Not only did the Buffalo Bills (1-2) pull off this season’s biggest upset when they traveled to the reigning NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings and won, 27-6 on Sunday, the Bills also avoided dropping their first three games, a fate that normally guarantees a non-playoff season.
Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and instituted the current playoff format in 2002, only 11 percent of teams that started the season 0-2 went on to make the playoffs. If you expand that to an 0-3 start? The odds get worse. Much worse.
Had Buffalo—which entered as a 16.5-point underdog in Minnesota — done what most pundits predicted and fell to the powerhouse Vikings, the Bills would have been 0-3 and facing a tough Week 4 road trip to Lambeau Field for a date with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Since the 1980 season, according to Oddsshark.com, there have been 173 teams that dropped their first three games of the season. Of those, only five rebounded to make the playoffs, which comes out to 2.8 percent! There were 52 teams that dropped their first three games between 2007 and 2017, and none of those squads managed to make the playoffs.
Of course, the Bills do have experience starting a season 0-3, only to qualify for the postseason. Back in 1998, under Rob Johnson, the Bills lost their first three games—with all three losses coming by six points or less.
Doug Flutie relieved an injured Johnson for Week 6 and proceeded to guide Buffalo to eight wins in its next 11 games, and the Bills qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card entrant with a 10-6 record.
Last year, five teams dropped their first three games, and only one, the Los Angeles Chargers, finished above .500. The Chargers actually went one step further, falling to 0-4 before rallying for a 9-7 record.
With their historic upset win on Sunday, the Bills remain alive to join the 11 percent of teams that, from 2007 to 2017 started off 0-2, make the playoffs.
That list includes: the 2007 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the 2008 Miami Dolphins, the 2008 Vikings, the 2008 Chargers, the 2013 Carolina Panthers, the 2014 Indianapolis Colts, the 2015 Seattle Seahawks, 2015 Houston Texans, 2016 Dolphins, and 2017 New Orleans Saints.