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Pro Football Focus predicts Buffalo Bills just outside playoffs in 2017

The analytics site believes Buffalo will be in playoff contention this season but ultimately fail to have a winning record.

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Will the Buffalo Bills improve from their 7-9 record a season ago?

Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus thinks they will but doesn’t have the Bills making the playoffs this year.

He has the Bills finishing 8-8, good for the No. 7 spot in the AFC.

Here are Jahnke’s thoughts on the Bills:

"The Bills managed a 7-9 record in 2016 despite missing some of their best players for large parts of the season. In 2015 when Sammy Watkins was thrown to, the team had a passer rating of 128.8, which was third-best for all receivers, but he was only able to play in 381 snaps last year. Since 2014, interior defender Marcell Dareus has only four missed tackles in the run game, which gives him the second-best run-tackling efficiency in that time frame. While the Bills have some key contributors who are aging veterans, the return of their stars should keep them competitive during the season."

Fairly encouraging write up on Buffalo, and it brings me to a point I’ve been meaning to make in an article for a while.

Due to an insane amount of randomness that occurs in every NFL game and in every NFL season, the “difference” between a 7-9 team and a 9-7 is remarkably small, but the 7-9 team will almost universally be viewed as “bad” while the 9-7 club is typically playoff-caliber. Just something to keep in mind.

Here are the AFC’s six (playoff) teams ahead of the Bills in the PFF prediction:

Patriots (12-4)

Steelers (11-5)

Raiders (11-5)

Chargers (10-6)

Chiefs (9-7)

Titans (9-7)

None of those team picks or win totals seem crazy. The Chargers are probably the most surprising of the group, but there’s a fair amount of talent on both sides of the ball in Los Angeles. Making it through a season without a myriad of injuries would help Philip Rivers and Co. in a big way.

The Titans are the upstart crew here, and the Chiefs have been buoyed by a strong defense and the turnover-averse Alex Smith for years now.

The Patriots, Steelers, and Raiders are obvious picks for the top few seeds in the AFC.

The Bills host the Raiders on October 29 and face the Chargers and Chiefs on the road in back-to-back games on November 19 and November 26.

One thing seems to be true about this prediction — it has the Bills pegged to be better than most expect.