The Buffalo Bills pulled out their fifth win of the season on Sunday, beating a winless Miami Dolphins team 31-21. The victory was much closer than many anticipated, as Buffalo entered the week 17-point favorites. However, at the end of the day, a ten-point victory counts just the same as a 30-point victory in the most important place: the standings.
Where a ten-point victory doesn’t count the same as a 30-point victory, however, is in the power rankings—as evidenced by Buffalo’s placement this week. With Buffalo needing another strong fourth quarter to overcome a weaker opponent, many analysts are downgrading the 5-1 Bills for winning without style points. In four of Buffalo’s wins this season, the team has either tied or trailed in the final period.
Brad Biggs of The Chicago Tribune has Buffalo at No. 9 this week, down one spot from their ranking heading into Week 7. Biggs gives the Bills credit for their best start since 2008, but he also notes that it has come against a weak slate of opponents, as the Bills have defeated five teams who have combined for six wins. He claims that the schedule is about to become much harder for Buffalo, noting that they have the 3-4 Philadelphia Eagles and a 1-6 Washington club coming to Orchard Park in consecutive weeks. Buffalo only plays three more games (vs. Baltimore Ravens, at the Dallas Cowboys, and at the New England Patriots) against teams that currently have winning records.
Pete Prisco at CBS Sports has Buffalo higher than any other pundit, ranking Buffalo No. 5 in the league. While he acknowledged that Buffalo’s victory over the Dolphins “wasn’t pretty,” he gives the Bills credit for doing what good teams do, which is find a way to win the game. He says that Buffalo has “the look of a playoff team.”
The Bills dropped one spot in ESPN’s weekly ranking, falling to No. 9, but they still received some praise from beat writer Marcel Louis-Jacques. This week’s theme was an updated goal for each of the NFL’s 32 teams, and Buffalo’s updated goal is “to make the playoffs,” according to Louis-Jacques. I almost want to argue that Buffalo’s goal should not merely be to make the playoffs, but to win its first playoff game since the 1995 AFC Wildcard round, but that’s a small quibble. Louis-Jacques says that the Bills have no excuse not to make the playoffs given the easy schedule they have remaining. This would be the first time since the 1998 and 1999 seasons that the Bills made the playoffs twice in a three-year span.
Scott Bair at NBC Sports also dropped Buffalo from the eighth spot to No. 9 overall, but he did so with a little less positivity than the Worldwide Leader. Bair wrote that “We can wonder aloud whether the Bills are a top-tier team (they’re not) until we run out of air, but 5-1 is 5-1. They’ve earned it.” There’s a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever seen one. After Buffalo struggled with Miami, however, I suppose the skepticism isn’t wholly unwarranted.
Dan Hanzus at NFL.com has Buffalo at No. 11 this week, dropping out of the top ten after placing tenth last week. He notes that Buffalo has “worked hard this season to convince the outside world they are legit contenders in the AFC,” but adds “that could have all been undone in 3.5 hours, had Buffalo not snapped out of it against the Dolphins on Sunday at New Era Field.” He calls the Bills a “tough team to gauge,” but he also notes that their “soft” schedule means they will most likely continue piling up victories week after week.
Doug Farrar at USA Today ranks Buffalo No. 11, down five spots from last week’s rankings. The precipitous drop is entirely due to the struggle it took to beat the hapless Dolphins, whom he correctly calls “more than competitive” during this week’s contest. He writes that Josh Allen has a pair of “get-well games against the secondaries of the Eagles and Redskins, which will go a ways to determine whether this game was an example of the Dolphins’ surprising competitiveness, or the Bills’ vulnerability as a passing team.” I’m not sure what he means, given Allen’s solid overall line (16-of-26, 202 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers). The Bills’ struggles had less to do with Allen and more to do with their inability to stop Miami on third downs in the early portion of the game.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News has Buffalo at No. 10, up one spot from last week’s rankings. He gives the team a “mild bump despite needing to dig deep to beat the winless Dolphins at home.” He also praised the team’s defense, referring to it as “stifling” while also noting that the success on that side of the ball provides Allen with room to grow on offense.
Finally, Jake Rill at Bleacher Report has Buffalo ranked No. 7 this week. While there’s no narrative written about the Bills, he does focus on the New England Patriots, questioning whether the team can go 16-0 on the season. He says the Pats have four tough games remaining on their schedule—the Baltimore Ravens, the Dallas Cowboys, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Houston Texans—that should provide the best test for them. Buffalo travels to New England in Week 16.