The Buffalo Bills have lost more than just three straight games in November. They've plummeted from the second seed in the AFC to completely out of the playoff picture. To make matters worse than their play on the field, teams above them have continued to win - and now the Bills need help.
Buffalo will be 11-5 if they run the table, which may or may not be good enough to get them into the playoffs. The New England Patriots are 7-3, and even a Week 17 loss to the Bills may only knock them to four in the loss column. The remaining games for the Patriots don't look too difficult, as they face struggling Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Washington teams over the next three weeks before a game at Denver that could prove to be their toughest remaining test. They finish the season with divisional home games with Miami and the Bills.
Outside of the division, the AFC North is going to prove tough to overcome. Both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have games remaining against San Fransisco and Cincinnati. They would have to lose both of those games just for Buffalo to catch them in the standings, and that doesn't take into account any tie-breakers. It's probably safe to assume that both of those teams make the playoffs, with one getting the first wild card slot.
That leaves just the second wild card slot, and the task is daunting. The Cincinnati Bengals' Week 4 victory over Buffalo gives them the first tie-breaker if it came down to just the Bengals and Bills for the final spot. Cincy's remaining schedule features tough games against the Steelers and Houston Texans, as well as a Week 17 matchup with the Ravens. They also see Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona in their final six contests.
Other contenders for the final wild card spot will all play Buffalo in the coming weeks, giving the Bills some form of hope that they can turn it around and claw their way back into the playoff picture. This weekend's game against the New York Jets, as well as games against the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos, pit Buffalo against all three of the other AFC teams currently sitting at 5-5. They also face the 4-6 San Diego Chargers, who have historically made a late-season surge.
If you still hold out hope that Buffalo can make the playoffs - and based on their play the last three weeks, it's probably a very small minority of you - they will need some help. They are, however, very much alive in the divisional and wild card races if they can somehow turn it around.
If the playoffs began today, here's how the AFC would stack up.
No. 1: New England Patriots (7-3)
No. 2: Houston Texans (7-3; lose 33-26 strength of victory tie-breaker to NE)
No. 3: Baltimore Ravens (7-3; lose conference record tie-breaker to NE and HOU)
No. 4: Oakland Raiders (6-4)
No. 5: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3; lose head-to-head tie-breaker to BAL)
No. 6: Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
No. 7: Denver Broncos (5-5)
No. 8: Tennessee Titans (5-5; lose conference record tie-breaker to DEN)
No. 9: New York Jets (5-5; lose conference record tie-breaker to TEN)
No. 10: Buffalo Bills (5-5; lose head-to-head tie-breaker to NYJ)
Also-rans: San Diego Chargers (4-6), Cleveland Browns (4-6), Kansas City Chiefs (4-6), Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7), Miami Dolphins (3-7), Indianapolis Colts (0-10)