The Buffalo Bills are 8-3 after 11 games, sitting one game ahead of the second-place Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. The Bills have the third-best record in the conference, but thanks to their blowout loss against the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo sits fourth in the AFC playoff standings.
With five games remaining, the Bills control their own destiny with regard to winning their first divisional title since 1995. The Bills are also universally ranked as a top-eight squad in the NFL this week, and while opinions vary on the team’s long-term viability as it relates to a playoff run, it’s clear that most pundits are giving the Bills a healthy dose of respect.
We start over at ESPN, where the Worldwide Leader’s panel of experts ranked Buffalo No. 5 overall for the second consecutive week. In his write up, Bills reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques discusses Buffalo’s most important remaining game, which he deems to be the Sunday Night Football matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in two weeks. Louis-Jacques calls that game an opportunity for the Bills to “throw its hat in the ring of conference title contenders” against the only undefeated team in the league.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News has Buffalo ranked No. 5, as well, which is one spot higher than he ranked the Bills last week. He wrote that the Bills were in need of a complete performance in all three phases of the game, and that they received that for the most part against the Los Angeles Chargers. He wrote that there was some “shakiness” from Josh Allen, as the quarterback threw an ugly interception, lost a fumble, and made a few head-scratching throws under duress. Iyer was most encouraged by Buffalo’s defensive performance, which held an explosive L.A. offense in check for much of the day.
Nick Goss at NBC Sports has the Bills ranked No. 5 overall, which is actually a spot lower than he’s had them the prior two weeks. The Seattle Seahawks, whom the Bills beat 44-34 three weeks ago, leapfrogged Buffalo to take the No. 4 spot. Goss writes that the Bills “took another step towards securing their first AFC East Division title since 1995” by holding off the Chargers. He also noted that the Bills lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Titans thanks to their loss earlier in the year.
Matt Williamson at Pro Football Network continues to rank the Bills lower than anyone else, as he has them at No. 8 this week. He wrote that it was “encouraging to see the Bills get a ground game going, ending the day with 172 rushing yards.” He also noted that Josh Allen made some poor decisions, noting that three Buffalo turnovers in the fourth quarter kept the Chargers in the game, and very well could have been the deciding factor in what would have been a crushing loss.
Mitch Goldich at Sports Illustrated had his third turn to rank teams this season, and he placed the Bills No. 7 overall this week. He wrote that Buffalo’s season has been “a wild rollercoaster,” an assertion I’m not sure I agree with given that the team has been over .500 for the entire season. He writes that Buffalo “knows how to keep things exciting,” a clear reference to the team’s inability to put opponents away in games. If that’s the rollercoaster to which he’s referring, it’s probable that he hasn’t watched many Bills games over the last (checks notes) 40 years or so. (I can only speak to around 25 of those years, to be fair.)
Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has Buffalo all the way up at No. 4 this week. His Robert Christgau-esque review of the Bills this week reads as follows: “Ready or not, they’re coming to prime time for three of their next four games.” Those three games will shape the national view of the Bills for better or worse. Buffalo is already 0-2 in primetime this season, with a 42-16 loss to the Titans in Week Five followed by a 26-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6.
Frank Schwab at Yahoo! ranks the Bills No. 7 overall, up one spot from last week. Schwab writes that the Bills played an ugly fourth quarter against Los Angeles, but the Bills were able to hold on against a team that is much more talented than its record would suggest. Schwab deems the neutral-site “road” game a break for the Bills, noting that home field advantage has taken a bit of a backseat this season without fans in the stands, but it still hurts the actual road team less than it does the nominal home team on a neutral field.