My initial reaction: This team is going to knock the skeptic right out of me if they keep this up. I certainly didn't see this coming. I picked them for 4-12. They just blew by that pick before the end of October.
How in the heck are the Bills 5-2? People assumed they were tanking before the season. After the trade of Marcell Dareus on Friday, they had said goodbye to nine of their first- or second-round draft picks since Sean McDermott became head coach in January.
They're relying on castoffs and rookies and marginal NFL players. On Sunday, they were down two starters in the secondary and relying on journeymen receivers like Deonte Thompson and Andre Holmes.
At some point, you figure it's bound to catch up to them. But try telling that to this inspired, well-coached bunch. After Sunday's resounding 34-14 win over the Raiders at New Era Field, three things seem fairly evident about this year's Bills:
One, they're a legitimate playoff contender in a jumbled league of mostly average franchises. Two, they have restored their home-field advantage to its highest level since the Jim Kelly era. And three, they don't miss Dareus. If anything, the defense was inspired by his departure.
The Bills are tied for first in the AFC East with the Patriots, who defeated the Chargers. It also handed a fifth loss to an Oakland team that made the playoffs last season and was a chic pick to reach the Super Bowl this season.
Buffalo also moved to 4-0 at New Era Field. It's the first time the Bills have won their first four games of a season in Orchard Park since 1995. They won their first four home games in 2011, but the fourth win came in Toronto against the Redskins.
On a day when we skeptics figured the Bills were due to stumble, they again showed their competitive character. Resourceful and resilient, maybe a little lucky at times, the "Misfits," they needed to win despite a limited receiving corps and a decimated secondary.
When the Raiders became the first team to score a TD on its first possession, it looked like it might be a long day. It was — for the Raiders and quarterback Derek Carr, who were mostly dreadful for the rest of the afternoon.
Khalil Mack, the reigning defensive MVP of the league, was perfectly irrelevant.
The Bills failed to score a TD in the first quarter for the seventh straight game, but took over from then on, scoring 27 consecutive points against an Oakland team that had scored 29 against them in the last 20 minutes of a road loss last season.
Once again, it was a couple of lesser lights who made the play of the day. Late in the first half, Carr threw short to running back DeAndre Washington, who was crushed by cornerback Leonard Johnson. The ball popped into the air and straight to rookie linebacker, Matt Milano, who raced 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Bills a 14-7 lead.
Milano, who was drafted in the fifth round with a pick acquired from the Patriots for Mike Gillislee, was at it again early in the second half. After the Bills went three-and-out, Milano drilled Jalen Richard on a punt return, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Mike Tolbert.
Stephen Hauschka kicked a field goal a few plays later to make it 17-7 and Oakland never got closer. Tyrod Taylor had another strong game, completing 20 of 27 for 165 yards and a touchdown. Taylor hung in the pocket better than usual to deliver some timely big throws.
LeSean McCoy ran 27 times for 151 yards, his best game of the season and second-best of his Bills career. He had 153 last year against Cleveland. Zay Jones had a career-high three catches. Taylor completed passes to nine different receivers and didn't turn the ball over.
The Bills, who led the league in giveaway-takeaway coming in, took it away four times. The run defense, which was ranked seventh overall and fourth in average per attempt, held the Raiders to 54 yards on the ground. Oakland never mounted any semblance of a running game.
The Bills have three days off before heading to New Jersey for a Thursday night game against the Jets. They have a chance to get to 6-2 for the first time since 1993. Yeah, the last Super Bowl year.
Man, and people thought this team was tanking.