Welcome to the first iteration of 2021’s “Buffalo Bills Rooting Interests”! This series began on r/BuffaloBills in 2019 and I am happy to bring it to Buffalo Fanatics this season. These posts are intended to provide Bills fans with the rationale behind who they should root for in every game in every week of the NFL regular season. Included is the Game Importance Scale which rates games from 👏👏👏👏👏 (Most Important) to 👏 (Least Important). Future additions of this series will be posted every Tuesday by 12:00PM ET.
Ties and injuries are not considered in this discussion. Tiebreakers that are considered for overall standings are as follows:
- H2H: Head-to-Head
- WLC: Win/Loss in Conference
- WLG: Win/Loss in Common Games (min 4)
- SOV: Strength of Victory
- SOS: Strength of Schedule
Cowboys @ Buccaneers (Thursday 8:20PM) 👏
The NFL elected to open their season with the Super Bowl champs taking on the… Cowboys? An interesting game for sure, but one with minimal impact on the Bills. Buffalo does, however, play the Buccaneers on December 12th, meaning SOV and SOS come into play here. Oddly enough, Bills fans should root for their old arch nemesis in an effort to bump up tiebreakers that could affect playoff seeding.
Optimal Outcome: Buccaneers Victory
Jaguars @ Texans (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
An AFC South barnburner will see the debut of Trevor Lawrence as he takes on Texans’ starting QB… Tyrod Taylor. The Bills play each of these teams in 2021, making this early season optimal outcome difficult to determine. Likely bottom feeders of the AFC South, realistically the Jaguars and Texans could finish in any order. For now, we root for the team that is in a tornado of turmoil as it has a higher probability of increasing the Bills’ SOV later in the season.
Optimal Outcome: Texans Victory
Chargers @ Washington (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
AFC vs. NFC matchups lend themselves to easy decision making when it comes to Rooting Interests. This matchup is no different. The Chargers are a prominent dark horse contender this off-season for good reason. A talented defense and an offense with a potentially elite young QB make them a threat in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Washington Football Team is a part of the Bills’ schedule in 2021 meaning if this game were to go the optimal route, an AFC contender would gain a loss and the Bills would gain a bump in SOS and possibly SOV.
Optimal Outcome: Washington Victory
Seahawks @ Colts (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
Another NFC vs. AFC matchup means another quick decision here. Making things easier is that the Colts may be a sneaky good team this season. A depth chart loaded with talent is a Carson Wentz rebound and consistent health away from competing for a Lombardi trophy. An early loss would hurt their playoff chances which is a good thing for the Buffalo Bills.
Optimal Outcome: Seahawks Victory
Jets @ Panthers (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏
The J-E-T-E, JETE, JETE, JETE take on Bills’ South in what has already been dubbed the “Sam Darnold revenge game”. Early on, Bills fans will see Rooting Interests flooded with rooting against the Jets, but don’t be surprised if later in the season you see Optimal Outcomes with the Jets’ name next to them (Draft Order matters, right?). For now, we root for a friend of Josh Allen and a quick downfall of the “Mormon Manziel”.
Optimal Outcome: Panthers’ Victory
Vikings @ Bengals (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
Kirk’s Vikings take on Joey’s Bengals on a Sunday matchup in the Jungle. The Bengals are unlikely to compete for a playoff spot this season, but have the offensive talent to stay in every game. Still, this is an NFC vs. AFC game so an early loss for the AFC team benefits the Bills.
Optimal Outcome: Vikings Victory
Cardinals @ Titans (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
Two out of the three teams the Bills lost to in 2020 open the season in Nashville. Each of these teams is expected to compete for a spot in the NFL playoffs with one playing in arguably the best division in football and the other one of the worst divisions. NFC vs. AFC, so we root against an AFC team that should be close in the standings to Buffalo late in the season.
Optimal Outcome: Cardinals Victory
49ers @ Lions (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
There are five NFC only contests in Week 1 of the 2021 season, this being one of them. The 49ers are seemingly consistent QB play away from a deep run in the playoffs, while the Lions are prepared to bite some kneecaps off. The Bills play neither of these teams this season, so there is little to discuss here. But later in the season we will dive into SOS and SOV ramifications of such games on AFC Contenders. For now, root for who you would like with the understanding that Lake Erie Bros always have each other’s backs.
Optimal Outcome: Lions Victory
Steelers @ Bills (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
When the stadium is a rocking, it’s not a good idea for opponents to come a knocking. I fully expect no less than 71,870 of Bills Mafia’s finest to rock the Ralph on Sunday and lead the right team to a victory to begin the season.
Optimal Outcome: Bills Victory
Eagles @ Falcons (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
Josh Allen has a career record of 2-4 against bird teams. Coincidentally enough, this game involves two of them. The Eagles could compete for a playoff spot in a horrendous division, while the Falcons are about to find out what life is like without Julio Jones. The Bills do play the Falcons late in the season and won’t see the Eagles in 2021. So root for a bump in SOS and possible bump in SOV.
Optimal Outcome: Falcons Victory
Browns @ Chiefs (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
The second Buffalo’s game is over, all Bills fans should tune into this game. The Bills’ path to an AFC Championship likely involves a game against the Browns and/or Chiefs. It may be too early to know which of these two teams is the bigger threat but, until someone knocks the King from their throne, you root for as many dents in that King’s armor as possible.
Optimal Outcome: Browns Victory
Packers @ Saints (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏
It was just about a month ago that this game was possibly headlined by QBs Jordan Love and Taysom Hill. Luckily for NFL fans, it is instead Aaron Rodgers and Jameis Winston. The Bills only see one of these NFC teams in 2021 (on Thanksgiving), so a win by that team bumps SOS and possibly SOV. We root for tiebreakers every week of the season when applicable.
Optimal Outcome: Saints Victory
Broncos @ Giants (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏
The Broncos are yet another dark horse team this season. They have the skill players, OL, and defense, but do they have the QB? Only time can answer this pressing question, but they take on an NFC team in New Jersey Week 1. So, regardless of their QB situation, we begrudgingly root for that non-New York team to win.
Optimal Outcome: Giants Victory
Dolphins @ Patriots (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
If you don’t want to watch Browns-Chiefs, then you should be watching this game. Both the Dolphins and Patriots are improved, but are they improved enough to challenge the Bills? This is a MASSIVE game to start the season because it will quickly provide one of the teams a 1.5 game advantage via the H2H & DIV Tiebreakers. While the Dolphins did finish with a better record than the Patriots in 2020, it is my opinion that the Patriots improved more and have the better coach. For NOW, we root against the Patriots. But this is subject to change as the season progresses.
Optimal Outcome: Dolphins Victory
Bears @ Rams (Sunday 8:20PM) 👏
The Bears are an interesting team to watch and bet on in 2021, while the Rams are one of the NFC Super Bowl front-runners. The Bills play neither of these NFC teams in 2021, so there isn’t that much information to help understand the optimal outcome for the Bills. This early in the season, root for the team that you think is LESS likely to be serious competition for the Bills in a potential Super Bowl (SUPER BOWL???) matchup. That seems obvious.
Optimal Outcome: Bears Victory
Ravens @ Raiders (Monday 8:15PM) 👏 👏 👏
The last game of the week is an interesting one to monitor if you are a Bills fan. The Ravens are a perennial playoff team and have a stud QB in Lamar Jackson. The Raiders quietly have been good (not great) with Derek Carr at QB, but can they jump the hump this season? Buffalo will see neither of these teams in the regular season, but we root for the less dangerous of the two to get off to a quick start.
Optimal Outcome: Raiders Victory
If all the above games were to go the optimal route, it would result in the following AFC standings (all tiebreakers considered). For the first few weeks of the season, the assumption is that unknown tiebreakers favor the Bills.
|1||Dolphins**||1-0||1-0 WLC, 1-0 DIV|
|5||Bills*||1-0||1-0 WLC, 0-0 DIV|
|6||Jets*||0-1||0-0 WLC, 0-0 DIV|
|7||Colts*||0-1||0-0 WLC, 0-0 DIV|
|8||Titans||0-1||0-0 WLC, 0-0 DIV|
|12||Jaguars||0-1||0-1 WLC, 0-1 DIV|
|16||Patriots||0-1||0-1 WLC, 0-1 DIV|
** Division Leader