The Buffalo Bills are scorching hot, winners of six straight games, heading into Saturday's playoff bout against the Indianapolis Colts.
Quarterback Josh Allen's third-year improvement has typified a Bills squad that coalesced around its star quarterback. Down the stretch, no team was playing as well as Sean McDermott's well-rounded club.
Allen, however, knows the impressive 13-3 season and all the praise heaped his way will be hollow if the Bills don't beat the Colts on Saturday afternoon.
"Nothing matters unless we win this one," Allen said Tuesday, via the Buffalo News. "That's our mindset, going from playoff-caliber to championship-caliber, something Coach McDermott always preaches to us."
The Bills organization has lost six straight playoff games, the third-longest streak in the NFL. Their last win came in the 1995 playoffs. Since then, it's been one Wild Card loss after another. Of the six Wild Card failures, two have come under McDermott's tenure.
Last year's loss to Houston included an epic collapse, with the Bills squandering a 16-point lead to lose in overtime.
The defeat was characterized by rollercoaster play from Allen, who looked marvelous in building a lead only to be struck by bouts of wild play. The QB said last year's loss spurred his Pro Bowl season.
"It still lingers a little bit, just knowing the situation of the game and things I could have done differently and reads I could have changed," he said. "If I could change it, I obviously would, but I'm glad I can't. I'm glad for the lessons that I've learned throughout that game and, really, throughout the three years that I've been playing so far.
"Without failure, people don't know success."
From the moment last year's postseason run ended to today has been a massive upswing for Allen and the Bills. The QB has gone from hearing hecklers to being unquestionably one of the top signal-callers and difference-makers in the NFL. Allen's ability to fit the ball in tight windows, throw darts from any platform, and running acumen make him a handful for any opponent. Lessening the mistakes and boneheaded plays has turned the signal-caller into a raging force. Allen has swiped the mantel of most lethal red-zone threat with his ability to fire bullets combined with being able to bowl over defenders.
All the goodness flowing from Western New York this year was built off that playoff loss.
"I think the main lesson was not to press, understanding the situation we were in," Allen said. "Obviously, if I could go back and change things, I would. But I'm glad they went down the way they went down. I was able to learn a lot from it and, hopefully, carry that playoff experience into Saturday's game."
With Allen playing at a superior level, NFL leading receiver Stefon Diggs unguardable, and a defense that has become lockdown as the season progressed, the Bills enter the postseason as well-rounded a team as any in the NFL.
After six straight wild-card losses, Saturday's bout against the Colts in the Super Wild Card round could be the springboard to a deep postseason run in Buffalo.