Just how surprising a result was the Buffalo Bills' 27-6 win Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings? According to Vegas oddsmakers, it was the biggest NFL upset in 23 years.
That’s because the previously winless and largely hapless Bills went into the road game as consensus 17-point underdogs. No NFL team had pulled off a win as such a large underdog, according to multiple reports, since the Washington Redskins shocked the Dallas Cowboys, who were 17.5-point favorites, in Dec. 1995.
Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the only other instances of a 17-point underdog emerging as an outright winner occurred that year, when the then-Baltimore Colts upset the New England Patriots, and in 1992, with the New York Jets performing the trick against the Bills. As The Athletic’s Tim Graham noted, all of those three games were decided by seven points, relatively close results especially as compared to the 21-point margin Buffalo posted Sunday.
In addition, the three previous contests were divisional affairs, meaning that the underdogs were very familiar with their opponents. The Bills and Vikings, by contrast, hadn’t played since 2014, and Buffalo, missing its best offensive player, running back LeSean McCoy, brought a team that had given up the most points in the league through two weeks to a game against a team that widely regarded as having one of the best defenses in the league in Minnesota.
That didn’t seem to bode well for the Bills' starting quarterback, Josh Allen, the draft’s No. 7 overall pick who was making his second start. Coming from Wyoming, Allen was thought to be a talented but very raw prospect who would need plenty of time and tutelage before learning the NFL ropes, but he was composed and efficient Sunday. His high-priced veteran counterpart, Kirk Cousins, committed three turnovers, including two fumbles.
“I don’t think we took them too lightly,” Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer said of the Bills after the game. “I think they came out and kicked our butts.”
“We really don’t really pay attention to what people think about us,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “It’s all about internal belief and confidence. If you listen to outside noise, we’d never win a game because nobody respects Buffalo at all. We have to continue to go out and earn that respect.”
The respect the Bills earned Sunday may not have been quite as much, given the situation, as that garnered by Joe Namath’s New York Jets when they were 18-point underdogs before shaking up the NFL world by topping the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Still, it was a more than welcome result for a squad widely mocked last week after Bills cornerback Vontae Davis abruptly retired at halftime during a home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Buffalo players even felt chesty enough to borrow a famous line from Cousins’s time with the Redskins, as some of them yelled “You like that!” as they left the field. “They have legitimate players at a lot of different positions,” Cousins said of the Bills.
Allen had yet to be born when a 3-9 Redskins squad traveled to Dallas to take on the 10-2 Cowboys, who had won the Super Bowl in two of the previous three years and would win another championship that season. Nevertheless, Washington won for the first time in six road games to that point, overcoming a 10-7 halftime deficit for a 24-17 victory.
“If there were 53 guys in this state that thought we could win the game, they had to be in our room because no one else thought it,” then-Redskins head coach Norv Turner said at the time. “And, as I told the team … if we don’t think we can, we’ve got no chance.”
Asked Sunday if the 17-point spread affected his team, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White replied, “Not at all,” adding, “I think ever since I’ve been here, every game I’ve been in, we’ve been the underdogs. It’s nothing new to us. We just go out and play.
“The analysts can pick whoever they want, but we gotta go out and play. So at the end of the day, it’s all just football. We executed a little bit better today.”
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