After a draining loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills have left themselves nearly no margin for error during the rest of their season. If the team wants to return to the playoffs for the second time in three years, they’ll need to beat the teams they are “supposed” to beat, but they may also need to win a game against a quality football team.
This week has plenty of Bills fans feeling down, trying to make some sense of it all, but the NFL truly makes no sense at all sometimes. In a week where the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, and San Francisco 49ers all lost, it just goes to show that anything can happen on any given Sunday.
When looking at the power rankings this week, the feeling that Buffalo is still searching for a win of substance—that is, a win against a team with a strong record or a convincing win against a weak opponent—is prevalent among most writers for most major outlets. The Bills had a chance to pull out a tough road win, but they stymied themselves in a frustrating overall effort.
We start off with Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, who has Buffalo ranked all the way down at No. 18 heading into Week 11. The four-spot drop is indicative of the team’s struggles against a “bad” Cleveland team, as Biggs writes. He also notes that Josh Allen has been unable to complete passes “much more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage,” which is partially accurate—Allen has been solid in the intermediate (11-20) range, but horrific in the deep range (20-plus). According to Biggs, since teams are “loading the box to take away the run,” Buffalo’s offense is struggling.
Pete Prisco at CBS Sports remains on the Buffalo bandwagon, ranking the team at No. 9 this week, which is exactly where he had them last week. He notes that Buffalo is “still the Wild Card leader. But they’ve lost two of the last three games and haven’t looked good doing so.” He concludes with a thought that every Buffalo fan has thought since Bill Clinton was president: “They need more offense.”
Buffalo comes nearly in the immediate middle of Bleacher Report’s rankings, falling to No. 17 after occupying the eleventh spot last week. Their trio of analysts write that the “shine is starting to come off the Bills,” as their poor offense is not doing enough to prop up their stellar defense. Gary Davenport writes that the Bills will most likely make the playoffs given how bad the AFC is this year, but he says that the team doesn’t “have the offense to hang with the Patriots in a playoff game. Or the Chiefs. Or the Texans.” He thinks the Bills will qualify and lose in the first round. Brad Gagnon, however, is more pessimistic, writing that Buffalo “will be lucky to finish with a winning record” despite its 6-2 start.
Scott Bair at NBC Sports boosted Buffalo in his rankings despite the team’s loss. He ranks Buffalo at No. 10 this week, up one spot from last week. He writes that much of the league is regressing to the mean, and he has a few teams (the Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Philadelphia Eagles) with five wins that may actually be better than the Bills ranked behind them. However, he notes that the “Bills are in line for a tumble” with “plenty of good teams left on the schedule.”
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News dropped Buffalo two spots, as the Bills come in at No. 15 this week. He notes that the team has already been able to prevail in several “battles of attrition” this season, so it should come as no surprise that one of those games finally went against them. He also writes that Josh Allen “is simply not playing well enough for them to feel comfortable about their wild-card status.”
Doug Farrar with USA Today ranks Buffalo at No. 11, down two spots from their previous ranking. He also spends time writing about Allen’s performance, providing specific stats about his troubling lack of accuracy on downfield passes this season. Farrar shares data from Pro Football Focus, writing that Allen has “completed just 12 of 43 passes [that traveled over 20 yards in the air] for 350 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 39.7.” The only quarterback this season with a lower completion percentage who has enough attempts to qualify is Kyle Allen of the Carolina Panthers. Farrar noted that in a tight game like Sunday’s contest, the ability of Baker Mayfield to make just a few more plays than Allen was the difference.
Mark Maske at the Washington Post ranked Buffalo at No. 16, down four spots from their previous ranking. He didn’t have much to say, but what he said was certainly enough. Maske wrote, “Losing at Cleveland raises plenty of questions about how good the Bills really are.” Before analyzing the play of the quarterback, the effectiveness of the kicker, the play-calling on offense, the pass rush, or anything else, that simple sentence speaks volumes about the 2019 Buffalo Bills.
Finally, Marcel Louis-Jacques at ESPN was asked to write about the No. 13-ranked Bills and their most important remaining game. He wrote that it’s the December 15 match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have come on strong in the middle of the season. Given Buffalo’s loss to Cleveland this weekend, that game could very well decide a tie-breaker that will determine who enters the playoffs as a Wild Card and who goes home. Louis-Jacques mentions the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, and Tennessee Titans as other teams who will vie for those Wild Card spots.