“You are what your record says you are.” Bill Parcells said it best and it is something that Sean McDermott has his team preach when members of the media bring up how the Bills stack up and compare to others around the league. So, let’s use Parcells’ words of wisdom here. The Bills are 6-3. They are currently the 2 seed in the AFC and have a 1/2 game lead over the Patriots in the AFC East. The Bills’ 6 wins have been dominant ones. There is no question that when the Bills win, they win.
Last week the Bills beat the Jets by 28 points. That was their third largest win of the season. Most teams do not hit a 28 point winning margin once during the season, not to mention it being their 3rd best result. There is no doubt the Bills are beating up on teams this year, but should we be concerned about who they have beaten, and is it a sign of trouble to come as the Bills open a 4 game stretch against teams at or above .500 on the year? I say…kind of. The Bills can’t help who is on their schedule and when the games are played. As Sean McDermott reminds us often, “it is hard to win in this league” and every win is an accomplishment regardless of the opponent. But beating up on the bottom feeders of the league is far different than consistently beating the league’s best. The Titans, for example, currently are the favorite to win the AFC. While Bills fans are hoping to see them falter and lose the #1 seed that they currently hold, they shouldn’t hold their breath. The Titans have consistently shown that they can beat good teams, holding the best strength of victory mark in the AFC with .513. Beating the best teams and still holding onto the 1 seed gives us a pretty good idea that the Titans are a legit contender this year.
Strength of Victory
The Bills’ strength of victory (SOV), which is the combined record of the teams which they have beaten, is laughable. The Bills’ SOV is .316, which is the lowest SOV of a team in playoff position in the entire league. Second lowest in the AFC are the Patriots at .364. With the exception of the Jaguars game, the Bills have taken care of their business against the teams that they should beat. The problem lies within the teams the Bills have lost too. The Bills have lost two games so far against teams with winning records: the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans. That is why these next four games for the Bills (IND, NO, NE, and TB) are so important – it is a chance to prove to themselves, and the league, that they can win games against competent franchises as well.
How Impressed Should We Be?
As we experienced first hand, the NFL is truly a week-to-week league and we have seen many more puzzling results than usual this year. The Bills defense has posted some seriously impressive numbers through the first 9 games of the season and it is not easy to shut out an opponent, regardless of who you play. The Bills defense has played 3 games this year in which they have not allowed a touchdown. Put another way, one-third of the season the Bills’ defense is not allowing teams to score TD’s on them. Two of those games were shutouts. To answer my question, yes you should be impressed with the Bills’ 6 wins. But I would also be skeptical. As I mentioned, the Bills lost two games this year against teams in playoff positions in the AFC. And in those losses, the Bills were dominated physically along the line of scrimmage.
The Bills will look to start their run of impressive victories Sunday against a 5-5 Colts team. For what it’s worth, the Colts’ SOV is .261, which is even lower than Buffalo. Strength of Victory can be influenced by bad teams in your division, and that is something the Bills and Colts have in common. The Colts have beaten their division dwellers this year, as well. Despite the fact that the Bills and Colts have struggled against higher-level competition, one of these two teams will have to win this football game. The winner will see a bump in their SOV and in their confidence level knowing that they can beat good football teams in addition to the bad ones. Because once January hits, all the bad teams are gone.