I am the definition of an "outlier" in the latest Power Rankings entry. We were asked to rank the toughest places in the league to play. The venue I ranked first -- Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo -- wasn't even mentioned in the top 10 of any of our other seven NFL bloggers.
On the NFC East front, the only place I or anyone else ranked was Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, which came in 10th on my ballot and ninth overall. For me, it gets on the list because of the intensity of the Eagles' home fans, not because of anything inherently challenging about the building itself or its location. I didn't think any of the division's other three stadiums made a compelling case for the league's top 10. And I based none of the rankings on the quality of the buildings' home teams, because I consider that a variable.
This explains, I think, why I put Buffalo No. 1 and nobody else ranked it at all. The Bills have been so bad and so irrelevant for so long that people have forgotten about Ralph Wilson Stadium as a venue. The Bills don't even play all of their home games there every season, since they started the Toronto series. So Lambeau Field, home of the Super Bowl champs? Sure. Soldier Field? Heinz Field? Arrowhead? Yeah, these are places that remain in the consciousness of an analyst who might be asked to rank toughest venues. Buffalo? Sometimes it's easy to forget they still have a team there.
But it didn't occur to me that this question was or should be about the quality of the opponent a visiting team must face. If we're basing it on that, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro would be the toughest, because you have to play the Patriots when you go there. But if the Patriots stunk for the next five years, there's nothing inherently challenging about Gillette Stadium that would get it on the 2016 list? Buffalo's a miserable place to play no matter who's wearing the home team jerseys, and for that reason I thought it belonged at the top of the list.
Not that you asked, but thanks for listening anyway. I know you guys have my back ...