The Bills are moving up thanks to some other teams’ struggles
The Buffalo Bills may not have played a game last week, but in most NFL power rankings, they still received a bit of a bump heading into their Week 12 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. With the Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, and, most importantly, the Miami Dolphins all losing last week, Buffalo gained some much-needed breathing room between them and some other AFC squads.
The Bills find themselves in the AFC’s third seed for the 2020 playoffs for now, but they’ll need to continue picking up wins (and get some help) in order to maintain that position. We wrote about the Bills’ slim chances at moving beyond the third seed earlier this week, but Buffalo could very well slide up or down in the seeding over the next month and a half.
We’ll start with Frank Schwab at Yahoo!, who ranks the Bills No. 8 this week. That puts the Bills sandwiched between two teams they’ve beaten this year—the No. 9 Seattle Seahawks and the No. 7 Los Angeles Rams—and is two places higher than they were ranked last week. Schwab writes that the Dolphins’ loss this week was an important victory for Buffalo, as the Bills would prefer to be playing a meaningless game Week 17. That’s a common theme throughout this week’s power rankings.
Gary Gramling at Sports Illustrated has the Bills ranked No. 5 this week. He writes that quarterback “Josh Allen’s rise to stardom has masked a struggling defense,” adding that it is “encouraging” Buffalo lost two cornerbacks (Levi Wallace and Josh Norman) a mere 24 hours before playing the Arizona Cardinals and it still took a miracle Hail Mary to beat them. He adds that Buffalo’s “worst-case scenario” is a Week 17 AFC East “championship game” against Miami.
Marcel Louis-Jacques at ESPN ranks Buffalo No. 5, up two spots from their ranking last week. ESPN’s theme this week is “what each team is thankful for”—appropriate given the week—and Louis-Jacques writes that the Bills are thankful for a franchise quarterback. That’s something the team hasn’t had in 25 years, so it’s an easy call to make. Louis-Jacques writes that Allen is “a legitimate MVP candidate at his best and a good starter at his worst.” That level of competence should make us all rest easy when it comes to Buffalo’s future prospects.
Dan Hanzus at NFL.com has Buffalo ranked No. 7, one spot behind Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hanzus notes that “the weather is about to turn in Buffalo, which means it’s time for the Bills to finally figure out their running game.” That’s a common trope about playing in Western New York, and Hanzus feels that the team has been too reliant on the passing game and Josh Allen. It would certainly be nice to have a functioning rushing attack led by either Devin Singletary or Zack Moss as the team heads into a playoff push. They’ll need to figure out the offensive line while they’re at it.
Pete Prisco at CBS Sports has the Bills ranked No. 8 this week, right where they were heading into the bye week. He writes about the breathing room Buffalo now has thanks to Miami’s loss, but he also focuses on the defense. He accurately notes that the team has to be much better in that phase of the game moving forward if they want to be a legitimate challenger.
Mark Maske at The Washington Post has Buffalo ranked No. 9, right ahead of the Cleveland Browns and right after the Seattle Seahawks. Maske discusses the importance of having a one-game lead over the Dolphins, noting the contest between Buffalo and Miami in Week 17 “looms large.” While it’s very possible that the game could be for the division, there’s a lot of ground to cover between now and then, with both teams having quite a few matchups against quality opponents before they meet. Buffalo still has to play the San Francisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the New England Patriots, as well as the Denver Broncos squad that just beat Miami. The Dolphins have games against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Las Vegas Raiders on tap, as well.
Matt Williamson at Pro Football Network also has Buffalo ranked No. 9 this week, right ahead of the Raiders and right below the Tennessee Titans. Williamson notes that the Bills’ point differential is just plus-seven, which is quite poor for a team with a 7-3 record. However, he also writes that the Bills are talented enough to “hang with anyone.” Ultimately, it matters more that the team wins than it does win big, and Buffalo has proven that they have what it takes to win in tight contests.
Finally, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has Buffalo all the way up at No. 4 this week, right behind the New Orleans Saints and right ahead of the Rams. Florio writes that Buffalo’s game with the Pittsburgh Steelers is “looming,” while the team’s first division title since 1995 is “waiting.”