Nine weeks into the season, the New England Patriots are finding themselves in a familiar spot: the team has the best record in the AFC, the inside track to earn the conference’s number one playoff seed and home field advantage throughout the postseason, and is also on its way to capture a record-extending 11th straight division title. But while the Patriots are atop the AFC East, the second placed team is actually not too far behind.
Entering Week 10 with a 6-2 record, the Buffalo Bills are one of the surprise stories in the NFL this season. Led by a potent running attack and one of the best defenses in all of football, the team started the year in impressive fashion and has suffered only two defeats at this point — both of which coming at New Era Field: the Patriots won 16-10 in Week 4, while the Philadelphia Eagles were able to steal a 31-13 victory in Week 8.
Despite the two home losses, however, the Bills are still well on their way to earning a playoff spot for just the second time this century. They lead the AFC’s wild card race ahead of the 5-3 Indianapolis Colts and the 5-4 Oakland Raiders, and are only 1.5 games behind New England for the top spot in the division. While it will be hard to overtake the reigning world champions in the standings, Buffalo can still feel good about where it is at.
It is therefore no surprise to see the team’s fans agree. According to SB Nation’s latest FanPulse survey, 80% of participants feel that the organization is headed in the right direction. This approval rating ties the team for the seventh best in the NFL after nine weeks, and ranks four percentage points behind the Patriots. But while “Bills Mafia” is viewing the team in a positive light, not everybody agrees.
Enter the national FanPulse question, asked to all participating fans no matter which team they support. One of the questions posted this week asked about the status of the NFL’s top teams, and whether or not they would be actual contenders or rather pretenders. The Bills ran away with the vote, gathering a total of 63%. For comparison, the second-ranked Green Bay Packers were picked by only 13% of the voters.
It is not hard to see why fans across the nation feel that the Bills are pretenders. While they have played some impressive football, one could argue that they have benefitted from playing a third-place schedule. After all, the team is 0-2 against teams with winning records, while its six victories all came versus squads that are .500 or worse at this point. Then again, you can only play who is on your schedule and Buffalo did that in impressive fashion.
So, are the Bills pretenders? Time will tell whether that is the case, but for now one cannot disregard their accomplishments so far this season simply because their schedule may not have been the toughest in the NFL. They still had to win the games, and they did six of eight times. That being said, we will find out more about the team between Week 13 and 16 when it will have to play the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Patriots.
If you too are interested in participating in our FanPulse survey, please click here!