win with the 40-mph wind simply could not stand.

This is why I thought this was the most important victory of Allen’s NFL life.

He felt it. He knew it. When Allen met his teammates Sunday morning, he told them he woke up with violence on his mind.

Losing was not an option, in other words. They had to pay whatever price it took to win this game. “Violence” is the word newly minted hero Isaiah McKenzie told me early Sunday evening about Allen’s mindset … and it sounded strange, I must say, coming from a man dressed in a Whitney Houston T-shirt in the bowels of Gillette Stadium. “His point in saying he woke up with violence on his mind was we gotta come out and play every play like it’s the most important play,” McKenzie said. “And we felt that from the first play of the game.”

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
Bills quarterback Josh Allen. (Getty Images)

Think of Allen’s job Sunday. He had to beat the great Bill Belichick in Belichick’s house, and he had to win without two receivers he’d targeted a total of 34 times in the last two weeks. Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis both tested positive for Covid during the week, so Buffalo had to play without them. That meant the elevation of the 5-8, 173-pound McKenzie, who’d never had a big game in his life, never had seven catches in a game, never had 70 yards receiving in a game. He had seven catches all season entering this one, and he’s been deactivated for two games in the last month because of fumbling issues.

“He loses his returner position, had his ups and downs,” Allen said afterward. “He comes out and has an absolutely phenomenal day. I know it means a lot to him. It means a lot to us too.”

Allen went to him on Buffalo’s first series, waiting, waiting, waiting till McKenzie, trolling the back of the end zone, had a foot of space back there, and Allen lasered him one. That was a precursor. Allen trusted McKenzie (12 targets, 11 catches, 125 yards) the same way he trusted all-world Stefon Diggs (13 targets, seven catches, 85 yards). “That’s the great part of this day—Josh trusted me all day,” McKenzie told me.

One more thing about McKenzie. Watching this game was the perfect résumé tape for anyone who wants to know how much football means to this 5-8 kid from Miami who played college ball at Georgia. On the last play of the third quarter, after New England crept to within 20-14, McKenzie sprinted from the right slot to the left side of the field on third-and-two, and Allen hit him for a five-yard gain. Next play, starting the fourth quarter: Allen sent McKenzie up the left side against safety Kyle Dugger and led him perfectly on the sideline. Gain of 28. Five plays later, Buffalo scored to make it 26-14.

But the Patriots came back with another TD, and it was a one-score game again midway through the fourth quarter. Allen kept going to McKenzie, first for a 17-yard throw to the left sideline. Next play: With 6:42 left, on the same right-slot-to-left route, only a bit deeper, Allen laid it out for McKenzie, who stretched with every fiber he had, perfectly parallel to the ground, trying to make this vital catch. BANG! He caught it, slamming to the ground and knocking the wind out of him. The play:

“I was told if it was man-to-man [it was], Josh was coming to me and I had to come up with it, no matter what,” McKenzie said. “I did knock the wind out of myself, but there was no way I was dropping the ball.”

It was everything to Allen, too. He made zero dumb plays all day. In the past, he’d beat himself up for, as he said, “trying to play hero ball.” Not on this day. He took what the Patriots gave him, had a perfect touch on so many of his 47 throws, didn’t get greedy, and was a kingmaker on fourth downs. The magnitude of this game, and think of Allen’s bold efficiency: 12 carries for a team-high 64 yards, 30 of 47 for 314 yards with no interceptions on his 47 attempts, no sacks taken, and no fumbles on his combined 59 dropbacks/rushes. “I thought 17 had an incredible game today,” coach Sean McDermott said.

Oddly, Allen’s greatest play was a nifty yet awkward run on fourth down in the fourth quarter, soon after the tremendous catch that knocked the wind out of McKenzie. Buffalo up 26-21, fourth-and-one at the Patriots’ 34. New England packed the box. Ten men near the line. Allen play-faked, then bootlegged left, with only linebacker Jamie Collins and corner J.C. Jackson (coming off a block from Diggs) to beat.

Allen needed to get to the New England 33. At the 39, just turning the corner, he juked toward the inside, making Collins uncertain for a millisecond, and then Allen barged ahead, holding the ball out like that would make Collins and Jackson confused. He barged through the tiny hole between then, and the two Patriots knocked into each other like they were two of the Three Stooges. (History, kids.) First down. The play:

Two minutes later, Allen’s Favrian shovel-pass-for-touchdown to Dawson Knox clinched it. When it was over, the cornerstone player, Allen, told the opportunistic player, McKenzie: “I love you! So proud of you!”

“To be honest,” said McKenzie, “when I’m making those catches, I really have no idea what down it is, what the situation is. I’m in the zone, in the moment. All I knew is I had to take advantage of my chance.”

McKenzie and his quarterback both did that Sunday. That’s why the Bills are in control of the division this morning.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings: Zay Flowers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba top list


The 2023 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and across all positions, fans are eagerly tracking the names to know to see what prospects can bolster their team in the upcoming season. A top-quality pass-catcher is on the wish list for more than a few franchises, and ahead of the draft on April 27th, Chris Simms broke down his picks for the top five wide receivers in this year’s draft class, starting with Boston College’s Zay Flowers, who’s been rumored to be of interest for both the Saints and the Patriots. Stay tuned to the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast for the next month as Simms breaks down his rankings for every position group, and read on for the rest of his wide receiver rankings.

RELATED: Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings: C.J. Stroud leads the way, and a tie at No. 5

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Rankings

Tier One

1. Zay Flowers, Boston College

2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Tier Two

3. Quentin Johnston, TCU

4. Michael Wilson, Stanford

Tier Three

5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms Top 5 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receivers

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft WR Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ WR draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1 Zay Flowers (Boston College)

What Simms Said: “The position versatility – he can play inside or outside. Some of the best releases in the draft are from Zay Flowers. He is pedal to the metal every play, every cut, everything he does. The build, the style of running…I think he looks like Antonio Brown. He is an unbelievable route runner, along with the explosive athlete. You’re really getting a three-in-one here with speed burner on the outside, speed burner on the inside, and slot receiver inside. I wrote Jaylen Waddle, that’s a guy he reminds me of…(He) plays bigger than his measurables say. To me, he’s a top-20 pick.”

No. 2 Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

What Simms Said: “The speed is not blazing…but what’s off the charts good is the guy’s quickness and route running. His ability to come off the ball and be going 70% and almost jump in the air at the six-yard mark…it’s like Allen Iverson with an unbelievable crossover dribble. He’s got this unbelievable ability to change direction and then accelerate in a hurry. His ability after the catch…the first guy never tackles him…He reminds me of Jarvis Landry, to a greater version. This guy is about as high level of a route runner as you’re going to see in college.”

No. 3 Quentin Johnson, TCU

What Simms Said: “Tee Higgins-ish with more explosive ability than Higgins had coming out. He can catch the six-yard shallow cross and run 80 yards for a touchdown. His ability to jump – it’s a 40.5 inch vertical – plus he’s 6’3” and his arms look like they’re ridiculously long. He’s Drake London-ish from last year, except he doesn’t have the route running but has more of the straight speed…He’s one of the most physically impressive wide receivers in recent memory. You don’t see a lot of the route variety…but he shows the ability to change direction with the ball in his hands. He has better feet, quickness, and suddenness than most people with his size.”

No. 4 Michael Wilson, Stanford

What Simms Said: “This is where we’re going to go a little unconventional…But if you watch the film, you go, ‘There’s no doubt this is one of the best three or four receivers in this draft.’ There’s nothing he doesn’t do that’s top-notch…He ran a 4.58 at the Combine in the 40, (but) he plays way faster than that…The physical specimen is real, let alone the refined things you like to see in a receiver are real too. He can be another guy who could be inside or outside because he’s got the pure size and strength and speed to beat you outside but has the route running and it looks like the smarts to be that slot guy that catches your eye as well.”

No. 5 Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee 

What Simms Said: “If you like speed, then you like Jaylin Hyatt…This is a track start, straight-liner, DeSean Jackson-, Will Fuller-ish type of receiver. So, there’s going to be things about him that you love, there’s going to be some things about him that I’m not crazy about. He’s not a great route runner…I truly question whether he can do it, unlike the other guys where I try to piece things together. You can watch a bunch of catches and he never makes anybody miss, that’s not his game…If there’s a seam straight away, watch out…If he gets a free release or gets off the line of scrimmage the right way and you have a safety that doesn’t get back instantly, see ya. It’s going to be a 60-yard post for a touchdown. That’s where he’s special.”

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!