The Buffalo Bills entered play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens looking to build off a big win the week prior. Instead, the Ravens exposed some of Buffalo’s offensive flaws, shutting down the Bills for much of the afternoon. Still, Buffalo was only 16 yards away from tying the game in the fourth quarter of a game they ultimately lost 24-17.
After beating the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving day, the Bills saw a small bump in the Week 14 power rankings. After losing to Baltimore this week, Buffalo has maintained their position, losing only a spot or two in most cases.
For example, Mark Maske at the Washington Post has Buffalo ranked No. 10, which is three spots lower than last week. He didn’t have much to say other than the fact that the Bills “couldn’t quite make it happen against the Ravens.” The schedule doesn’t lighten up from here, as he notes Buffalo’s next two road games come against the 8-5 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 10-3, AFC East-leading New England Patriots.
The guys over at Bleacher Report dropped Buffalo out of the top ten, moving them down to No. 12 after last week’s loss. While they mention that there’s “no shame” in losing to Baltimore, they also note that the way in which Buffalo lost may have actually amplified doubts around the team. Since Buffalo’s offense was anemic for most of the day, with quarterback Josh Allen completing only 17-of-39 passes for just 146 yards and a touchdown, BR’s NFL staffers think that the Bills may have proven some of the doubters right about the Bills’ inability to step up against quality competition. They note that Buffalo should be in the playoffs, barring a total collapse, but they also think that if the Bills can’t win at least one of their next two games, they will be one-and-done in the postseason.
Vinnie Iyer at Bleacher Report actually moved Buffalo up this week, placing them at No. 9 after spending last week as the tenth team in his ranking. His rationale is simple: Buffalo contained MVP-candidate Lamar Jackson in a way that few teams have this year, and the Bills played a tough game against the league’s best team. Iyer notes that Buffalo “should have more confidence now in their own chances to steal the division from the Patriots.”
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune dropped Buffalo one spot, as he ranks the Bills No. 11 this week. The question he asks is really the essential question surrounding the Bills (pardon me for going all teacher-talk): “Was a 24-17 loss to the Ravens a sign that the Bills are not ready to compete on the big stage or a sign that they are close?” Given the fact that Buffalo’s offense was brutal for almost the whole day, and Corey Bojorquez’s punting was putrid, as well, I’m inclined to go with the latter.
Doug Farrar at USA Today has Buffalo ranked higher than anyone else, as he left them at No. 7 this week. He compared Buffalo’s defensive game plan against Jackson this week to that of the late Jim Johnson’s plan to shut down Michael Vick in the 2004 NFC Championship Game. Bills head coach Sean McDermott was the Philadelphia Eagles’ assistant secondary coach at the time, so the similarities have some merit. Buffalo spied gaps rather than spying Jackson himself, sending a “mush-rush” to contain him. Aside from a 61-yard dart on a blown coverage, the plan worked pretty well—other than that pass, Jackson completed 15-of-24 passes for 84 yards—although Jackson did a great job in the red zone after Buffalo gifted the Ravens solid field position.
ESPN left the Bills in the same spot this week, as well, with the Worldwide Leader keeping Buffalo ranked No. 10. Marcel Louis-Jacques discusses the team’s league rankings, noting the obvious point that Buffalo’s defense has kept the team afloat on more than one occasion this year. Via the FPI metrics, the Bills rank 22nd in offense and 24th in special teams, but they are eighth in total defense. Louis-Jacques states the obvious by saying that Buffalo wouldn’t be 9-4 with a shot at the AFC East title if not for its defense playing at an elite level for much of the year.
Matt Maiocco at NBC Sports left Buffalo alone, as well, leaving them ranked No. 9 this week. He says that the Bills “are going to be a tough out for some team in the AFC Wild Card round.” After a game that came down to Marcus Peters making an incredibly good play against John Brown, that assessment makes perfect sense.
Finally, Pete Prisco at CBS Sports ranks Buffalo No. 9, down a spot from their ranking last week. Prisco writes that Buffalo’s offense wasn’t nearly good enough to beat Baltimore, but he does say that the defense played up to the challenge. If the offense could have made a few more plays, the narrative surrounding that game would be very different.