The Buffalo Bills enter Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season at 6-2 with four divisional wins in four divisional games and a two-game lead on the second-place Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. After dispatching the New England Patriots this past Sunday with a 24-21 victory, the Bills are in the driver’s seat on the quest for their first division title since 1995.
While faith in the Bills wavered a bit following consecutive losses to the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs, blue-collar victories over the New York Jets and the Patriots have stabilized Buffalo’s spot in most power rankings. Sure, neither victory jumps out as a dominate performance, but in a league where wins are incredibly hard to come by, it’s always better to win while knowing you can improve than it is to lose while playing as well as you could have.
Our first ranking comes from Pete Prisco at CBS Sports. He has Buffalo at No. 6, which is as highly as they’re ranked this week. He called Sunday’s win a “big-time victory” over the Patriots, even if it wasn’t a “pretty” victory. Prisco speaks for Bills fans everywhere when he writes that the team’s run defense, currently allowing 4.7 yards per carry, needs to be better.
Marcel Louis-Jacques at ESPN has Buffalo ranked No. 7. This week’s theme is “reasons for optimism,” and Louis-Jacques writes that the Bills should be optimistic about their improved offense. At first, I thought he meant “improved over the last few weeks,” so I was confused, but Louis-Jacques means that the offense has improved from last season. After a hot start in September where Buffalo seemingly threw the ball at will, the team has cooled significantly over the last month. Consecutive weeks in bad weather haven’t helped matters, and injuries to John Brown have limited the passing game’s effectiveness, but a switch from man concepts to zone defenses deployed against the Bills has taken the splash plays Josh Allen hit so frequently in September. Louis-Jacques notes that Buffalo’s running game, which exploded for 190 yards and three touchdowns this weekend, may finally be catching up to the passing attack. Buffalo is currently 13th in total yards in the NFL, but he thinks that the Bills can finish with a top-ten offense in total yardage for the first time since 2000.
Justin Leger at NBC Sports has Buffalo ranked No. 8 this week. He wrote that the team’s victory over the Patriots wasn’t pretty, but that the Bills “took advantage” of Cam Newton’s big turnover to clinch a big divisional win. He also wrote that Josh Allen was “subpar” in the victory, and aside from one throw (the interception where he and Stefon Diggs miscommunicated), I totally disagree. Allen should have added a touchdown pass to his ledger, but Gabriel Davis couldn’t secure the catch before Tyler Bass hit what ended up the game-winning field goal.
Matt Williamson at Pro Football Network has Buffalo ranked No. 11, which is as low as the team is ranked this week. He writes that it was encouraging to see both Zack Moss and Devin Singletary surpass 80 yards rushing last week, especially in a week where Allen “didn't shine” in nasty conditions at Bills Stadium. Williamson speculates that the Bills may have eliminated the Patriots from contention with the victory. It feels a little early to be throwing dirt on New England’s grave, but I certainly wouldn’t mind if he turns out to be correct.
Mark Maske at The Washington Post has Buffalo ranked No. 8 this week, up five spots from their (absurd, in my opinion) No. 13 ranking last week. Maske echoed the sentiments of many in calling Sunday’s win a “changing-of-the-guard” moment in the AFC East, as the focus has gone from the Tom Brady-led Patriots to the Josh Allen-led Bills and Tua Tagovailoa-led Miami Dolphins.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News has Buffalo ranked No. 7, four spots ahead of the Tennessee squad that beat Buffalo 42-16 just three weeks ago. Iyer writes that the Bills “don’t care how they beat the Patriots” on Sunday, as the team will take a win any way it comes. He writes that Buffalo is well positioned to win its first divisional title in 25 years thanks to their early success.
Finally, Mike Florio has the Bills ranked at No. 8 this week, up one spot from their ranking last week. He writes that the Bills are “headed for the playoffs, and possibly an early exit from them.” At present, the Bills hold the AFC’s No. 3 seed, and they would play host to the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. A lot can change between now and then, however, so it’s probably safer to cross the bridge when we come to it rather than speculating too much.