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Analysis: Bills have faced easiest schedule of offenses, defenses in the NFL
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Analysis: Bills have faced easiest schedule of offenses, defenses in the NFL

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Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) celebrates after making an interception during the fourth quarter at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

Buffalo Bills fans finally should get a better idea of the quality of their team when it meets the New England Patriots on Monday.

Exactly how good are the Bills? Rarely has the picture of a Bills team ever been less clear after 11 games.

The Bills enter Monday night’s game at No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed and No. 3 in points scored. Their defense still is No. 1 in yards allowed, and the offense is fifth in yards gained. All seven of their victories are by 15 points or more. Great, right?

Now the cold-water perspective: The Bills’ defense has faced the easiest schedule of opposing offenses in the NFL in terms of average yards gained. The Bills’ offense, likewise, has faced the easiest schedule of defenses in the league. And in terms of strength of schedule by victories, the Bills are tied with Cincinnati for the easiest schedule. Both teams’ foes have a winning percentage of just .428.

The Thanksgiving Day win against a New Orleans team quarterbacked by Trevor Siemian was the Bills’ fifth game out of 11 this year against a backup quarterback. Last year, the Bills faced one backup QB in 16 games.

Obviously, a team has no control over its schedule. The Bills’ defense played a great game against a Kansas City offense that’s ranked No. 2 in the NFL. The final-play loss at Tennessee, which was at full strength for one of the few times this season against the Bills, arguably qualifies as a “good defeat,” if there is such a thing.

But it’s hard to draw too many conclusions about most of the Bills’ games. Obviously, the Bills were terrible in getting blown out by Indianapolis. But the defense has a mitigating factor: It was without run-clogger Star Lotulelei and middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

Easiest Schedule of Offenses
Faced in 2021
RkTeamY/Game Avg
1Buffalo 331.6
2L.A. Rams336.4
3N.Y. Jets 337.2
4Jacksonville339.0
5New England340.0
Source: Buffalo News

The Bills’ defense is good. How good? The strength of schedule leaves it an open question with six games remaining in the regular season. The loss of cornerback Tre’Davious White for the season to injury adds to the uncertainty.

A week after getting steamrolled by Jonathan Taylor and the Colts, the Bills’ defenders were feeling good about bouncing back.

“Just goes to show ... the group of guys that we have in a locker room,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said after the Saints game. “We come off a tough loss like that last week and to bounce back on the short week, it says a lot about guys. But obviously, we got to continue to do this and stay consistent, and looking forward to the next matchup we have.”

“After a loss last week, we knew we needed to come in with high energy and get some momentum early,” said safety Jordan Poyer. “Obviously, this crowd is probably second behind the Buffalo Bills as far as their energy, and we were able to take them out of it early. Just having some huge stops and guys making plays all over the field.”

Entering Monday night’s AFC East showdown, it’s worth questioning New England’s dominance thus far as well. The Patriots’ defense ranks No. 1 in points allowed and No. 4 in yards allowed.

But the AFC East has caught a bit of a break this year in scheduling, facing the NFC South, which is down, and the AFC South, which has two of the worst teams in the NFL in Houston and Jacksonville.

New England has faced the fifth-easiest schedule of offenses, according to average yards gained. The Patriots’ offense has faced the seventh-easiest schedule of defenses.

Easiest Schedule of Defenses
Faced in 2021
RkTeamY/Game Avg
1Buffalo365.1
2Denver359.1
3Carolina358.7
4Cincinnati358.3
5Green Bay355.3

As with most statistical rankings, there is some nuance in the strength of schedule that is missed. The Bills faced a full-strength Pittsburgh defense in Week 1. The Steelers have had some injuries on defense and now rank 25th in yards allowed. The Bills caught the Titans on one of just three games in which Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones were fully healthy. New England played the Titans minus all three of those stars. Conversely, the Bills played a New Orleans offense on arguably its worst week, decimated by injuries.

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Bills/NFL writer

Gaughan's insight is featured in the "PlayAction" video series, providing analysis to get Bills fans ready for the next game. He is past president of the Pro Football Writers of America and served as a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector for 12 years.

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