The Buffalo Bills will head into their bye week with a bitter taste in their mouth, but recent history and a favorable schedule suggests it is one they should be able get to rid of soon.
Rather than going into the bye tied for the best record in the AFC at 5-1, the Bills must be content with a 4-2 start following their dramatic Monday Night Football defeat to the Tennessee Titans, which ended when Josh Allen came up short on a fourth down quarterback sneak after Sean McDermott eschewed the chance to kick a potential game-tying field goal.
McDermott’s decision displayed his belief in his players to win the game in regulation and, though the result did not go in their favor, all the evidence supports his confidence in his team.
Indeed, despite their opening six games being bookended by frustrating defeats to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Titans, the Bills have a strong case for the title of most complete team in the NFL, one they will look to press home when they return from the bye to face a string of inferior opponents.
The most compelling statistical case for the Bills as the best and most well-rounded team in the NFL comes from Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which measures team efficiency.
Although the Bills were defeated by the Titans, the loss was not enough to dislodge Buffalo from top spot in DVOA. The Bills rank 12th in offensive DVOA but first on defense, with the side of the ball that was most maligned as Buffalo fell to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game last season elevating the team on this occasion.
Buffalo’s defense is also first in Expected Points Added per play, according to Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, with an investment in the Bills’ pass rush in the offseason paying dividends. Brian Daboll’s offense is sixth in EPA per play, a ranking that would appear set to improve if quarterback Josh Allen continues a trajectory that should get him in the MVP discussion.
Since Week 3, Allen leads the NFL in Baldwin’s composite EPA + CPOE (Completion Percentage Over Expected) metric, and he will have an opportunity to torch a collection of vulnerable opponents when the Bills return from their bye.
The Bills face just two teams, the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have winning records after the bye, seemingly giving Allen a magnificent chance of significantly polishing an MVP resume and Buffalo surging to a 13 or 14-win season that could secure the top seed in the AFC.
Derrick Henry’s 143-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Bills will undoubtedly have caused some consternation among those hoping Buffalo can finally break its Super Bowl duck in 2021.
However, the Bills are far from the first victim of a monstrous running back on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s rushing record and the season-long efficiency numbers suggest Week 6 will prove an anomaly for Buffalo’s defense.
Boasting a top-half offense, a quarterback displaying MVP-level form and a defense vastly improved from last year, the Bills have more cause for optimism than concern and, with the schedule they have in front of them, they can potentially look forward to a run that ensures the AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Buffalo.