Don't panic, Buffalo: Why the Bills are still positioned for a top playoff seed

Quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills have the second-easiest remaining strength of schedule. Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills players took different approaches to moving on from the Week 6 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Safety Jordan Poyer invoked the 24-hour rule for moving on from losses. Quarterback Josh Allen referenced not lingering on it. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs' approach was a bit simpler.

“A little bit of wine,” Diggs joked.

While the Titans and Cincinnati Bengals cemented their claims last week as the AFC's hot teams with wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, respectively, the Bills could only sit and watch because they were on bye -- which did not come at an opportune time.

“You never really want to sit on a loss over a bye, just because of the feeling, you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible,” coach Sean McDermott said. “It does give us a chance to have some truthful conversations ... and trying to improve our football team going forward.”

Two losses just six games into the season is not the ideal scenario, but panicking would be irrational. The Bills are still poised to finish as one of the top seeds, if not the No. 1 seed, in the AFC.

“We’re not at practice rolling the dice, saying we’ll be all right,” Diggs said. “We’re going back to work with the mindset that we need to get better.”

The Bills are the NFL's best team, according to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI). And giving that team time to sit back and get better should scare the rest of the conference. Why else are the Bills in such a good spot?

Few weaknesses: The defense is playing at a level similar to 2019 and the offense as a whole is having another strong season led by Allen. Not a bad way to follow up an AFC Championship appearance.

Buffalo ranks in the top three in points scored per game (33.8), points allowed per game (16.3), turnover margin (plus-11), averaging starting field position (33.4-yard line) and opponent average passing yards per game (180.5).

The Bills’ +105 point margin (second in the NFL behind the undefeated Arizona Cardinals) is the twelfth-best through six games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and the best for a team that’s 4-2 or worse since the merger.

Schedule: The remaining games also work in this team’s favor. The Bills’ toughest AFC opponents (Steelers, Chiefs and Titans) are in the past.

The next four games come against opponents with losing records: the Dolphins (1-6), Jaguars (1-5), Jets (1-5) and Colts (3-4). Nine of the team’s 11 remaining games are against opponents with records of .500 or worse, and FPI ranks the Bills' remaining schedule as the second easiest in the NFL behind only the Philadelphia Eagles.

Favorable division: For the playoff seeding, Buffalo currently sits fourth in the conference -- leading the AFC East at 4-2. Three of the teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today are in the same division (Cincinnati, Baltimore and the Cleveland Browns). All four from the AFC North are in the top eight. Those teams playing each other multiple times should help the Bills in the AFC playoff standings. Meanwhile, the three other teams with Buffalo in the AFC East are a combined 5-15.

Experience in the cold weather will also be on Buffalo’s side as three of the final four games of the season take place at Highmark Stadium.

Health: While many teams have injury-riddled rosters, the Bills have mostly been spared. The biggest absence thus far will be tight end Dawson Knox, who will miss at least this week with a fractured right hand. Their roster moves have been limited to a couple of changes on the practice squad due to other teams signing Bills players. Not a single transaction has been made on the 53-man roster, outside of game day call-ups -- remarkable through the first seven weeks of the season.

Experience: McDermott has been working with his coordinators for a minimum of four years each. There’s not much that can faze this group.

“I believe in this football team,” McDermott said. “I think the rest remains to be seen in terms of how we trend one week at a time."

A game against the Miami Dolphins -- arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL -- Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) is a chance to get back on track. When the teams met in Miami in Week 2, the Bills came away with a 35-0 win that somehow featured plenty of missed opportunities for Buffalo. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was injured in the game, but he’ll be starting this weekend and coming off two solid performances, completing almost 75% of his passes and throwing six touchdowns to three interceptions.

McDermott, however, is undefeated coming off a bye (4-0) and this is an angry Bills team. Allen has been named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after three of his seven career games against the Dolphins.

“We're not going to let one or two losses affect how we play, how we practice, how we interact with each other in the locker room,” Allen said. “We're gonna continue to try to play our brand of football and sustain our type of caliber and our standard, which is playoff caliber.”

Translation for opponents: Watch out.