The Buffalo Bills pulled off a comeback victory over the Los Angeles Chargers last week, winning 24-22 in a game that should not have been as close as it was. Buffalo turned the ball over three times, however, and a five-win Chargers squad with an interim head coach and a backup quarterback nearly pulled off the huge upset.
Instead, the Bills came back to win, putting themselves in prime position to make the postseason for the sixth time in head coach Sean McDermott’s seven-year tenure as head coach. That’s not necessarily how we thought this season would turn out just a few weeks ago, but with some stellar play in all three phases of the game, the Bills have clawed their way back into the postseason conversation.
They’ve also clawed their way back to the top of the power rankings after falling out of the top of the conversation for quite some time. A programming note before we begin: I know we normally run this on Tuesday, but that was Christmas with the in-laws for me, so apologies for the “day-old news” here today!
To begin, we check in with Eric Edholm at NFL Network, who has the Bills at No. 7 this week. He writes that he heard it from fans last week, claiming that Buffalo’s No. 8 ranking was too low and that they should have been No. 2 entering play against the Chargers. Edholm takes this week’s struggles and uses them as an example as to why it’s difficult to figure out the 2023 Bills, writing that the game “was a reminder of how off they’ve been at various times this season.” He noted James Cook’s two-fumble night, and while he said that the game “didn’t have to be that difficult,” the Bills were able to pull it out in the end.
Frank Schwab at Yahoo! has the Bills at No. 3 this week, which is exactly where they resided in last week’s poll. He writes that he’s “willing to excuse” Buffalo’s issues against the Chargers given that the Bills had just played three heavyweight fights in a row against the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, and Dallas Cowboys. “But,” he continues, “that performance is also why it’s tough to trust Buffalo.”
Josh Kendall at The Athletic has the Bills ranked No. 4 this week, so he just flip-flopped the Bills and the Miami Dolphins, whom he ranked at No. 3 this week. About Buffalo, Kendall writes that their team’s MVP is Sam Martin. I’m kidding. He obviously selected quarterback Josh Allen as the team’s MVP, writing that the all-world quarterback has surpassed 40 total touchdowns for an NFL-record fourth straight year. He also brings up Allen’s turnovers, of which he has a league-leading 18 this season. However, Kendall thinks Allen might be the “most sensible vote” for league MVP this season.
Pete Prisco at CBS Sports has the Bills ranked No. 6 this week, up a spot from their seventh-place ranking entering play. He notes that the Bills “didn’t look great” against Los Angeles, which is an understatement to say the least. He also writes that they have “worked themselves into being a playoff team” in the last few weeks, which is the most important part.
Ryan Reynolds at The 33rd Team has the Bills at No. 4 this week, up a spot from their ranking entering play. He writes that “Josh Allen is a perennial MVP candidate for a reason,” continuing to echo a sentiment that’s quite common throughout these rankings: Nobody is going to be happy to face Buffalo in the playoffs should they stay hot and qualify.
Nate Davis at USA Today has the Bills ranked No. 4 for the second consecutive week. He writes that Josh Allen might end up as the league MVP given that he has more total touchdowns than anyone and that many of the other front-running candidates are “stuck in reverse.”
Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk also kept the Bills at No. 4 this week. He notes that Buffalo’s Week 18 matchup with the Miami Dolphins could be for a chance at the AFC East title and the No. 2 seed in the conference. All that would need to happen for that to be the case is a Miami loss to the Baltimore Ravens and a Buffalo win over the New England Patriots this weekend.
Vinnie Iyer at Sporting News has Buffalo at No. 7 this week, up two spots from his ranking last week. He writes that the Bills “seem to go up and down with their identity around Josh Allen’s playmaking, whether to be about running and methodical passing or high-risk, high-reward attacking.” They definitely run as their quarterback runs. Iyer also notes that they seem to be “putting it together” as the playoffs approach.
The rankers at ESPN placed Buffalo at No. 7 this week, one spot above their placement entering play. Alaina Getzenberg was tasked with writing about the team’s best rookie, and she chose right guard O’Cyrus Torrence. She acknowledged that the honor should be shared between Torrence and tight end Dalton Kincaid, but she chose Torrence because “offensive linemen often unfairly don’t receive the spotlight of other positions.” Torrence has been one of the best rookie linemen in the NFL, as he has “the second-best pass block win rate among rookies (92.6%) and the third-fewest sacks attributed among rookie offensive linemen who have played at least 700 snaps.” Talk about nailing the top of a crucial draft for general manager Brandon Beane.
Finally, Dalton Miller at Pro Football Network has the Bills ranked No. 4 overall. He writes a bit about the fickle, week-to-week nature of the NFL before finishing up with an oft-repeated line among these power rankings: “[I]f there is one roster that the division winners (if Buffalo does not win the AFC East) don’t want to face in the Wild Card Round, it’s these Bills.”