After James Cook's 221-yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys resulted in one of the Bills' biggest wins of the season, Buffalo's playoff chances are heating up as the season nears its conclusion.
Here are what some of the nation's top NFL experts are saying about where the Bills stand.
Bills running back James Cook ran all over the Dallas Cowboys defense in Buffalo's 31-10 win on Sunday, tallying 221 total yards and two touchdowns in the best performance of his short career. As a team that is typically pass-heavy, the Bills ran the ball on over 75 percent of offensive plays as they jumped out to a 21-3 lead at the half and never looked back.
ESPN's Pac McAfee said that the emergence of the Bills run game will allow Joe Brady and the offensive coaching staff to get creative with their play calling as they make a push towards the playoffs.
"James Cook just adds an extra little bit of, 'hey, you're going to have to respect this box a little bit.' So then maybe it's easier for Josh Allen to make plays out of the pocket and then on the run. It offsets everything and they've been playing playoff football here for the last few weeks."
The Bills currently have a 69 percent chance to make the playoffs according to the New York Times playoff simulator. While winning their three remaining games against the Chargers, Patriots and Dolphins remains incredibly important in a year that features five teams with 8-6 records, the NBC's Steve Kornacki thinks that the Bills are heating up at just the right time.
"The heartbreaker in Philly a few weeks ago left them as decided long-shots. Then they pull the upset at Arrowhead. Today, they crush the Cowboys and all of a sudden, the Bills are a better-than-even shot to make the playoffs."
The Bills' path to winning their fourth-straight AFC East crown is simple: win out and hope that Miami drops at least one of their remaining games against Dallas and Baltimore before hosting Buffalo in what could be a winner-takes-all Week 18 matchup. NBC's Peter King said that, whether or not Buffalo is able to host a home playoff game, whoever has to face Buffalo in the playoffs – should they get in – will not be happy.
"The Bills might not win the AFC East. But just imagine the AFC division winner that draws Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs. This is a top five team in football right now."
Missing safety Micah Hyde and defensive end AJ Epenesa – in addition to multiple other key defenders, the Buffalo defense held a Dallas team that had averaged over 40 points per game over their previous five contests to just 10 points, only three in the first three quarters. From a scheme standpoint, Sean McDermott and the defensive coaching staff drew up a perfect plan to keep Dallas at bay: protecting the middle of the field and effectively pressuring the quarterback. Combined with an offense that is clicking at just the right time, The Ringer's Benjamin Solak thinks that the Bills are a complete team as the regular season nears its end.
"The dominant rushing performance from Buffalo, with their defensive performance considered (three meaningful points allowed to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys?), and the ever-present threat of Allen going thermonuclear? From my vantage point, the Bills look like a complete team for the first time all season."
Many would have thought that if Josh Allen threw for under 100 yards on Sunday, the Bills would not have walked out of Highmark Stadium with a win over the Cowboys. However, 266 team rushing yards later, the Bills took a top five defense to the woodworks in a 21-point win. The Athletic's Robert Mays credited Allen for his ability to embrace a smaller role in an offense that is often centered around the quarterback.
"The fact that he can step back and they can have a game like this is remarkable. I loved watching a team not get bored with this … They did a little bit of everything, it didn't matter who was out there, it didn't matter how the Cowboys matched it, they ran it down their throats the entire game."
Between signing Leonard Floyd – who leads the Bills with 10.5 sacks, trading for cornerback Rasul Douglas – who has been a consistent starter since his arrival and signing defensive tackle Linval Joseph to beef up the Bills' run defense, general manager Brandon Beane has been highly effective in constructing a team well-suited for head coach Sean McDermott's defensive philosophy.
"Brandon Beane had to show confidence in Sean, in their partnership. During moments like this when the team is struggling and there's all the outside noise, what you need sometimes more than anything is a good, reliable trusting partner. Not only is the team playing well, but watching how Sean and Brandon Beane have done a great job staying together, keeping themselves in check because they know there's a bigger goal."
Ranked eighth in his power rankings, NFL.com's Eric Edholm gave the Buffalo Bills credit for their reemergence in the AFC playoff conversation after finding themselves at 6-6 earlier in the season. While the Bills still have to fight their way into the postseason, Edholm thinks they will be a hard out come January.
"At 6-6, Buffalo was left for dead. At 8-6, this team looks like a frightening party crasher. The Bills are not yet in the dance, though, sitting at the No. 9 slot in the AFC. But their ranking here reflects just how dangerous this team is right now after stomping a Cowboys club that had won five straight."
Josh Allen has had an MVP-caliber season, leading the NFL in total touchdowns with 37 as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. He has attempted 40 or more passes six times this season and, when the Bills are facing third-and-long or need an explosive play, isn't afraid to tuck it and charge forward to make a big play. But FOX Sports' Colin Cowherd thinks that the fact that the Bills were able to win on Sunday without Allen having to take over (although he did account for a passing and rushing touchdown for a record-breaking 10th time this season) will bode well for them should they make the postseason.
"Just because you have a quarterback with godlike talent does not mean you have to squeeze every ounce of it every Sunday to carry the team. Occasionally, Josh Allen can be a complementary player. [Sunday], he was a second pitch and a highly effective one."
Even though the Bills' most recent win came through the ground, Josh Allen has been impressive all season and a major reason why the Bills are in contention for a playoff spot. Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab thinks that if the Bills are able to overtake the Dolphins for the top spot in the AFC East, he will be in serious contention for the league's Most Valuable Player award.
"Allen's case is getting stronger. He has 26 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing touchdowns. The Bills are very unlikely to get a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but catching the Dolphins and winning the division is feasible for them. If Buffalo wins the AFC East with a strong finish and Allen accounts for 45 touchdowns or more, he'll get a lot of attention."
The Buffalo Bills jumped up to the No. 3 spot in Josh Kendall's latest power rankings after their dominant win over Dallas. Kendall noted that the Bills don't look like a team that should have lost six games, but attributed their turnover differentials in wins (plus-11) and losses (minus-eight) as a primary contributing factor.
"The Bills proved Sunday they're one of the best teams in the league and a Super Bowl contender. More importantly, they got themselves closer to the playoffs, moving in to the No. 9 spot in the AFC."
Former Super Bowl champ and Bills standout LeSean McCoy, FOX host Colin Cowherd, former Bills RB Fred Jackson, NFL Network reporter Judy Battista and others shared these opinions on Buffalo's decisive win at Highmark Stadium on Sunday.