Your Buffalo Bills are playoff bound and get to face an injury-riddled divisional opponent in the Miami Dolphins after topping the New England Patriots in the final week of the regular season. The Bills sent the Dolphins to the playoffs while simultaneously eliminating the Patriots.
Buffalo got off to a very fast start after running back Nyheim Hines housed the opening kickoff for a touchdown, immediately putting the win probability metrics in favor of them. The Patriots weren’t messing around, however, and were moving the ball quite well on offense as the Bills’ secondary simply couldn’t contain them. If not for another Hines kickoff return touchdown and stellar fourth-quarter defense from Buffalo, this game could have looked much different.
But a win is a win, and it was a much-needed emotional lift. Let’s take a look at the win probability metrics from ESPN Analytics and how they favored Buffalo throughout the game, even with their offensive lulls and poor defensive adjustments.
1st quarter, 14:46 remaining — BUF with an 88.5% win probability: Buffalo jumped out to an immediate 88.5% win probability after Hines flew down the sidelines as Bills Mafia exploded in the stands. This was a storybook moment, as multiple Bills players and coaches were in tears on the sidelines.
2nd quarter, 3:38 remaining — BUF with a 68.1% win probability: Buffalo’s defense could not slow down quarterback Mac Jones and company. New England was driving with ease, and ultimately tied the game at 14-14 with a DeVante Parker touchdown catch. Buffalo got the ball back with plenty of time to put points on the board, and drove down the field with ease, too, but quarterback Josh Allen threw his fifth red zone interception of the season — a league-leading total.
3rd quarter, 6:45 remaining — BUF with a 72.7% win probability: The Patriots took the lead, 17-14, after the Bills were unable to keep efficiency on offense. But the superhero of the day, Hines, stepped up. He housed another kickoff return for a touchdown, immediately swinging all momentum in Buffalo’s favor. Once this score happened, the Patriots started to struggle.
3rd quarter, 1:30 remaining — BUF with a 92.4% win probability: This was yet another memorable moment for Bills fans and players. The defense started to step up big-time, forcing turnovers and punts, but the offense wanted to respond. Allen rolled to the right while waving at the end zone as he chucked it up to wide receiver John “Smoke” Brown, who hauled it in for a 42-yard touchdown. It was classic Allen magic, and that coveted Allen-Brown connection Bills fans love.
4th quarter, 8:51 remaining — BUF with a 93.9% win probability: And again, this was some Allen magic. The Patriots had just scored to bring the game within five points after missing the two-point conversion to make a one-score game. Allen threw a 49-yard dot to wide receiver Stefon Diggs to increase the lead to 35-23. There have been so many moments in Allen’s career where we, as fans, all let out a collective “wow” but this throw was arguably one of the best in his career.