Throughout the Bills 5-1 start, a lot was made of the quality of their wins due to the teams that they had beaten and how they were winning them. A popular retort to the criticism was you beat who is on your schedule. While I agree with that, and outside of the two crossover games, the Bills don’t have control over the quality of opponent that they play, Sunday’s game against Philadelphia caused me to leave the stadium thinking one thing is absolutely true. While every win counts the same in the standings, how a team wins a game matters just as much as actually winning the game.
In their own words, Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranking measures, “a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.” Largely due to its’ success in measuring and predicting a teams overall achievement, DVOA is becoming an increasingly popular ranking to reference among fans and analysts.
The Bills’ DVOA is currently 25th in the league. 4 of their 5 wins came from teams below them in DVOA rankings. Their other win, the Titans, are just one spot above the Bills at 24th. Their two losses, the Patriots and the Eagles, are ranked 2nd and 12th respectively in overall DVOA.
Defensive rankings are not promising for the Bills, either. The narrative all year has been that the Bills defensive is very good to elite. According to defensive DVOA, the Bills defense is average. Exactly 16th in the league, at -0.8%, meaning their defensive productivity is .8% above league average (0%).
Looking back, I believe it was fair to criticize the Bills for the way that they were beating the Jets, Bengals, and Dolphins. Needing 4th quarter game winning drives to beat some of the worst teams in the league is not a look for long-term success. More often than not, superior teams usually beat inferior teams with ease in the NFL. Even this year:
Patriots 43 Dolphins 0
Patriots 33 Jets 0
Ravens 59 Dolphins 10
49ers 41 Bengals 17
Vikings 28 Giants 10
Getting wins thanks to 4 missed FG’s against the Titans and Mariota (now benched), a last minute INT from Andy Dalton (now benched), or a classic Fitz turnover all count the same in the win column. But those wins weren’t created equal in terms of future success this year. For that reason, the results against New England and Philadelphia shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The Bills have an unbelievably easy schedule the rest of the way, so it is possible that wins against the bottom feeders of the league will carry them into the playoffs. And while I will love every minute of that ride, it is clear that the Bills still have a long way to go. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane are not employees who will stand by and accept complacency. You can bet that even if the Bills do make it to the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 seasons (surreal to type that), McDermott and Beane will still see the flaws in the roster and continue to do what they can to improve.
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