The Buffalo Bills sit just one game out of the final AFC wild card spot, but eight more teams are in the running for that position. The Bills are going to need some help to make the playoffs for the first time since Bill Clinton was president.
Buffalo is guaranteed not to make up any ground in the Wild Card race this weekend with several teams ahead of them playing each other. Still, not all wins are created equally in this week's match-ups. We present the list in order of most importance for Buffalo:
If the Bills are legitimate playoff contenders, they need to beat a struggling Falcons team at a neutral site.
This is a huge game on Thanksgiving for Bills fans. While the two perennial playoff teams are currently tied, Buffalo holds a tiebreaker edge over the Ravens thanks to an earlier victory. A Baltimore win Thursday night brings a lot of tiebreakers into play in a three-way situation involving Baltimore. If Pittsburgh sweeps the Ravens, those tiebreaker scenarios would go bye-bye.
Rooting for a tie is understandable, but not beneficial to Buffalo. It's simple: with a Miami win, Buffalo would control their own destiny in the three-horse race for second place in the AFC East, the first tiebreaker in any multi-team wild card scenario.
The team currently in the sixth spot is the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Titans. Giving the Colts the AFC South is best for Buffalo if they can take out a few wild card contenders between here and the playoffs.
San Diego still has a game at Denver on short rest coming up. With that being said, this outcome would help keep two teams out of the wild card picture. It's a win for Buffalo if Cincy - a team with a head-to-head win - ends up winning the AFC North.
It would be nice of America's Team and England's team to knock off challengers to Buffalo without adding to the mess in the AFC race. The only downside is rooting for the Cowboys.
Buffalo played the Chiefs, so a win by KC helps Buffalo's strength of schedule. It also keeps both teams playing their starters through at least Week 15. If Denver clinches the division early, Kansas City could be locked into the No. 5 seed and have nothing to play for over the final three weeks when they play Oakland, Indianapolis, and San Diego.
Panthers (8-3) over Buccaneers (3-8)
While Buffalo will need a win over Tampa Bay, Carolina continuing to improve their record can only help Buffalo in the strength-of-victory department. It'll help against Miami and possibly the Jets in a convoluted two or three-way tiebreaker where record versus common opponents comes into play.
Pittsburgh beat Detroit. We want the Lions to have the fewest number of wins possible for the strength of victory tiebreaker. Both teams will play AFC North wild card foes later in the season, and are in the middle of the NFC playoff picture with plenty to play for.
San Diego beat Philadelphia. We want the Eagles to have the fewest number of wins possible for the strength of victory tiebreaker. Arizona gets their best shot to help Buffalo in a few weeks when they play in Tennessee.
Tennessee beat St. Louis. We want the Titans to have the fewest number of wins possible for the strength of victory tiebreaker. Both teams have finished their AFC South slate.
San Diego beat Washington. We want the Chargers to have the fewest number of wins possible for the strength of victory tiebreaker. The Giants have San Diego upcoming - their best chance to help the only team that plays in New York - and beat the Raiders. Washington also beat the Raiders.
Help Buffalo's strength of schedule and hurt it for the Titans, Chargers, and Raiders. It's straightforward whether you like it or not. That is, unless you think New England is going to lose their next five games.
Helps Buffalo's strength of schedule and hurts Tennessee's. Neither team is playing an AFC opponent down the stretch so it's not likely to make an impact.
If everything goes Buffalo's way:
- Baltimore (then 6-6) would be the No. 6 seed with Miami No. 7 after the head-to-head tiebreaker.
- Buffalo would be in an overall tie for eighth (currently in a tie for No. 12).
- Buffalo tops New York on divisional record, moving them into the four-way cluster including San Diego, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh.
- Tennessee would be slotted No. 8 with Pittsburgh ninth. Breaking the tie between San Diego and Buffalo would be the strength of victory. Wins over Philadelphia, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Kansas City would help the Chargers outpace Bills wins over Carolina, Baltimore, Miami, and New York.
- With only Miami and Baltimore ahead of them in overall record, Buffalo's path to the sixth seed would be much clearer.