Yeah we’re bummed about the 2023 season and how it ended, but it’s never too soon to look forward to another Buffalo Bills season. Due to a less-than-sterling stretch during the middle of the year the Bills were often felt to be a bit mediocre — and to be fair, you are what your record says you are.
On the other hand, in all of their regular-season losses combined, the Bills were down a mere 26 points. Not one game was lost by more than one score. That sounds like a solid team. While digging around the regular-season stats, I stumbled on some side-by-side data that makes it hard to believe Buffalo somehow lost six games.
First Downs and Conversions
Over the course of the regular season the opponents of the Buffalo Bills had a total of 313 first downs. The Bills handily outpaced the competition with 381, a difference of 68. If you factor out first downs via penalty as they’re not so much earned, the gap widens to 78.
In totality, that’s an extra four first downs per game. Looking at only the difference in “earned” first downs as noted above, it’s a difference of 4.6 extra first downs per game. The Kansas City Chiefs, considered by many to be a good team, outpaced their opponents by 50, and 47 earned.
Fun facts with first downs! While Buffalo had 16 more passing first downs than their foes, the usually pass-first Bills had 62 more rushing first downs than their opponents.
A major factor in the incredible disparity in first downs is due to another major disparity in conversion rates. On third down Buffalo’s defense was average (19th in the league), allowing conversions on 38.6% of attempts.
When someone uses a phrase like “major disparity” you might expect someone like me saying “the Buffalo Bills led the league in third-down conversion rate.” What I’m actually about to say is that the Bills comfortably led the league in third-down conversion rate, achieving a first down 48.77% of the time.
The second-best team, the Dallas Cowboys, were a full 1.5% lower. That may not sound like a huge jump but in the first six spots in this ranking no other team is more than 0.51% different than the next spot.
Touchdowns and Score by Quarter
First downs and keeping drives going is great and all, but points get wins. Touchdowns are the fastest way to accumulate points. So how did Buffalo do compared to their opponents? Incredibly well.
The Bills scored 54 touchdowns, 22 rushing and 29 passing. If you’re into math you might have noticed that was three short. Buffalo also had one punt return TD and two interception returns. Their opponents scored 34, which included one kick and one punt return. On offense the Bills’ opponents ran the ball in 14 times and threw for 18 scores.
Are you ready for some absurd stats? Let’s check the points-by-quarter breakdowns. If games felt close in the first quarter overall, it’s because that reflects the totality of the season. Buffalo scored 77 first quarter points compared to 72 for their opponents.
In the fourth quarter, Buffalo had a slightly more decisive differential, outscoring their opponents 135 to 106. I’d talk about overtime stats here since it’s end-of-game scenarios, but the less said about OT the better.
I’m a big fan of best for last and those middle quarters are the best. The Bills’ offense put up their best numbers in the second quarter, dropping 155 points before the half. Their opponents managed 92, which is pretty darn good but not 155 good.
For the third quarter the defense shined. The offense put up 81 points in the third quarter, very similar to their first-quarter output. The defense allowed 29 points. That’s not a typo: 29 points allowed.
That’s all for today’s wacky stat recap. How the heck this team was on the brink of missing the playoffs entirely is baffling. Perhaps we witnessed the best underachieving group of overachievers we’ll ever see.