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NFL offseason power rankings: Buffalo Bills in bottom half of the league

The Bills could be a Top 12 team if Rex Ryan figures out this defense, according to people that are already power-ranking NFL teams for the 2016 season.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Everyone is in first place again! ESPN didn't wait very long to put out their first power rankings of the 2016, dropping their "way-too-early" projections the day after the Super Bowl. The runner-up Carolina Panthers are first, the champion Denver Broncos are fifth, and the Buffalo Bills fall in the bottom half of the league.

The panel of 21 ESPN voters gives the team the benefit of the doubt in their write-up, though, where they place Buffalo at No. 18 overall. Their commentary:

A talent-laded mystery, the Bills are a top-12 team if Rex Ryan rediscovers his magic touch on the defensive side of the ball - the Bills were one of the NFL's top defenses in 2014 and fell off a cliff in 2015 - and while nearly every indicator says Tyrod Taylor was the real thing in 2015, a bigger sample size is needed. (The Bills were 8-8 but 8-6 in games he started.)

Two teams with a 2015 record worse than Buffalo slot in ahead: the injury-riddled Baltimore Ravens who lost a bunch of one-score games, and the Dallas Cowboys, who started four different quarterbacks with Tony Romo sidelined.

In the AFC East, Buffalo comes in third in the projection, behind the second-place New England Patriots and the 12th-ranked New York Jets. Miami is ranked No. 24, well behind the Bills.