Welcome to the fourth 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 #3 Review
There have been 29 Rooting Interest posts that include the Game Importance Scale, last week’s +14 👏 is tied for the highest total of all time (Week #13 2019). This is what happens when the entire AFC East loses as well as the Chiefs and Steelers. In fact, the Bills were just a 66-yard kick away from a near perfect week. If Buffalo can continue to handle their business and we see more weeks like this then we could truly be talking about seeding much sooner than anyone thought.
Rooting Interests Record: 24-21 (LW 9-6)
Rooting Interests 👏 +/-: +19 (LW +14 👏)
Jaguars @ Bengals (Thursday 8:20PM) 👏 👏 👏
Duval thought that Trevor Lawrence would be their savior while Who Dey Nation hoped Joe Burrow could return to form following a promising rookie season. One of them has a TD:TO Ratio of 7:4 and is quarterbacking a 2-1 division leader. The other has a 5:9 TD:TO Ratio on an 0-3 team which is on its way to competing for the #1 Overall Pick. An easy choice to start the week, root for the pretender to beat the contender.
Optimal Outcome: Jaguars Victory
Titans @ Jets (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏
I’ve been alluding to this for weeks, but the time is now. The Jets are, yet again, going nowhere in 2021. Zach Wilson looks in over his head through 3 weeks, they have no rusher averaging 30+ yards per game, and their defense ranks in the bottom half of the league by DVOA. Simultaneously the Titans seem to be the only legitimate contender in the AFC South and are destined to host a playoff game come January. Meaning that for the first time this season, we root for a division rival, it feels dirty, but I promise you’ll like it.
Optimal Outcome: Jets Victory
Chiefs @ Eagles (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
Each of the Chiefs first three games have been decided by less than 7 points (+4, -1, -6), resulting in a surprising 1-2 record. Still, we are light-years away from writing off a team that should still be considered the team to beat in the AFC. Another loss would dig them a deep hole and make for a desperate team heading into a HUGE Sunday night rematch of the AFC Championship on October 10th.
Optimal Outcome: Eagles Victory
Panthers @ Cowboys (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
There are six NFC-only matchups this week, half of which include a team on the Bills schedule this season, this being one of them. The Bills won’t see the Panthers until mid-December, but when they do meet, it looks to be a much more difficult game than first thought. Meanwhile, the Cowboys play the AFC West + Patriots, meaning if this game falls in the Bills favor, they will see an SOS bump and possibly SOV while applying the inverse to some other contenders.
Optimal Outcome: Panthers Victory
Giants @ Saints (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
New Jersey is having a rough start to the season with each of the two teams that call it home winless. Louisiana is having an interesting start, seeing their team go 2-1 but with equal possibilities that this team is good and bad. The Bills don’t play the New Jersey NFC Team but do play the Louisiana team. Therefore we root for the southern state in the name of SOV & SOS.
Optimal Outcome: Saints Victory
Browns @ Vikings (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏
The Bengals may be in 1st place in the AFC North, but just by virtue of early-season tiebreakers. One of the teams they’re tied with is the Cleveland Browns, possibly the most dangerous team in the division. An elite run game, a solid QB, and a stout defense make them a threat to take home the AFC title. On the other side is a Vikings team that is 8-11 since the departure of Stefon Diggs yet still seems oddly obsessed with the Bills WR1. This week let’s toss a bone to our Super Bowl-less buddies from up north by rooting against the only playoff-bound team in this game.
Optimal Outcome: Vikings Victory
Lions @ Bears (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
There are 3 NFC, non-Bills opponents, games this week, with this being the first of them. The Lions and Bears each play the AFC North this season, but the Lions also play the Broncos while the Bears play the Raiders. We look for an SOV/SOS drop for one of the two aforementioned AFC West teams, primarily the better of the two. As odd as it seems, with each possessing the same record, one seems better. Root for the team that that one plays to drop this game.
Optimal Outcome: Lions Victory
Texans @ Bills (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
No one has officially defined what a trap game is. Instead, we’ve all just agreed that it’s something you know when you see it. Texans @ Bills opened at -16.5 Bills, Bills headed to Kansas City next to avenge their AFC Championship loss. I see it, and to quote the legendary Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a Trap!”
Optimal Outcome: Bills Victory
Colts @ Dolphins (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
Barn Burner: One that arouses much interest or excitement. Not a Barn Burner: The 0-3 Colts playing the 1-2 Dolphins. As boring as this game seems, the significance of yet another Dolphins loss weighs heavy for the Bills. Root for the gap between the top of the AFC East and the rest of it to grow further.
Optimal Outcome: Colts Victory
Washington @ Falcons (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
Buffalo had both WFT and Falcons listed on their schedule coming into 2021. They have already played WFT and won’t see a crummy Falcons team until the calendar flips. With each of these teams representing the NFC, the only benefit here is in SOV. The Bills already beat one of these teams, meaning they have a guaranteed bump in SOV if this goes the optimal route.
Optimal Outcome: Washington Victory
Seahawks @ 49ers (Sunday 4:05PM) 👏
The two 4:05 games see two matchups of NFC West teams. In this one, the 1-2 Seahawks play the 2-1 49ers. The Bills see neither of these teams in the regular season. Thus, we focus on the SOS and/or SOV deductions to be had for AFC Contenders. With each of these teams playing the AFC South, the only differentiating factor to be found here is that the Seahawks play the Steelers and the 49ers play the Bengals. It’s a near impossibility that SOV plays a role in any tiebreaker between the Bills and Steelers, but it is still somewhat feasible between the Bills and Bengals. Root for the NFC team the Bengals plays this season to lose this game.
Optimal Outcome: Seahawks Victory
Cardinals @ Rams (Sunday 4:05PM) 👏
The same logic applied in the Seahawks and 49ers game takes place when looking at the 3-0 Cardinals take on the 3-0 Rams. The Cardinals see their differentiating AFC counterpart in the Browns while the Rams see the Ravens. Browns or Ravens, who do you think is more dangerous? For now, I’ll side with the Lake Erie Bro, meaning the Optimal Outcome here is to root against the NFC team they play this season.
Optimal Outcome: Rams Victory
Steelers @ Packers (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
The Steelers look like a shell of the team that waltzed into Buffalo and stole a win in Week 1. The Packers were written off after a bad start to their season. Now, they look like a possible juggernaut in the NFC. At a later date, there may be a time when we focus on a matchup between the Bills and Packers, but let’s not count our chickens before the eggs hatch. There is a benefit to the Steelers continued to fall that would further diminish the fear of the all-important H2H tiebreaker. Root for the fall to continue.
Optimal Outcome: Packers Victory
Ravens @ Broncos (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
The Ravens are 2-1 with victories over the Chiefs (1-2) & Lions (0-3) and a loss to the Raiders (3-0). The Broncos are 3-0 with victories over the Giants (0-3), Jaguars (0-3), & Jets (0-3). This sets the combined SOV of this matchup at .067. Should we consider each of these teams to be “Paper Tigers”? Or are they just beating the teams in front of them? This is not easy to analyze from a rooting interests perspective; however, only one of these teams has a win over a Blue-Chip franchise. This early in the season means more than the numbers in the W & L columns of the standings. Root for that team to lose.
Optimal Outcome: Broncos Victory
Buccaneers @ Patriots (Sunday 8:20PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
Bills Mafia may not want to hear this, but this regular-season matchup between the Bucs and Pats is likely the most anticipated regular-season game in NFL history. Tom Brady returns to Foxborough in-game that makes my skin crawl. The good news is that we don’t have to overthink this. One of these teams plays in the NFC, the other in the AFC East. Push the Bills closer to locking up the AFC East title (I know it’s still early) while obtaining some good tape on a team the Bills meet later this season. Easy.
Optimal Outcome: Buccaneers Victory
Raiders @ Chargers (Monday 8:15PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
A similar analysis is applied to this game that applied to the Ravens @ Broncos. The Raiders are 3-0 with victories over the Ravens (2-1), Steelers (1-2), & Dolphins (1-2). The Chargers are 2-1 with victories over the WFT (1-2) & Chiefs (1-2), and a loss to the Cowboys (2-1). This sets the combined SOV of this matchup at .400, a stark contrast to the .067 of the Ravens @ Broncos. This is a true toss-up of a call. Each team is posing a real threat to seeding in the playoffs for the Bills. The call here goes by way of the abstract and ignores the stats with an eye on potential in the future. One of these teams potential is slightly higher. Root against them.
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.
|3||Bengals**||2-2||1-0 DIV, 1-1 WLC|
|9||Texans||1-3||1-0 DIV, 1-2 WLC|
|12||Dolphins||1-3||1-1 DIV, 1-3 WLC|
|13||Patriots||1-3||1-1 DIV, 1-1 WLC|
|14||Colts||1-3||0-1 DIV, 1-1 WLC|
|15||Jaguars||1-3||0-1 DIV, 1-2 WLC|
|16||Jets||1-3||0-1 DIV, 1-2 WLC|
** Division Leader