Welcome to the second iteration of 2021’s “Buffalo Bills Rooting Interests”! 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 to this series will be posted each week on 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
Week #1 Review
If we take a step back from the Bills’ Week 1 loss to the Steelers, there are some positives to be had. The Seahawks and Cardinals each had big wins over AFC South teams (the Colts and Titans, respectively). Meanwhile, the Dolphins were able to escape Massachusetts with a win over the Patriots and the Raiders downed the Ravens in Las Vegas. This means that the only game of note that did not fall in the Bills’ favor was the Chiefs’ victory over the Browns. A solid start to the season that could have been a whole lot sweeter if a certain punt was not blocked in Buffalo.
Rooting Interests Record: 7-7 (LW 7-7)
Rooting Interests 👏 +/-: +2 (LW +2 👏)
Giants @ Washington (Thursday 8:20PM) 👏
A team with no state meets a team with no name in this NFC East showdown of 0-1 teams. Since each team represents the NFC, our focus is on the SOS & SOV tiebreakers. With the Bills set to play the WFT next week and the Giants not a part of their schedule, only one outcome can have a positive impact on those tiebreakers. An extra thing to watch in this game is how Washington handles their QB situation post Ryan Fitzpatrick injury, with the Bills set to host them on September 26th in Orchard Park.
Optimal Outcome: Washington Victory
Patriots @ Jets (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
Two AFC East teams with a combined winning percentage of .000 will square off in East Rutherford, New Jersey. An important game for Bills fans to watch will see the victor gain a division win bumping up the all-important divisional record tiebreaker. While early in the season, it seems clear that one of these teams is more dangerous than the other. So root for that team to lose. In doing so, you have the added benefit of rooting against a player some want to believe is the 2nd coming of Tom Brady.
Optimal Outcome: Jets Victory
Broncos @ Jaguars (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
Two teams trending in very different directions. The Broncos just shellacked the Giants while the Jaguars just got shellacked by a team some thought would go 0-17 (the Texans). Noting that trend and the preseason presumption of each, we root for the lesser team in hopes of keeping an AFC contender’s record from moving further past .500.
Optimal Outcome: Jaguars Victory
Bills @ Dolphins (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
Week 1 wasn’t pretty for Buffalo, while the Dolphins narrowly escaped Foxborough with a win. If the Bills can leave Miami with a victory (and the Jets lose to the Patriots) they can quickly regain their rightful spot atop the AFC East.
Optimal Outcome: Bills Victory
49ers @ Eagles (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
There are 3 NFC only, non 2021 Bills opponent matchups on the schedule this week. The first of these sees the 49ers traveling east to Philly in a battle of undefeated teams. There isn’t enough context this early in the season to develop a complete rationale on who to root for. So root for the team you think the Bills would matchup better with if they were to meet on, say, February 13, 2022?
Optimal Outcome: Eagles Victory
Rams @ Colts (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
Coming into the 2021 season, the Colts were a sneaky Super Bowl pick while the Rams were an obvious one. After one week, the obvious seems obvious and the sneaky seems far-fetched. Regardless, this early in the season, if you see NFC vs. AFC you root NFC which is just what we will do here.
Optimal Outcome: Rams Victory
Raiders @ Steelers (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
With the Bills losing to the Steelers in Week 1, the Steelers will now be of significant interest for Bills fans moving forward. The Head-to-Head tiebreaker is a massive one and basically represents a 0.5 game buffer for the Steelers moving forward. Start the consistent rooting against the Steelers this week by rooting for a Raiders team that is coming off a dramatic OT win against the Ravens. The sky is not falling in Buffalo, but a quick Steelers loss would sure ease a lot of discomfort.
Optimal Outcome: Raiders Victory
Bengals @ Bears (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏
Just 251 miles separate the Bengals and Bears and even less separate the expectations of each in 2021. Vegas set the Bears and Bengals season win totals at 7.5 and 6.5, respectively, coming into the season. But, after one week, only one team has made progress towards that total. Unfortunately, that team happens to be the AFC which is all the more reason to root for the NFC team here.
Optimal Outcome: Bears Victory
Texans @ Browns (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏
We were told the Texans wouldn’t win a game in 2021. We were told the Browns were ready to supplant the Chiefs atop the AFC. After one week, we can squash both of these ludicrous narratives. Still, the Browns represent a more real and present danger to the Bills than the Texas, who are unlikely to maintain any consistent success. Root accordingly.
Optimal Outcome: Texans Victory
Saints @ Panthers (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
Two NFC teams, two undefeated teams, two teams the Bills will play in 2021. The Saints are coming off a dismantling of the Packers that was so thorough it has some questioning if Aaron Rodgers returned to sabotage the franchise. The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off the Sam Darnold revenge game which saw them down the hapless Jets. SOS is a wash here so root for the team you believe the Bills have a better chance of beating, thus increasing their potential SOV.
Optimal Outcome: Panthers Victory
Vikings @ Cardinals (Sunday 4:05PM) 👏
The Vikings surprisingly lost to the Bengals and the Cardinals surprisingly demolished the Titans in Week 1. Both are still very clear NFC playoff threats, which has little to no impact on the Bills. Since the Bills play neither in 2021 we apply the same logic to this game that we did to the 49ers-Eagles game. Who do you think the Bills would more likely beat if they were to play the day before Valentine’s Day?
Optimal Outcome: Vikings Victory
Falcons @ Buccaneers (Sunday 4:05PM) 👏
In the context of “Rooting Interests”, this matchup is incredibly similar to the Saints-Panthers game. Two NFC Teams and two teams the Bills play this season. Unlike Saints-Panthers, both teams are not undefeated and sit on very opposite ends of the NFL spectrum. The Bucs are serious Super Bowl contenders, and the Falcons are serious #1 Overall Pick hopefuls. Again, SOS is a wash here so we root for the team the Bills are more likely to beat to bump SOV.
Optimal Outcome: Falcons Victory
Titans @ Seahawks (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏 👏
A massive matchup for a Titans team that was a near unanimous pick to run away with the AFC South. A loss to a really good Seahawks team on Sunday puts the Titans in a position where their best-case scenario record heading into a week 6 matchup with the Bills is 3-2. A dangerous start for a team many believed would possess one of the most dangerous offenses, and a start all Bills fans should root for.
Optimal Outcome: Seahawks Victory
Cowboys @ Chargers (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏
The Chargers got off to a fast start to the season with a 20-16 victory over the WFT, thus maintaining their “Dark Horse Super Bowl Contender” title. This week they take on another NFC East team in the Dallas Cowboys, who seem better positioned to compete this year than many believed. Root for the team that still insists they are “America’s Team”; root for the minimization of threat posed by a young and fiery Chargers team.
Optimal Outcome: Cowboys Victory
Chiefs @ Ravens (Sunday 8:20PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
The Chiefs handled their business against the Browns in Week 1, while the Ravens dropped an early contest against the Raiders. Regardless, this is a key game to watch with each of these teams being potential AFC Championship contenders. During the Lamar Jackson era, the Ravens are 0-3 against the Chiefs. Can they get their first W of the season and Lamar’s first versus Patrick this week? Bills fans should hope so.
Optimal Outcome: Ravens Victory
Lions @ Packers (Monday 8:15PM) 👏
The Lions nearly stole a game from the 49ers, while the Packers completely embarrassed themselves. This game could be significantly more interesting than most thought when the schedule initially came out. Since the Bills play neither of these NFC teams in 2021, we shift our focus to which team the Bills would have a better chance of beating in a potential Valentine’s Day matchup.
Optimal Outcome: Lions 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.
|3||Jets**||1-1||1-0 DIV, 1-0 WLC|
|5||Steelers*||1-1||1-1 WLC, H2H Win Over Bills|
|6||Bills*||1-1||1-0 DIV, 1-1 WLC, H2H Loss To Steelers|
|8||Dolphins||1-1||1-1 DIV, 1-1 WLC|
** Division Leader