The 1988 Buffalo Bills season was the franchise's 29th overall season as a football team and the 19th in the National Football League. The Bills ended a streak of four consecutive losing seasons by winning the AFC East; they finished the NFL's 1988 season with a record of 12 wins and 4 losses; it was the club's first winning season since 1981, its first 12-win season since the 1964 AFL championship season, and only the fifth double-digit win season in team history. The Bills were 8–0 at home for the first time in their franchise history. On the road, the Bills were 4–4. From an attendance standpoint, the franchise set a record for attendance with 631,818 fans.
The Bills started the season 11–1 before losing three of their final four games, costing them the top seed in the AFC, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
It was Buffalo's first trip to the postseason since 1981. The Bills were the #2 seed in the AFC (behind #1 Cincinnati), giving the Bills their first home playoff game since the 1966 AFL Championship, and their first ever playoff game at Rich Stadium. The 1988 season would be the first of five AFC Championship game appearances over six seasons, and their only loss in the conference championship game.
The Bills had a dominant defense in 1988: they gave up the fewest points (237) and the fewest total yards (4,578) in the AFC in 1988. The defensive unit was given the nickname "Blizzard Defense," alluding to Buffalo's harsh winters.
Buffalo's first playoff game since 1981 was a 17–10 win over the Oilers. Jim Kelly threw for 244 yards and an interception while Thurman Thomas and Robb Riddick had rushing scores to go with 87 rushing yards. The Bills intercepted Warren Moon once and forced two Oilers fumbles.
The Bengals forced 3 interceptions, and allowed only 45 rushing yards and 136 passing yards, while their offense held the ball for 39:29. Bills starting running back Thurman Thomas was held to just 6 yards on 4 carries, while quarterback Jim Kelly completed only 14 of 30 passes for 161 yards and 1 touchdown, with 3 interceptions.
^Orlando Sentinel, December 22, 1988 | Retrieved January 11, 2012: "ANOTHER BLIZZARD is sweeping through Buffalo. The effects of this one aren't being felt by residents, but by opposing teams at the Buffalo Bills' Rich Stadium. This blizzard is actually The Blizzard Defense, which is the name Bills defenders chose for themselves as part of a local newspaper's Name That Defense contest. Members of the AFC's top-ranked defense selected that name over dozens submitted by readers of The Buffalo News."