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Buffalo Bills remain steady in NFL power rankings

The team is regarded as a fringe top-ten squad yet again heading into the playoffs

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

NFL power rankings have not been kind to the Buffalo Bills for much of the last decade. Of course, much of that has been because the Buffalo Bills haven’t done a lot winning. Even with a ten-win season in 2019, the Bills “boast” a record of 71-89 since the start of the 2010 regular season. This season, most major outlets began by ranking the Bills according to that past failure.

Buffalo was often lumped in with the dregs of the league in September, with most outlets ranking them in the neighborhood of No. 21, right around the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers (isn’t it fun to look back at just how far off some of these are?). As the Bills kept collecting wins, the narrative focused less on their play on the field and more on their schedule—namely, that the schedule was so easy that anyone could win against it.

As the playoffs begin, the Bills find themselves holding serve from last week’s rankings, as most major outlets have the Bills ranked somewhere in the bottom-tier of all playoff teams. This is a far cry from where these analysts thought Buffalo would end their year, but it’s exactly where most of the Buffalo Rumblings staff expected them to be. Five of us (Dan Lavoie, Skarekrow, John Boccacino, Corey Giacovelli, and I) projected the Bills to finish 10-6, while everyone else who participated pegged the Bills for a 9-7 year.

As for this week’s national power rankings, we begin with ESPN, who didn’t do a traditional power ranking, per se, but instead ranked each playoff team’s chances at making the Super Bowl via their FPI system. Buffalo comes in as the least likely team to advance, as the simulator gives them just a .5% chance at advancing to the big dance. Kevin Seifert says that Buffalo’s reason for optimism is its strong defense, which was fifth in DVOA this year and second in points allowed; he also mentions safety Micah Hyde as the team’s “X-factor.” He says Hyde is “a strong tackler, has some burst as a blitzer and always finds a way to get near the ball.” Josh Allen is Seifert’s biggest reason for concern, noting that “any objective ranking of playoff passers would put him at or near the bottom.”

Pete Prisco at CBS ranks Buffalo No. 9 heading into the playoffs, one spot above their Wild Card opponent, the Houston Texans. Prisco writes that resting players in the season finale against the New York Jets was “the right thing to do.” He wrote essentially the same thing about both Houston and Buffalo, so it’s hard to tell what way he has the game breaking.

Peter Botte at the New York Post ranks Buffalo No. 10, two spots behind Houston in his power rankings. He notes that Allen came out after two possessions on Sunday (it was three, but I’ll give him a free pass), then he writes that Allen is ranked third among all quarterbacks in rushing, trailing only Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. Botte calls Buffalo’s defense “physical and opportunistic,” writing that they’ll need a strong performance to notch the franchise’s first playoff win since 1995.

Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News has two versions of his power rankings this week. One is a straight 1-32 for the entire league, and the second is a power ranking of the playoff teams in order of their chance to win the Super Bowl. In both cases, Iyer ranks Buffalo No. 8 overall. Regarding Buffalo’s place in the league overall, Iyer writes that head coach Sean McDermott is a top Coach of the Year candidate, as the team has played physical all year while making “timely big plays” en route to its first ten-win season since 1999. Regarding their chance to win Super Bowl LIV, Iyer likes the Bills for a few reasons. He calls Josh Allen “fearless,” he writes that Tre’Davious White is a “shutdown corner,” and he says that the team can toggle between “physical and finesse football” with ease. He thinks that the Bills’ biggest issue is their inexperience, and he also writes that they could be “doomed” against a strong running team. However, he thinks Houston is the weakest team in the playoff field, and he projects that the Bills will advance beyond round one.

Maurice Moton at Bleacher Report thinks Buffalo is the weakest team in the playoff field, as he has them ranked No. 12 overall. That puts Buffalo in his “Tier Two” rankings, with Houston (No. 9), the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 10), and the Tennessee Titans (No. 11) ahead of them. Moton writes that the Bills are the biggest surprise of the 2019 season, writing that “[Sean] McDermott and his coaching staff have squeezed the most out of the roster’s cumulative talent this season.” While he notes that most of the team’s statistics are “unimpressive” and most of the team’s playmakers are “unassuming,” he also thinks that teams shouldn’t “sleep on the Bills” during the playoff tournament.

Pat Yasinskas at Touchdown Wire kept Buffalo at No. 8 this week, writing that the team lost a meaningless game to the Jets this week. He also thinks that Buffalo has nothing to lose against Houston this week, writing that “anything the Bills do in this year’s postseason is gravy. It’s more about the future.” He notes that Tom Brady is aging (aren’t we all), and he thinks that the Bills could be in prime position to overtake the New England Patriots as soon as next year in the AFC East.

Finally, Nate Davis at USA Today ranked Buffalo No. 11—two spots lower than he had them prior to last week’s loss against the Jets. Davis thinks that Josh Allen has plenty of questions to answer in his playoff debut, as he expresses some doubt that Allen and the Bills’ offense can keep pace with a quarterback like Deshaun Watson of the Texans. Luckily, we’ll find out if those doubts are warranted sooner rather than later.