With a 31-6 win on Thanksgiving, the Buffalo Bills did more than just defeat the New Orleans Saints on their home field. The Bills were able to erase the memory of an awful drubbing at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts just a few days prior.
Perhaps “erase” isn’t the best word for it, either, as the team would do well to keep that butt-kicking on the bulletin board and in their minds for the duration of the season. After all, learning the lesson from a loss is far more important in the long term, so to forget would be to risk repeating the same issues later on in the year.
Power rankers didn’t forget about that blowout loss, either, though they did sweeten a bit on Buffalo after a win over an injury-riddled Saints squad that has now lost four straight games. Buffalo had dropped out of the top ten in many power rankings last week, but they find themselves back in the upper-tier in most lists.
We’ll start with USA Today and Nate Davis, who has Buffalo ranked at No. 11 this week. He doesn’t mention anything about the 25-point victory over New Orleans, instead staying dire in his talk. He writes that the “turnovers continue to mount” for the Bills, who have committed 11 turnovers in their last four games. They had committed 11 turnovers in their previous 14 games, including the playoffs, dating back to last season. The turnovers are certainly a concern, but some regression to the mean is expected. Buffalo was 15th in turnover percentage last year, and they are 12th in the same metric this year. Davis thinks that Buffalo’s Super Bowl hopes are “slipping away” heading into a date with the first-place New England Patriots.
Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk is short and not necessarily sweet in his assessment of the Bills, whom he ranked No. 9 this week. He writes that “If the Bills are going to win the AFC East, they’re going to have to earn it with a couple of games coming up against the Patriots.” The Bills will need to win more games than New England to win the division, so we can’t fault him for his understanding of the obvious.
Dalton Miller at Pro Football Network continues to write about the Bills like a lover scorned, ranking them No. 8 this week in his poll. He writes that there is no more frustrating team in football than Buffalo, as their performances range from that of a defensive “juggernaut” to a “generic FCS team in NCAA 14.” Miller notes that by Expected Points Added (EPA), the Bills are still one of the league’s elite teams, but a four-game stretch that includes two contests against New England, one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and one against the Carolina Panthers will be “the actual litmus test for this team.”
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News ranked Buffalo No. 8 this week, as well. He wrote that the Bills took little time to assert their dominance over a “shorthanded” New Orleans squad. Iyer liked that quarterback Josh Allen used two of his top targets in Stefon Diggs, who is his literal top target with 101, and Dawson Knox, who is tied for the top spot on the team in receiving touchdowns with seven. The man he’s even with, of course, is Diggs, emphasizing the need for both of these guys to see a healthy dose of targets in each game.
The rankers at ESPN have Buffalo at No. 7 this week, and the bloggers for each team at The Worldwide Leader were asked to assess their confidence rating for each of the teams they cover. Alaina Getzenberg’s rating was a 7.9 this week, up one-tenth of a point from the last time they checked in with that incredibly scientific (sarcasm included) metric. Getzenberg writes that the Bills need to “establish more of an identity” on offense, showing “that it can be consistent game after game.” She also notes how big the upcoming stretch of schedule is for this Buffalo team.
Dan Hanzus at NFL Network has the Bills ranked No. 6 this week. He notes that the Bills bounced back against a decimated Saints squad, but he also writes about how the loss of All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White to a torn ACL will impact the rest of their season. Hanzus believes that Buffalo’s hopes ride on head coach Sean McDermott (and, assumedly, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier, though Hanzus fails to mention him) and his ability to “pivot and adapt without his most important player on defense.” I can’t say that I disagree much, though this would be a good time for that revamped defensive line to start wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Pete Prisco at CBS Sports also has the Bills at No. 6 this week, noting that Buffalo’s offense used last week’s game to “get back on track” against the beat-up Saints. He notes that the success Buffalo had was due to a patient approach, and he praises quarterback Josh Allen for taking what the defense gave him last week. Against a New England team forcing turnovers at a crazy rate of late, that patience will be helpful.
Finally, the rankers at Draft Kings have Buffalo at No. 5 overall based on their point differential against the spread. The Bills are plus-51.5 on the year in that regard. As it relates to real-life point differential, they are plus-144, which is better than all but one team: Monday’s opponent, the New England Patriots, who have played one more game than the Bills.