The Buffalo Bills marched into Glendale, AZ last night and thoroughly dominated the San Francisco 49ers, securing a 34-24 win that was much closer on the scoreboard than it seemed in real time. The win was Buffalo’s fifth in their last six tries, and with a tough game against the Pittsburgh Steelers looming, it was one that Buffalo needed to win.
The Bills have hung around the fringes of the top tier of most NFL power rankings for much of this season, at times bounding into the top five. They’ve sat comfortably in the six-to-eight range for much of the season. However, following last night’s win, Buffalo finds themselves almost exclusively in the top five.
We lead off with Matt Williamson of Pro Football Network, who moved the Bills to the No. 5 slot this week. Williamson wrote that Bills quarterback Josh Allen “threw the ball very well” in what might be one of the most understated ways to describe a four-touchdown, zero-interception, 375-yard day where the quarterback also completed 80% of his passes that I’ve ever read. Williamson also referenced the Hail Mary by that nickname that I refuse to write, noting that it’s the only thing keeping Buffalo from a six-game win streak.
Over at ESPN, their panel of experts ranked Buffalo No. 5, which is where they had the team last week. Marcel Louis-Jacques wrote about tight end Dawson Knox, whom he views as the Bills player with the most at stake over the final month of the season. Louis-Jacques notes that Knox has had his season derailed by injuries and by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, but he also notes that the second-year man has done little to inspire confidence that he is ““the answer” at tight end moving forward. Louis-Jacques thinks that Knox has a chance to prove himself with John Brown out, and thus far, Knox has stepped up in Brown’s absence. Granted, Knox hasn’t put up big numbers, but he’s caught all five of his targets in the last two games for 29 yards and two touchdowns. Knox has made the most of his limited chances over the last two weeks.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News has Buffalo ranked No. 5 this week. He writes that the Bills were able to win a “tough interconference game against the 49ers” in their second trip to Arizona on the season. Iyer calls the chase for Buffalo’s first division title in 25 years a situation where all the pressure remains on the Bills, as the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots are lurking in the distance.
David Fucillo had the write-up over at Draft Kings, where their panel broke the teams into different tiers rather than ranking them from 1-32. Buffalo sits atop the “Going to the Playoffs” tier. The Bills are joined in that group by the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fucillo writes that “the Bills are closing in on moving up a tier, but they need to show a little more consistency.” He thinks that beating the Pittsburgh Steelers next week will show him enough to move them up a notch.
Josh Schrock at NBC Sports ranked Buffalo No. 5 this week, and he heaped plenty of praise on offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in a small blurb. Schrock wrote that Daboll might as well “put his house on the market after the masterpiece he orchestrated against the 49ers, as he’ll be a head coach the second the Bills’ season ends.” Indeed, Daboll called a phenomenal game last night (even if he was a little “too cute” on fourth-and-goal on Buffalo’s first drive), and it’s not the first time he has done a great job with Buffalo’s personnel. Daboll looks like someone who will be right at the top of a lot of teams’ wish lists come February.
Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has Buffalo ranked No. 4 this week. Just a week after questioning whether Buffalo is ready for the big stage, Florio declared that the Bills have given their answer. “The Bills are definitely ready for prime time,” Florio wrote. After winning their first Monday Night Football game since a duel between Doug Flutie and Dan Marino in October 1999, it appears that the Bills are ready to take the big stage.
Buffalo moved up two spots in Frank Schwab’s power rankings, as the Yahoo! scribe placed Buffalo No. 5 overall. He wrote that the “team we saw beat the 49ers can make a playoff run.” He views the Steelers as a great test next week, and he predicts that a victory over a Pittsburgh team coming off a surprising loss to the Washington Football Team will make everyone take notice of Buffalo.