The Minnesota Vikings, a team that was in the championship game a year ago, playing at home, against a Buffalo Bills team that has looked dreadful through the first two weeks, took one of the most inexplicable and worst losses possible.
Let’s put it in some perspective, using some historical information.
There have been 47 regular season games since 1996 where a team was favored by 16 or more points in a regular season NFL game, and the favorite won all of them. The last team to lose a game as a big favorite of 16+ was the Dallas Cowboys in 1995, against Washington (Dallas was 10-2 entering the game, and would win the Super Bowl that year). Pro Football Reference has point spread info back to the 1978, and there have been only five teams that have won a game when an underdog of 16 or more. That’s out of 80 possible games with that big of a line.
The combined margin of victory for the underdogs in those previous five big upsets was 27 points, and all of them were one-score games. The Bills beat the Vikings 27-6, and lead 27-0 until late in the game.
What about scoring only 6 points as a big favorite?
The last team to be favored by at least two touchdowns and only score 7 points or less was the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2002 against the Texans. That was an improbable game where the Steelers allowed only 47 total yards, had over 400, but had 5 turnovers.
Here are the largest margins of defeat, meanwhile, for a team favored by at least two touchdowns going back to 1978:
- Minnesota losing to Buffalo 27-6, 2018
- Pittsburgh losing to Houston 24-6, 2002
- San Francisco losing to Atlanta 34-17, 1988
If we expand it to 13, we bring it to 3 other games where the margin was 18. If we expand it to 12, we bring in the “Wildcat” game where Miami stunned New England 38-13 back in 2008.
But I’d rank this one as the most unlikely massive upset, in both point spread and margin of defeat, arguably in the last 40 years.