Entering Week 9 as double-digit favorites for the second week in a row, the Buffalo Bills traveled to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets in a divisional matchup... and lost, 20-17. The expectations were very high for the Bills to fluster Jets quarterback Zach Wilson enough for costly mistakes, and for quarterback Josh Allen and company to expose a hyped-up Jets defense.
The win probability metrics from ESPN Analytics immediately favored the Bills, after Jets punter Braden Mann slipped on the opening kickoff and gave Buffalo prime starting field position. After a huge 42-yard completion to wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the first play of the game followed by an incompletion, Allen threw a terrible interception, completely halting the opening momentum.
Still, Buffalo walked into halftime with a 14-10 lead after kicker Tyler Bass missed a 55-yard field goal as time expired, and after the Bills’ defense allowed Wilson and company to orchestrate a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Allen’s second-half struggles last week against the Green Bay Packers completely spilled into this week, as he barely eclipsed 200 yards passing on over 30 passing attempts. Bills Mafia saw that Buffalo can still walk away with wins even if they’re ugly and the offense plays abysmally, but it wasn't the case this time around—and to make it worse, it was a divisional opponent. The Bills consistently shot themselves in the foot versus the Packers, but the win probability never fell below 90% and the game was truly never in doubt. That same trend continued with costly turnovers and bad defensive play, but the Jets just clearly wanted it more in the end.
Let’s take a look at some notable win probability changes and how the Bills ultimately came out on the wrong end of the win-loss column.
2nd quarter, 6:30 remaining — BUF with an 89.7% win probability: At this point, the Bills were up 14-3. This was a “I’ll do it myself” type of drive from Allen, finding wide receiver Stefon Diggs and running back Devin Singletary multiple times in the passing game and then scoring on a 36-yard rushing touchdown. It was Allen’s longest rushing touchdown of his career.
2nd quarter, 0:32 remaining — BUF with a 79.0% win probability: The Bills’ win probability only went down 10% after the the Jets’ six-minute scoring drive cut the lead to 14-10 with just over 30 seconds left in the first half. Buffalo got the ball back with 32 seconds left and went 38 yards, but failed to capitalize on the free points, as Bass missed.
3rd quarter, 5:38 remaining — BUF with a 64.1% win probability: This was the beginning of the downfall for the Bills. After edge rusher Von Miller forced a strip sack on a crucial 3rd & 6 in the red zone, the Bills had a chance to make it a two-score game, or at least a seven-point lead. Allen was sacked immediately, and then made another terrible decision, throwing it right to Jets rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner. The Jets got the ball back on Buffalo’s 19-yard line and scored a touchdown three plays later, taking the 17-14 lead.
4th quarter, 6:40 remaining — NYJ with a 52.4% win probability: This is the first time the odds swayed in New York’s favor after the Bills only managed to get three points from their previous two drives. The Bills ran an eight-play, 19-yard drive that ended in a punt and took off nearly five minutes of clock. The Jets got the ball back and ran all over the Bills, accumulating 89 rushing yards and draining over six minutes of clock. Not going to lie, this is easily one of the most embarrassing ways to lose a game in the NFL. With the game on the line, the Bills’ defense allowed a very lackluster Jets offense to not only get off their own five-yard line, but also drive the remaining 80-plus yards nearly entirely on the ground.
4th quarter, 1:43 remaining — NYJ with an 84.3% win probability: Even with zero timeouts and less than two minutes remaining, the win probability metrics were still not 100% sold on the Jets’ ability to close the game, sitting at their highest of the day (84.3%). Allen immediately found Diggs on a huge 26-yard toe-tapping catch, but it was called back by a holding call on left tackle Dion Dawkins. On second down, Allen was sacked and immediately grabbed his elbow following a noticeably short throw to Diggs. On 4th & 21 on their own 14-yard line, Allen rolled out to the left and launched a 70-yard bomb that went right through wide receiver Gabe Davis’ hands.
At the end of the day, the Bills are still the No. 1 seed in the AFC, hold tiebreakers over the other three AFC division leaders (Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans) and sit atop the AFC East with a 6-2 record. The 0-2 divisional record is concerning, but every team has hiccups along the way, especially the Bills. Hopefully this is the wake-up call this team needed to start dominating games (cue the 2021 losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts).
Breathe, Bills Mafia. Bad losses happen, and star quarterbacks have unexplainable slumps.