Each Wednesday during the NFL season I’m compiling power rankings of the best Buffalo Bills players for 2017. The rankings are cumulative and not based solely off their last game.
Here’s my rankings after Week eight; a 34-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders to improve to 5-2 on the season. (last week’s rankings in parenthesis):
1. Micah Hyde: is there really a question? Hyde had his NFL-leading fifth interception against the Raiders to go with six tackles and two passes defended. Per Pro Football Focus Oakland quarterback David Carr only had a 46.4 passer rating when throwing in Hyde’s vicinity. Health if never taken for granted especially in Buffalo but if Hyde stays injury-free you may as well punch his ticket to the Pro Bowl right now. The guy’s been a rock. (1)
2. Lesean McCoy: It’s been tough sledding for Mccoy through a lot of 2017 so far, but it was vintage McCoy against the Raiders, where he was easily the best player on the field. McCoy piled up a season-best 151 rushing yards on 27 carries, including a game-sealing 48-yard touchdown run, while also catching six passes, albeit for just 22 yards. If the Bills are to maintain success offensively McCoy will be the key and last Sunday was the most encouraging side yet. I take that back—the most encouraging sign is that Shady looks perfectly healthy as we near the midpoint of the season. (3)
3. Tyrod Taylor: Whether this is Taylor’s last season in Buffalo or he sticks around another decade, every performance of his will be overly scrutinized ad nauseam. Whatever, man. Tyrod was a major asset in Buffalo’s victory over the Raiders, completing 20-of-27 passes for 165 yards and a score without an interception. Blast him all you want and to be fair sometimes he deserves it, but Taylor has only turned the ball over twice in seven games. When you have a defense that’s verging on elite, that’s exactly what you want from your quarterback. He’s been far from perfect but Taylor has been pretty freegin’ good this season. (4)
4. Tre’Davious White: A few typical rookie mistakes aside this kid has been even better than advertised. If Amari Cooper isn’t already an elite receiver in the NFL he’s very close to it, and he had all of three catches for 26 yards with White shadowing him. That’s right, White’s reached that stage where Leslie Frazier is confident enough to have him shadowing top receivers. There’s a lot of season left but if White stays at this level of his play he’s a legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Stephon who? (5)
5. Jordan Poyer: He didn’t play against Oakland with a knee injury suffered on the last play of the Tampa game and is questionable for the Jets game on Thursday, of which Poyer said he hopes to play in. Trae Elston did an adequate job of filling in against the Raiders but he’s not the impactful safety Poyer’s been through six games. Poyer has 33 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and seven passes defended. Hopefully worst-case he’s back in 12 days against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Personally I’d sit him Thursday to ensure that happens (2)
6. Jerry Hughes: It’s been an interesting season for Hughes. On one hand he had just three tackles against the Raiders and has just 25 tackles and three sacks in seven games.
Those numbers suggest he hasn’t been very good. Fortunately those numbers don’t really mean shit. Hughes has been a force against both the run and pass while consistently being the best performer on the defensive line.
Sure I’d like to see him finish a play with a sack a few more times but I’ll take his overall game every single week. He’s been far, far better than the numbers indicate. (7)
7. Eric Wood: This is only Wood’s second appearance on the power rankings this year. He hasn’t been spectacular but he’s been rock solid. I don’t know where he grades out among centers on PFF and I don’t really care either. I love watching him on All-22 Tuesday as the guy never stops hustling. Perhaps even more importantly is his leadership in the locker room. Don’t discount that as nothing when it comes to this team being 5-2. Guys like Wood and Kyle Williams have as much a significant role off the field as they do on it. (Not Ranked)
8. Stephen Haushka: Was perfect on third quarter field goals of 35 and 44 yards against the Raiders as Buffalo went from a seven point lead to 13. He’s 16-of-18 on field goals this year and converted all five from 50 yards and beyond. (6)
9. Lorenzo Alexander: I feel like I keep saying “ageless wonder” when describing Alexander every week, but that’s exactly what he is. His game isn’t without flaws—he misses tackles and isn’t exactly the best cover linebacker in the world, but he’s been a rock on a defense that’s one of the league’s best. Bringing him back this offseason didn’t draw much fanfare but was a brilliant front office move. (9)
10. Matt Milano: It’s a very encouraging sign that in his first draft this spring Sean McDermott (let’s be real it wasn’t Doug Whaley pulling the strings at that point) was able to pluck a linebacker like Matt Milano in the fifth round. With Ramon Humber’s injury presented opportunity that Milano has been a stud the past two weeks. He may have been the game’s MVP in Sunday’s win against the Raiders, returning a fumble 40 yards for a go-ahead touchdown just before halftime and forcing a fumble covering a punt early in the third. The plays were crucial in Buffalo building an insurmountable lead. Even when Humber returns Milano stands to see plenty of snaps, as he should—he’s clearly earned it. (Not Ranked)
OFF THE RANKINGS: Richie Incognito (eighth last week), Charles Clay (ninth).