Welcome to the fifth 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 #4 Review
Talk about a tale of two weeks. Week #3 was one of the best in Buffalo Bills Rooting Interests history, Week #4 not so much. Yes, both the Dolphins and Patriots lost, and the Jets even helped out by beating the Titans, but that’s where it stopped. The Bengals, Chiefs, Browns, Ravens, and Chargers all got big wins to continue pacing the Bills. Early season Rooting Interests don’t hold as much weight as later season ones, but any early season blunders by contenders is something worth rooting for. Here’s to hoping for more blunders from the Bills competition this week as well as a massive win in Kansas City.
Rooting Interests Record: 30-30 (LW 6-9)
Rooting Interests 👏 +/-: +14 (LW -5 👏)
Rams @ Seahawks (Thursday 8:20PM) 👏
Optimal Outcome: Rams Victory
There are four NFC matchups featuring teams the Buffalo Bills do not play this season, the first of which occurs on Thursday night. Rams-Seahawks is a battle for second place in the highly competitive NFC West. Each of these teams plays the AFC South this season with the Rams also playing the Ravens and Seahawks playing the Steelers. A guaranteed SOV decrease of a presumptive AFC division winner is prioritized here and since the Seahawks have already lost to such a team, the Tennessee Titans, the optimal outcome is decided for us.
Jets @ Falcons (Sunday 9:30AM) 👏 👏 👏
The Jets took care of business last week, surprising the best team in the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans. This week they head to London in a matchup of teams that more closely resembles the Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy than the LA Rams and Seattle Seahawks. An easy optimal outcome here, NFC team over AFC East division “rival”.
Optimal Outcome: Falcons Victory
Lions @ Vikings (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
Game number two of NFC teams the Bills don’t play this season is a battle for third place in the NFC North. Another SOV specific game has us look at the AFC North and each team’s extra AFC opponent (Lions play the Broncos this year, Vikings play the Chargers). Four games into the season, the Lions have lost to the AFC’s Ravens while the Vikings have lost to the AFC’s Bengals and Browns. This early in the season we prioritize SOV drops to as many teams as possible, especially when it comes to, what appears to be, a wide-open AFC North.
Optimal Outcome: Lions Victory
Saints @ Washington (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
Two of the biggest enigmas in the NFL in a game that opened as a literal pick’em this week. The Bills had each of these teams on the schedule coming into this season and have already drubbed the Washington Football Team. With the Saints-Bills matchup yet to occur, there is one outcome here that guarantees an increase in SOV for the Buffalo Bills.
Optimal Outcome: Washington Victory
Patriots @ Texans (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
The Patriots are coming off a well-played game against the Buccaneers in what was billed as the most anticipated regular season game in NFL history. It didn’t live up to the hype. Meanwhile, the Texans got, well, I’m not sure of a word to accurately describe what happened in Western New York on Sunday. Annihilated? While it currently looks unlikely the Patriots will compete for the AFC East division title, it’s better safe than sorry to prioritize a divisional foe losing this early in the season.
Optimal Outcome: Texans Victory
Dolphins @ Buccaneers (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏
The same logic applied to the Patriots-Texans game is applied here but with two major differences. First, the Buccaneers pose no threat to the Bills playoff aspirations outside of their matchup in mid-December. Second, the Dolphins are in complete free fall less than a quarter of the way through the season. What some, not many, thought was a team that could compete for a division title is quickly becoming one of the more embarrassing early season story lines in the NFL.
Optimal Outcome: Buccaneers Victory
Packers @ Bengals (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏
Are the Bengals legitimate contenders to win the AFC North? To date, their three victories are against teams with a combined record of 2-10 (.167), while their sole loss is to the 2-2 Bears. A victory over a very good Packers team would quickly shift any “Paper Tiger” narrative surrounding the Bengals, but should that matter to Bills Mafia? Nope.
Optimal Outcome: Packers Victory
Broncos @ Steelers (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏👏👏
This is an oddly difficult game to determine the optimal outcome for. On one side is a 3-1 Broncos team that may make some noise in the AFC West. It is worth noting that they maintain their “Paper Tiger” status with an SOV of just .167. On the other side is a Steelers team who holds the massive H2H tiebreaker over the Bills. For that tiebreaker to apply though, the Steelers will need to climb out of the basement of the AFC North, something that seems unlikely to happen. Who is more likely to win their division? Root against them.
Optimal Outcome: Steelers Victory
Eagles @ Panthers (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏
Philly played the Chiefs really well, while the Panthers dropped their first contest of the season to the Cowboys. With the Bills seeing the Panthers later in the season, there is SOS, and possibly SOV, gains to be had here. Further increasing the importance of this matchup is that if it goes by way of the optimal outcome the inverse is applied to the AFC West, the AFC division the Eagles play this season.
Optimal Outcome: Panthers Victory
Titans @ Jaguars (Sunday 1:00PM) 👏 👏 👏
At this point in the season there looks to be three teams in contention for the #1 Pick in the 2022 NFL Draft: the Lions, Texans, and Jaguars. With two of those teams coming from the AFC South, the odds that the inevitable division winner, Tennessee Titans, get six wins from their division alone skyrockets. The Jaguars are nowhere in the realm of threatening the Buffalo Bills, so another loss for a likely division winner is priority number one here.
Optimal Outcome: Jaguars Victory
Browns @ Chargers (Sunday 4:05PM) 👏👏👏👏
Outside of Bills-Chiefs, this is quite possibly the most intriguing game of the week. Two 3-1 teams clash in what could be an early season preview of a playoff game. This game is lacking a definitive optimal outcome as our only option is to look at which team is more likely to win their division, and root against them. Is it a Browns team who will have to fend off the Ravens and Bengals? (The Steelers are Toast.) Or is it a Chargers team that will have to stay ahead of the Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs? One team clearly has a more difficult task ahead of them, this week we root for that team.
Optimal Outcome: Chargers Victory
Bears @ Raiders (Sunday 4:05PM) 👏 👏 👏
The Raiders were the darlings of the NFL after a 3-0 start with victories over the Ravens, Steelers, and Dolphins, two of which came in overtime. On Monday night, they ran into a buzz-saw in LA as the Chargers doubled them up in a 14-28 loss. Are the Raiders “Contenders” or “Pretenders”? Right now, it’s much to early to tell, but in an early-season AFC vs. NFC matchup, the Optimal Outcome is decided for us.
Optimal Outcome: Bears Victory
49ers @ Cardinals (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏
The second of two NFC West duels this week sees the 49ers travel to their one-time home, State Farm Stadium. We use the same logic here that we did for the Rams-Seahawks game by focusing on the application of SOV to the AFC South as well as the 49ers additional AFC opponent, the Bengals, and the Cardinals additional AFC opponent, the Browns. To date, the Cardinals have victories over the Titans and Jaguars, while the 49ers have yet to play an AFC team. Seeing as though one team is guaranteed not to factor into an AFC contender’s SOV, while the other still can, we root for the team who has already beaten a solid AFC opponent.
Optimal Outcome: Cardinals Victory
Giants @ Cowboys (Sunday 4:25PM) 👏
Giants and Cowboys fans probably think this is the biggest game of the year. It’s not even a top-5 game this week. Still there has to be a team for Bills fans to root for here. With the NFC East playing the AFC West and the Giants additionally playing the Dolphins and Cowboys additionally playing the Patriots, we look at SOV. Thus far, the Giants have lost to the Broncos, while the Cowboys have beaten the Chargers. This makes for an easy choice on how to best negate SOV for possible AFC competition for the Bills.
Optimal Outcome: Cowboys Victory
Bills @ Chiefs (Sunday 8:20PM) 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
Far and away the biggest game of the regular season for each of these teams, this one quite possibly will determine the #1 seed in the AFC. From a morale standpoint, it’s massive for the Bills but, from a standings standpoint, it’s huge for the Chiefs. A win by the Bills gives them a 2.5 game lead over the Chiefs, just 5 games into the season. A win by the Chiefs gives them a 0.5 game lead over the Bills. Consider this, the Bills remaining SOS is .365 while the Chiefs is .635, a 2.5 game lead may be insurmountable.
Optimal Outcome: Bills Victory
Colts @ Ravens (Monday 8:15PM) 👏 👏 👏
Last week, the Colts stunned the Dolphins, but they still look like a bottom tier team in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Ravens have what is possibly the strongest resume in the NFL and are quietly one of the more dangerous teams. Assuming the Bills take care of business later in the season against the Colts, a win by Indy this week would result in bumps in WLC, WLG, and SOV in a possible tie between the Bills and Ravens.
Optimal Outcome: Colts 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.
|5||Ravens*||3-2||0-0 DIV, 2-2 WLC, H2H Win over Broncos|
|6||Broncos*||3-2||0-0 DIV, H2H Loss to Ravens|
|7||Raiders*||3-2||0-1 DIV, 3-1 WLC|
|8||Browns||3-2||0-0 DIV, 1-2 WLC|
|10||Titans||2-3||1-1 DIV, 1-2 WLC|
|14||Dolphins||1-4||H2H Win over Pats, 1-3 WLC|
|15||Patriots||1-4||H2H Loss to Dolphins, H2H Win over Jets|
|16||Jets||1-4||H2H Loss to Patriots|
** Division Leader