We’re only two games into the regular season, but that hasn’t stopped the number crunchers at Football Outsiders from gauging each of the NFL club’s playoff odds based on their won-loss record from the first two weeks. The Bills, not surprisingly, saw their odds increase sharply after moving to 2-0.
Here’s what Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz came up with for the Bills, which appeared on ESPN Insider as well.
Playoff odds: 66.2 percent, up from 30.6 percent
The Bills have actually been the best of these four teams so far in 2014, especially when you consider the quality of their opponents. The Bills rank third in our VOA ratings, but when I ran an estimate this week that adjusted for how good we expect opponents to be the rest of the season, the Bills ended up No. 1 for Weeks 1-2.
A big part of Buffalo’s early success has been strong play from a relatively anonymous offensive line. The Bears sacked 49ers QBColin Kaepernick four times, but got to Bills QB EJ Manuel only once. The Dolphins took down Patriots QBTom Brady four times in Week 1, but never sacked Manuel in Week 2. With all that protection, Manuel has been extremely efficient, and only Denver and Cincinnati have higher pass offense VOA marks. Manuel’s struggles in the preseason seem like ancient history at this point. (Eli Manning is probably wishing he could move to upstate New York as well.) Manuel seems even more improved once you notice that his receivers don’t have standout numbers so far, with one obvious exception: rookie Sammy Watkins, who burned the Dolphins for eight catches, 117 yards and a touchdown.
Buffalo’s defense, on the other hand, has been fairly average so far this season against both the run and the pass. The Bills were secretly one of the best defenses in the league last year –fourth in our ratings — but we all knew going into the season that it would be difficult for them to overcome the loss of linebacker Kiko Alonso and safety Jairus Byrd.
The Bills’ special teams have been the best in the league so far in 2014, but that’s going to be harder to maintain than their offensive success. Special-teams success, especially in just one or two games, is highly dependent on one or two big plays. For the Bills, that meant a blocked punt and a punt-return touchdown against Miami. They can’t expect to get plays like that every week — or, in this case, two plays like that every other week. More sustainable is the performance of kicker Jordan Gay, the kickoff specialist who has 10 touchbacks in 14 kickoffs plus three kicks that didn’t even get returned out to the 20-yard line.
The Bills also face more obstacles in their division than the Panthers do. Two of Carolina’s rivals have started 0-2, but the rest of the AFC East stands at 1-1 — including, of course, a New England team that has gone the entire 21st century so far without a losing record.
Tags: Bills playoff odds
Posted in Inside the Bills