After a disappointing 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Buffalo Bills find themselves ranked lower this week than they were in the first edition of the 2021 NFL power rankings. If you read that and said to yourself, “Thanks, Captain Obvious,” it’s okay—the statement was meant to be taken that way. When teams win, they tend to rise in these rankings, and when they lose, they tend to fall. And so it goes.
A nearly universal theme, however, has been to avoid overreacting to just one week. The first week of an NFL season is always a crapshoot. Remember, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the 2020 season with a disappointing 34-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay went on the win the Super Bowl.
We start over at ESPN, where the pundits polled ranked the Bills No. 5 overall, down two spots from their preseason ranking. Newcomer Alaina Getzenberg writes that Buffalo’s most impressive rookie was defensive end Greg Rousseau, and while she notes that it was mostly by default (he was the only Bills’ rookie to play substantial snaps), she also writes that “Groot” looked like he was worth the pick at No. 30 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Getzenberg noted that although Rousseau did not register a sack, he “still made his presence felt, especially early in the game.” She called Buffalo’s revamped pass rush a “work in progress.”
Pete Prisco at CBS Sports listed Buffalo all the way down at No. 9, seven spots lower than he had heading into Week 1. Prisco writes that the Bills can “quiet the Super Bowl talk for a week after losing to the Steelers at home,” which is certainly a fair assessment.
Conor Orr at Sports Illustrated ranked Buffalo No. 7 overall, and his theme for the week was “which games are real and which are unsustainable curveballs?” He dropped both Buffalo and the Green Bay Packers after each team’s respective opening week loss, but he also notes that one game is no cause for immediate concern or worry. Orr called this week’s matchup with Pittsburgh a “coin-toss game for Buffalo,” as he noted that the Steelers have “the infrastructure” to flummox what Buffalo does well. Given that the Steelers have one of the league's best defensive fronts, he isn’t wrong. Orr still believes that Buffalo is an AFC Super Bowl favorite.
Dan Hanzus at NFL.com dropped Buffalo three spots, ranking them No. 6 overall. He wrote that the Bills had a great game plan in theory—spread out the Steelers to put their “suspect secondary” in jeopardy, thereby allowing “superstar quarterback Josh Allen” to pick them apart. However, he also correctly noted that the execution of said game plan was “woeful,” as Buffalo’s horrendous pass protection allowed Pittsburgh’s stud front-four to harass Allen all day. He notes that Miami’s defense is yet another tough group to begin Buffalo’s year.
Dalton Miller at Pro Football Network ranked Buffalo No. 4 on the week, and his insight provides some much-needed levity after some hand-wringing from Bills fans (myself included, I won’t lie) after watching the team lose a winnable game. Miller wrote that “[n]o part of the Bills’ loss to Pittsburgh makes sense with a quick glance at the box score.” He added that Buffalo’s high-octane passing attack never showed up, and that Pittsburgh’s offense, which gained only 37 total yards in the first half, was able to make much more noise in the second half.
Vinnie Iyer at Sporting News dropped the Bills five spots this week, ranking them No. 8 overall. He started off by speculating about why Josh Allen performed poorly, musing that it may have been him pressing after signing a massive contract or being too amped with a full-house crowd for the first time since 2019. Ultimately, he settled on what I agree is the most likely reason: Pittsburgh’s defense is really good. Iyer notes that Buffalo still needs to make adjustments to put Allen in position to remain on his elite trajectory.
We end with Barry Werner at Yahoo! Sports, who ranked Buffalo No. 6 overall this week. He noted that Buffalo had a double-digit lead that they ultimately allowed to slip away, finishing by acknowledging that it wasn’t the start that Bills Mafia would have wanted given the high hopes fans have for the season.
Thanks, Captain Obvious.