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Buffalo Bills among NFL’s elite in Week 15 power rankings

Buffalo is in the conversation with the top teams in the league

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are 10-3, ensuring their first back-to-back ten-win seasons since 1998-1999. The team has nearly a 100 percent chance of making the playoffs, and with a win on Saturday over the Denver Broncos, they’ll clinch their first AFC East Division title since 1995.

While 2020 has been an awful year by most accounts, in terms of Bills football, it’s been a banner year so far. Last year, the team felt like a group of plucky upstarts who were good enough to compete, but ultimately weren’t good enough to go much farther than the first round of the NFL Playoffs. This group, however, feels different. With an offense built to match the league’s best and a defense rounding into shape at the right time, this is the first Bills team that can legitimately be considered a contender in a generation.

These feelings are reflected by some national media types, as well, as the Bills have risen to new heights in this week’s slate of power rankings. Buffalo was already a near-universal pick at the No. 5 spot, but now the team finds itself in even more rarified air after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

We start over at NFL.com, where Dan Hanzus has the Bills ranked lower than anyone else this week. He has Buffalo at No. 4, one spot higher than they were last week. Hanzus writes that the Bills “are peaking at the right time,” and then he compared their victory over Pittsburgh to a heavyweight boxing match. He wrote that Josh Allen looked like “a superstar” in Buffalo’s win over the San Francisco 49ers, and he called this win over Pittsburgh the Bills’ “most complete game of the season” to date. Hanzus concludes by writing that the Bills are capable of winning “much more” than just the AFC East.

From the lowest rank to the highest, we head over to Pro Football Talk to check in with Mike Florio, who has Buffalo at No. 2 behind only the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Florio writes that “Some teams step up in December. Some teams don’t. The Bills are.” It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s true, as Buffalo has played progressively better as the season has worn on this year.

The rest of this week’s power rankings all have a similar flair, as the Bills are a near-universal choice for the No. 3 team in the league this week. For our first of the “Number Threes,” Pete Prisco continues his praise of the squad in calling the Bills a potential “Super Bowl team.” He also notes that quarterback Josh Allen is proving that he is a “star quarterback.” The narrative about this club is changing quickly, and it’s great to see the work the players have done rewarded not only with victories, but with recognition that they are a legit contender.

ESPN’s panel of experts also has Buffalo ranked No. 3, and Marcel Louis-Jacques was tasked with discussing Buffalo’s Football Power Index (FPI) rankings. Buffalo’s offense is ranked No. 9, their defense is ranked No. 15, and their special teams is ranked No. 18 based on ESPN’s in-house metric. While that sounds decidedly average, of the top five squads in their power rankings, only the No. 5 New Orleans Saints are more well-rounded, with ranks of 5/8/11, respectively. Regarding the Bills, Louis-Jacques is impressed with the progress of the offense, noting the tremendous impact wide receiver Stefon Diggs has had on Josh Allen’s development. He thinks the Bills have what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs this year.

Matt Williamson at Pro Football Network has the Bills at No. 3, and he noted how impressive it was that Buffalo held a 9-7 halftime lead against Pittsburgh even though they averaged just 3.5 yards per play in the first half. Williamson wrote about Buffalo’s second-half explosion featuring the Allen-to-Diggs connection on center stage. He thinks the defense is “turning a corner” to play up to the level we’ve come to expect under head coach Sean McDermott.

Josh Schrock at NBC Sports writes that the No. 3 Bills “made a statement” by thumping the Steelers on Sunday Night Football. He also wrote that the Bills might be the only AFC squad capable of dethroning the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Bills are going to do that, though, they’ll need to play far better than they did in October, when Kansas City ran for 245 yards and held the ball for nearly 38 minutes in a 26-17 victory.

Jenny Vrentas at The MMQB has Buffalo ranked No. 3 this week, as well. Vrentas felt that the Washington Football Team “ruined” the Bills’ chance at being the team to hand Pittsburgh its first loss, but I’m fairly certain that didn’t bother the Bills all that much. She called the victory over Pittsburgh a “statement win” nonetheless.

Finally, Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News has Buffalo at No. 3 this week. Iyer thought it was “impressive” that Buffalo scored back-to-back wins over the 49ers and the Steelers on a short week. If Buffalo wants to keep its win streak going, they’ll have to win another game on a short week, as they travel west to face the Denver Broncos on Saturday afternoon. Iyer noted that Josh Allen is “red-hot again” after his two-touchdown performance on Sunday night.