After clinching a playoff spot with the victory over the Miami Dolphins last week, the Buffalo Bills have now won the AFC East division title for the third straight season with their 35-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Buffalo is 12-3, still the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, and have just the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots remaining. The Bills went 4-0 in the month of December, while their divisional opponents went a combined 1-11.
After a very tough matchup against the Dolphins, the Bills had it much easier this time around, facing the 3-11 Bears with plenty of key injuries to major positions — but the turnover-prone version of Josh Allen returned, unfortunately. The Bills’ offense leaned on the run game in this one, totaling 254 yards and nearly two 100-yard rushers, with rookie running back James Cook reaching 99 yards and Devin Singletary reaching 106 yards.
Per ESPN Analytics and its win probability metrics, the Bills were favored the entire game in Chicago. Even after falling to a 7-0 deficit after just the first drive, the metric still favored Buffalo by plus-23%. The first half had its lulls, and Allen made some questionable decisions, but an explosion of 29 second-half points propelled the Bills past the Bears.
Let’s take a look at a few key moments that led to the Bills clinching their third-straight division title.
First quarter, 6:22 remaining — BUF with a 77.9% win probability: The Bears drove down the field with no problem and scored an early touchdown, immediately putting the pressure on the Bills’ offense to respond — and they did. Allen and the offense drove down the field in just over three minutes, with Allen finding wide receiver Gabe Davis for a 19-yard touchdown. A missed PAT by Tyler Bass kept the score 7-6 in favor of Chicago.
Third quarter, 12:19 remaining — BUF with a 58.5% win probability: This would be the lowest percentage the Bills faced all game, trailing 10-6 after some very sloppy football to end the first half. Bass missed a field goal, and Allen threw an ugly interception. At this point, the only thing working was the running game, and the offense was slowly committing to it. Buffalo came out after the half and fully committed to the run game, picking up over 60 yards on the ground on this drive alone.
Third quarter, 7:57 remaining — BUF with a 90.9% win probability: The Bills’ defense was playing at an elite level, completely shutting down the Bears’ offensive game plan and forcing a fumble. Buffalo’s offense responded in just three plays and only 47 seconds, with a 27-yard rushing touchdown from Cook. The Bills would end this quarter outscoring the Bears 14-0.
Fourth quarter, 3:45 remaining — BUF with a 99.7% win probability: The Bears kicked a field goal to bring the game within eight points, and then the Bills’ offense went three-and-out; however, the defense stepped up again. This single-score game lowered the metrics in favor of Buffalo, but Allen responded on offense with a rushing touchdown on the following drive, bringing the lead to 28-13. The Bills padded the stats a little bit with a late touchdown throw to tight end Dawson Knox with just over a minute left.
The first half was stressful, but let’s be thankful that Buffalo didn’t make this game painful to watch for Bills Mafia on Christmas Eve. The game wasn’t as close as the score depicted, but then again, was there ever a point in this game where we were genuinely worried about Buffalo losing? Besides, the Bills are 12-3, on a six-game winning streak, and already have the playoffs and division locked up. Next up — the Cincinnati Bengals for the biggest game of the season!