In a league focused on parity many games are decided by a single score. These razor-thin margins can have major repercussions. Let’s examine a hypothetical where the Buffalo Bills flipped their one-score losses into victories.
The 2019 Buffalo Bills finished the season at 10-6 and earned a trip to the playoffs as the fifth seed. Now obviously our scenario will improve on reality but by how far? During the regular season, nine games were decided by one score (eight points or less). Let’s flip the losses to wins and see what happens.
- New England Patriots, Week 4: A loss by six to the hated Patriots starts us off with a bang. This win would have given the Bills an easy path to the division by winning the Week 17 Jets game. Alone, it would lead to Buffalo having a tied record with the Patriots but losing to the common opponent tiebreaker.
- Cleveland Browns, Week 10: The game was decided by a field goal and was easily within Buffalo’s grasp. Alone it wouldn’t have drastically altered the season.
- Baltimore Ravens, Week 14: The Bills had a shot right up to the last seconds in this seven-point game. Taking down the league’s darling would have led to massive credibility but changing just this result keeps the playoffs intact.
- New England Patriots, Week 16: See above.
- New York Jets, Week 17: The easiest one to flip as Buffalo kept it to a seven-point game playing mostly backups. With just this game changed, it doesn’t move the needle for playoff standings.
All the changes at once
I have some good news...and some bad news. The bad news is that five of the nine regular-season games decided by a single score ended up being losses. It’s roughly split evenly, but the rough part is on the wrong side. The good news is that with five losses by a single score, that leaves only one 2019 loss that was by a larger margin (damn Philadelphia Eagles). The routine blowouts of years past were not a problem this last season.
For our hypothetical of flipping all the losses, that gives the Bills a 15-1 record during the regular season. A bye week and home-field advantage during the divisional round might have made a big impact in how the playoffs went down. Especially considering that their tenth loss by a single score came in overtime in the Wild Card Round. Any extra edge in that game likely changes the result.
To be fair, it’d be an incredibly lucky season to win all your one-score games but as we see above, one or two flips could have made a big impact.