Before answering that question, a bit of revelling - today was, for the second week in a row, a complete dismantling of another NFL team. Admittedly, both WAS and LV appear to be below average NFL teams, but still this kind of complete domination is noteworthy (and both were undefeated before the encountered the Buffalo Bills!). A few shout-outs:
- Terrell Bernard - this guy can't possibly be this good, can he? Obviously, not every game will be like this but so far this year he has been quite good - Pro Bowl level good (no snickering about Pro Bowl, at least for this reference). He's too small, right? Or, is he? It's not 1983. In today's pass-oriented game, the NFL does not need (in fact, can't) have big, lumbering thumpers as MLBs anymore. BTW he's 2" taller and "only" 10 pounds lighter (and a LOT faster) than HoF MLB Zach Thomas. No, Terrell Bernard is not a lock for HoF, but he's looking like one of Beane's BEST draft picks (after being complained about as one of his WORST draft picks). MIKE was supposed to a huge drop-off vs. Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds, but so far appears that might even be an upgrade (at much much lower cost)...and I say that as an Edmunds supporter (for the most part).
- OL - simply, what was universally seen as the Achilles Heel of this team has been quite good. Not "elite" but I'd hazard an opinion as top quartile in league. I, like many, figured they would get trounced by WAS 4 1st rounders. Actually, the trouncing was the other way around. If they keep going like this (or get better! which is possible) this offense is going to be the best in the NFL.
- DL - probably the area of most complaints (too much resources invested / squandered including big over-draft and over-pay on Ed O, AJ a bust, Floyd a waste of cap $$$, etc. and for all that too little pressure and too little ability to stop the run) has been fabulous the past 2 weeks (with an HoF DE in the wings, to boot). Yes, as Gars will remind us, opponent strength (or lack thereof) matters...but they have been great....and could get even better.
- Micah, Tre, AllProPo - many have been saying (or privately thinking) that this aging, seriously injured, too slow group is over the hill / not good enough. WAS has elite speed, and a QB who was doing well. And LV has a HoF WR, with a QB that was doing fine. Shut down performances.
- Cook - dude is leading league* in YPC (6.1) and second to only the great Christian McCaffery in total yards (and is well above CMC's admirable 5.9 YPC). CMC will not get 20 rushes per game for a full year. Could James Cook win the rushing title? I mean, that would be impossible on a Josh Allen team, right? Cook also gets a first down on a whopping 27.3% of his carries - we should simply hand him the ball on every play! Of course I am kidding about that, but he's been terrific - keep letting James Cook!.
- Diggs - top 5 in the league in receiving yards. Anyone still complaining about him? Wanting to jettison him? Anyone?
- Bass Kicker - the guy is excellent. I know we don't want FGs, but when we need them, this guy delivers, from distance no problem.
- Coaching staff - the much maligned KD and the somewhat maligned McD (not to mention Kromer, and probably others) have been quite good - there is no debate.
- Josh Allen - he was magnificent. 218 yards, 62.5% completion rate, 6.8 YPA, 1 TD and 1 INT? Those are very pedestrian, or even below pedestrian, #s. I mean, Mac Jones (!) had a better box score against a better defense (Jets). Stats are for losers! Josh was absolutely fantastic (and the INT was an arm punt as far as I'm concerned - no problem there)
Again, I realize these 2 wins do not, by themselves mean anyone should sit back and assume we will blow out every team we face for the next 5 years, but the Buffalo Bills have been terrific the past 2 weeks - take a bow!
So, about that question...in the literal sense, of course not - win, lose or draw vs. MIA the Bills will travel to UK to play JAX regardless, and have at least another 12 games regardless, so it is not an actual playoff , or "must win" game.
But...it sure feels like supremacy of AFC East, and maybe AFC, is on the line. Lose and MIA will be the runaway favorite for AFC crown (and along with KC in top 2 for #1 seed). The narrative about "Bills can destroy crappy teams, but can't beat good ones) will be raging loudly (and perhaps with ample reason). Win and Bills will be favorite for AFC East and people will already start looking way ahead to the annual showdown (or 2) with KC. It's as close to a playoff, or must win game as one could imagine in the 4th game of the year.
Bring it on and I'll be there. May need to drink a lot to deal with the stress :) Let's Go Buffalo!
*excludes low volume runners.