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Buffalo Bills’ 2023 campaign: Analysis of ‘PFF’ season simulation vs. reality

Let’s see how the simulator compares to what really happened with the Buffalo Bills’ 2023 regular season

Buffalo Bills v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Way back before the 2023 NFL season started I wrote an article breaking down a simulated Buffalo Bills season by the Pro Football Focus (PFF) simulator. I thought it would be fun to compare how the Bills’ season actually turned out compared to what the simulator predicted. Here are the results!


Player Stats

The PFF simulator has a cool feature that allows you to look at the season statistics for all of the offensive players in the simulated season. So, let’s break the statistics down for each player.

Quarterback

Josh Allen

PFF Simulator:

  • Passing: 413-of-597 (69%) for 5,617 yards (13.6 y/c), 45 TDs / 9 INT
  • Rushing: 66 attempts for 334 rushing yards (5.1 y/a), 4 TDs

Actual:

  • Passing: 385-of-579 (66.5%) for 4,306 yards (11.2 y/c), 29 TDs / 18 INT
  • Rushing: 111 attempts for 524 rushing yards (4.7 y/a), 15 TDs

The simulator Josh Allen almost certainly would have won MVP, but the real-life Josh Allen also threw himself into the conversation. The simulator had Allen throwing for way more yards but underestimated his rushing stats by a good margin. The simulator was only five TDs off on the total TD prediction. The one that stings is Allen threw double the interceptions that the simulator predicted. Allen had an up-and-down season, but he still remains one of the top talents in the NFL even with his turnover issues.

Wide Receiver

Stefon Diggs

  • PFF Simulator: 93 receptions for 1,361 yards (14.63 y/r), 11 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 107 receptions for 1,183 yards (11.1 y/r), 8 receiving TDs

Diggs was on pace for another giant year at the beginning of the season, but his mid late-season lull dampened some of his stats. It was still a good year for Buffalo’s WR1 though, and the predictions weren’t far off.

Gabe Davis

  • PFF Simulator: 77 receptions for 1,216 yards (15.8 y/r), 10 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 45 receptions for 746 yards (16.6 y/r), 7 receiving TDs

Davis didn’t really come close to meeting the simulator’s predictions. He had multiple games with zero catches or targets, which didn’t help his case. Davis remains a big-play threat option who has value as a blocker. We’ll see what Buffalo does with him in the offseason when he enters free agency.

Deonte Harty

  • PFF Simulator: 47 receptions for 534 yards (11.4 y/r), 2 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 15 receptions for 150 yards (10.0 y/r), 1 receiving TD, 1 punt return TD

I thought PFF’s prediction of Harty was a fairly accurate one, but Harty’s usage in Buffalo’s offense never materialized. His punt return for a touchdown in Week 18 to shift momentum was one of the biggest plays of the year for Buffalo.

Kahlil Shakir

  • PFF Simulator: 29 receptions for 411 yards (14.2 y/r), 3 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 39 receptions for 611 yards (15.7 y/r), 2 receiving TDs

Shakir outperformed the simulator prediction, and all of Bills Mafia welcomes his uptick in production. Shakir has stepped up late this season to become a reliable target for Josh Allen.

Trent Sherfield

  • PFF Simulator: 9 receptions for 153 yards (17 y/r), 2 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 11 receptions for 86 yards (7.8 y/r), 1 receiving TD

The simulator was pretty spot on with this projection. Sherfield may have to step up for the Bills in the playoffs if Gabe Davis remains unable to suit up due to a knee injury.

Tight End

Dawson Knox

  • PFF Simulator: 39 receptions for 421 yards (10.8 y/r), 4 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 22 receptions for 186 yards (8.5 y/r), 2 receiving TDs

In Knox’s defense, he did miss a chunk of games when he went on Injured Reserve during the middle of the season. However, Knox’s production doesn’t really add up to the contract extension he received. He’ll likely get another year to prove he was worthy of such a hefty contract.

Dalton Kincaid

  • PFF Simulator: 29 receptions for 361 yards (12.45 y/r), 3 receiving TDs
  • Actual: 73 receptions for 673 yards (9.2 y/r), 2 receiving TDs

The simulator was way off on Kincaid’s production. Kincaid enjoyed an outstanding rookie season by setting a new Bills team record for most receptions for a TE, and most receptions by any rookie receiver. Kincaid is poised to be a dynamic threat in the NFL for years to come. He will likely play a big role for Buffalo in the playoffs.

Running back

James Cook

PFF Simulator:

  • Rushing: 239 attempts for 959 yards (4.01 y/a), 2 rushing TDs
  • Receiving: 44 receptions for 621 yards (14.1 y/r), 5 receiving TDs

Actual:

  • Rushing: 237 attempts for 1,122 yards (4.7 y/a), 2 rushing TDs
  • Receiving: 44 receptions for 445 yards (10.1 y/r), 4 receiving TDs

In the initial article I wrote, “Meet James Cook, Buffalo’s new RB1. This would be a welcome sight for Bills fans, and just what the doctor ordered for Buffalo’s running back room.” Cook has been just that. The PFF Simulator nailed this prediction.

Nyheim Hines

PFF Simulator:

  • Rushing: 19 attempts for 103 yards (5.42 y/a)
  • Receiving: 15 receptions for 185 yards (12.33 y/r), 2 receiving TDs

Actual:

No stats

Unfortunately, as we all know, Hines suffered a knee injury in a jet ski accident before the season even started. Hopefully he makes a full recovery and can contribute next season!

Damien Harris

PFF Simulator:

  • Rushing: 102 attempts for 809 yards (7.93 y/a), 5 rushing TDs
  • Receiving: 27 receptions for 289 yards (10.7 y/r), 2 receiving TDs

Actual:

  • 23 carries for 94 yards (4.1 y/a), 1 rushing TD

Harris unfortunately was only able to appear in six games this season due to a serious season-ending injury.

Running backs Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson, and Leonard Fournette have eaten up some of the projected stats that Hines and Harris held per the simulation. The biggest surprise has been how good Ty Johnson looks so far this season. His power and explosiveness as a runner has made him a solid change-up to James Cook. Murray has seen plenty of action this year in a pass-protector and short-yardage role. His role has diminished a bit since Fournette came into the picture, but I expect these two veteran RBs to be leaders for Buffalo in the playoffs.


Buffalo Bills 2023 Game Results

Week 1 @ NY Jets

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 24-38
  • Actual: LOSS 16-22 (OT)

Week 2 vs. Las Vegas Raiders

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 36-6
  • Actual: WIN 38-10

Week 3 @ Washington Commanders

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 39-17
  • Actual: WIN 37-3

Week 4 vs. Miami Dolphins

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 21-31
  • Actual: WIN 48-20

Week 5 vs Jacksonville Jaguars

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 21-33
  • Actual: LOSS 20-25

Week 6 vs. NY Giants

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 30-23
  • Actual: WIN 14-9

Week 7 @ New England Patriots

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 27-34
  • Actual: LOSS 25-29

Week 8 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 34-19
  • Actual: WIN 24-18

Week 9 @ Cincinnati Bengals

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 24-27
  • Actual: LOSS 18-24

Week 10 vs. Denver Broncos

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 41-34
  • Actual: LOSS 22-24

Week 11 vs. NY Jets

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 15-2
  • Actual: WIN 32-6

Week 12 @ Philadelphia Eagles

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 20-31
  • Actual: LOSS 34-37 (OT)

Week 14 @ Kansas City Chiefs

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 30-34
  • Actual: WIN 20-17

Week 15 vs. Dallas Cowboys

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 25-20
  • Actual: WIN 31-10

Week 16 @ LA Chargers

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 27-20
  • Actual: WIN 24-22

Week 17 vs. New England Patriots

  • PFF Simulator: WIN 33-20
  • Actual: WIN 27-21

Week 18 @ Miami Dolphins

  • PFF Simulator: LOSS 23-31
  • Actual: WIN 21-14

Buffalo Bills 2023 Overall Record

  • PFF Simulator: 9-8
  • Actual: 11-6

Notes on game results:

  • The simulator predicted the Bills to have their worst offensive output since 2019 with 27.6 points per game. But the actual results were even lower than that at 26.5 points per game. The Bills ranked sixth in the NFL in scoring.
  • The simulator predicted us to see the worst Buffalo Bills defense since 2012 with them allowing 24.7 points per game. However, the defense stepped up to the plate and was the fourth-ranked scoring defense in the NFL — only allowing 18.3 points per game. This total matches their 2021 total when they led the league in defensive scoring.
  • The simulator certainly looked like it was on the right track when the Bills were 6-6 after the Eagles game in Week 12. However, the actual Bills team rattled off five straight wins and told the simulator to shove their 9-8 prediction back where it came from.

Final thoughts

Luckily for Bills Mafia, the simulator’s predictions didn’t come true and the Bills fought back from a 6-6 record to become the two seed in the AFC for this season’s playoffs. None of that matters now as all they have left to do is win four more games to bring back Buffalo’s first Super Bowl victory. The Bills are all in for the playoffs and seem to be catching fire at just the right time. It should be a fun ride!