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AFC playoff picture: Who should Buffalo Bills fans root for in Week 13?

The Bills need some help. Here is who they should root for.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

If the Buffalo Bills are going to make the playoffs, they are going to need other teams to lose. If the Bills win out, they will make it in more than 99% of simulations, but that’s not a likely feat considering they haven’t had a seven-game winning streak in a decade. Let’s take it one week at a time.

AFC Standings

1. New England Patriots (9-2, 7-1 AFC)
2. Oakland Raiders (9-2, 6-1 AFC)
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-5, head-to-head win over PIT, 6-2 AFC)
4. Houston Texans (6-5, 4-4 AFC)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)
6. Miami Dolphins (7-4, 5-3 AFC)
7. Denver Broncos (7-4, 4-3 AFC)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, head-to-head loss to BAL, 5-3 AFC)
9. Buffalo Bills (6-5, 3-4 AFC)
10. Tennessee Titans (6-6)
11. Indianapolis Colts (5-6, head to head win over SD)
12. San Diego Chargers (5-6, head to head loss to IND)
13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1)
14. New York Jets (3-8)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
16. Cleveland Browns (0-11*)

* Eliminated from the playoff race.
(Here are the tiebreaker procedures if you’d like:

Who to root for

Here are the Bills’ rooting interests this week in order of importance:

Buffalo Bills (6-5) over Oakland Raiders (9-2)

Sunday, December 4, 4:05 p.m. ET

This is Buffalo’s most important remaining game of the season according to the NY Times Playoff Simulator. Because record vs. common opponents is a tiebreaker that could come in to play as is record in the conference, this game is important to separate the contenders in the AFC West and AFC East. Denver, and Kansas City obviously play Oakland this year and Buffalo could up their record in games the teams share. It’s a 30-point swing; win and Buffalo goes up to 39% chance of making the playoffs but a loss takes them down to just 9%.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) over Denver Broncos (7-4)

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m.

We know what you’re thinking, but hear us out. The game is in Jacksonville and the Broncos are traveling two time zones to play an early start time. We saw how dangerous the Jaguars can be last week. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. A Denver loss and a Buffalo win would put Denver and Buffalo in a dead heat in overall and conference records and give the Bills a big edge in record vs. common opponents.

Baltimore Ravens (6-5) over Miami Dolphins (7-4)

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

The third-most important game for Buffalo, the Bills need the Ravens to take down the Dolphins. The first tiebreaker in the Wild Card race is eliminating the lower of two teams within a division. Miami only has one loss in the division and will be playing New England in Week 17, when the Patriots may not have anything to play for. Even if Buffalo beats Miami in Week 16, Miami could hold the tiebreaker edge. Baltimore is leading the AFC North and if they win the division won’t be a concern for Buffalo.

New York Giants over Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

Sunday, December 4, 4:25 p.m. ET

A surging Giants team beating an inconsistent Steelers team. A Bills win and Steelers loss would move Buffalo ahead of Pittsburgh in the Wild Card standings.

Atlanta Falcons over Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

If Buffalo is going to catch Kansas City and the rest of the pack in the AFC, this would be a big loss for the Chiefs. The reason? It wouldn’t boost the AFC West teams in the running for the Wild Card.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over San Diego Chargers (5-6)

Sunday, December 4, 4:25 p.m. ET

If Buffalo takes care of business, the Chargers won’t be a concern. Still, it would be nice for an NFC to stick a fork in San Diego’s season.

Green Bay Packers over Houston Texans (6-5)

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Bills shouldn’t be concerned with Houston in the Wild Card race since Houston leads their division, but it won’t hurt to have them below Buffalo.

New York Jets (3-8) over Indianapolis Colts (5-6)

Monday, December 5, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Jets are out of it. The Colts are on the cusp. Eliminate them now. Plus, Buffalo will (hopefully) beat the Jets later this year, which would boost the Bills’ strength of victory.

Los Angeles Rams over New England Patriots (9-2)

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

It would take a massive meltdown for the Patriots to lose the division. If it’s going to happen, this is a must-lose game for them.

Games that matter just a little, if at all

San Francisco 49ers over Chicago Bears

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) over Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

Arizona Cardinals over Washington Redskins

Sunday, December 4, 4:25 p.m. ET

The next tiebreaker after record vs. common opponent is strength of victory. Since Buffalo beat San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Arizona so this win would boost Buffalo in that tiebreaker.

Detroit Lions over New Orleans Saints

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Saints play the AFC West so we don’t want them getting the strength of victory boost.

Seattle Seahawks over Carolina Panthers

Sunday, December 4, 8:30 p.m. ET

Same concept as the the previous four games, but it’s the next tiebreaker; strength of schedule.


Cleveland Browns (0-11) and Tennessee Titans (6-6)

What it means

The Bills would only move up to a 50-50 shot of making the playoffs if all of this goes the right way. If it all goes wrong? Buffalo has just a 5% chance. It really is as simple as Buffalo taking care of their own thing this week. It’s the biggest game remaining on their schedule.