The Bills are one of the top challengers for the Lombardi trophy. Can they bring it home to Orchard Park?
The Buffalo Bills closed out the 2021 regular season with an 11-6 record. While that record was good enough to win the AFC East for the second straight year, it felt as if the team could have been even more dominant. With five losses by one score or less, that feeling is justified, as the Bills could just as easily have finished 15-2 with some better luck in those one-score contests.
However they did it, the Bills were able to repeat as division champs for just the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Most metrics and critics alike give the Bills sound odds not only to win a playoff game, but to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to win the Super Bowl.
As for the power rankings, we start with Dan Hanzus of NFL Network, who ranks Buffalo No. 5 among the teams in the league heading into the postseason. Hanzus called Buffalo’s Week 18 defensive effort, a dominant performance against the New York Jets, a “party” that really began a celebration of clinching the division. Hanzus noted Buffalo’s underwhelming performance on offense for the second-straight week against another porous defense, however, and he notes that Buffalo’s inconsistency makes them a difficult team to peg as we enter the postseason. He ends by noting that the Bills have the talent to make a deep run in the tournament, however.
Over at Sports Illustrated, the staff of The MMQB compiled a poll that placed Buffalo in a tie for No. 3 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The blurb about Buffalo describes the team’s “vulnerability” at times during the season, but notes that the Bills won the division, which gives them the right to host New England in the teams’ third meeting this season.
There are two different rankings this morning from CBS Sports, and both lists have the Bills at No. 4 this week. Pete Prisco’s ranking consists of all 32 teams in the league, so his is the more traditional power-rankings piece. Prisco notes that the Bills need to be better than they’ve been in wins over the Jets and the Atlanta Falcons over the last two weeks—I assume that he means on offense—if they want to parlay their win streak into a Super Bowl win. Cody Benjamin ranked all of the teams in the postseason, and he thinks that the Bills finding a running game will only help quarterback Josh Allen improve on last year’s playoff performance.
Dalton Miller at Pro Football Network has Buffalo ranked No. 5, writing that the team needs to find more consistent rushing weapons outside of Josh Allen. He notes that Devin Singletary gained 88 yards this week, but is skeptical about Singletary’s ability to gain yardage consistently since 40 of those yards came on one carry. Singletary has 323 rushing yards on 76 carries, good for a 4.3 yards per carry average, over his last four games. He’s also caught eight passes for 73 yards, and he’s scored six total touchdowns in that timeframe. I’d say that the Bills have found a complementary piece in their own backyard by making Singletary the workhorse back that the offense lacked.
Vinnie Iyer at Sporting News has Buffalo ranked No. 5 this week. He writes that the Bills looked poised to replace the Kansas City Chiefs at the top of the conference back in October, but a 3-5 stretch over the eight games that followed torpedoed those ideas. Anticipating a second meeting between the two, Iyer feels that nothing will come easy to Buffalo, as Patrick Mahomes has mostly righted the ship. He notes that Josh Allen has overcome his own midseason slump, as well.
Lastly, Kevin Seifert at ESPN was tasked with writing about each playoff team within each conference. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Bills a 23% chance at making the Super Bowl. That trails only the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC, who both clock in at 28% odds. The Green Bay Packers (38 percent) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30%) have the best odds overall. Seifert wrote about each team’s reason for hope and cause for concern. He feels that Josh Allen is Buffalo’s reason for hope, though he spends more time discussing Allen’s interceptions than one would have expected. He calls the Bills “the Josh Allen Show,” noting that “isn’t a bad place to be.” His cause for concern with the club is that, in his estimation, Buffalo’s top-ranked defense has “largely feasted this season on inferior quarterbacks.” He goes so far as to surmise that the Bills actually underperformed this year given how easy their schedule was. For a defense already playing angry thanks to having zero Pro Bowl players, this level of disrespect is sure to add fuel to an already raging inferno.