After the Buffalo Bills staved off a four-game losing streak thanks to Tre’Davious White’s game-saving interception in Kansas City, playoff talk is beginning to creep back into comment threads. Common wisdom seems to be that the Bills need to get to 9-7 to get into the playoffs. The Bills have a game against the reeling Indianapolis Colts and a pair against the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. With 6 wins in the books the Bills will have to take care of business against the weaker teams just to get to 9-7. 10-6 is only a possibility if the Bills with those three games plus manage to win a game against a Patriots team that routinely manhandles Buffalo.
Here is a look at the other teams vying for the two wild card slots:
Ravens remaining opponents: Lions, Steelers, Browns, Colts, Bengals
Current record 6-5, conference record 5-3
The Ravens most likely beat the Browns, the Colts, and the Bengals. Even if they drop games to the Lions and Steelers they should be no worse than 9-7 with four conference losses. Buffalo has three conference losses but a 9-7 record means the Bills would end with five conference losses, meaning the Bills lose out on tiebreakers.
Bengals remaining opponents: Steelers, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Ravens
Current record 5-6, conference record 5-5
Cincy isn't a threat to get to 8-8 let alone above it.
Titans remaining opponents: Texans, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, Jags
Current record 7-4, conference record 6-4
They most likely beat the Texans, Cardinals, and 49ers and lose to the Rams. They beat the Jags early in the year. Even if they lose that game they could finish 10-6 with five conference losses. 9-7 doesn’t lift the Bills past the Titans. Buffalo only gets to ten wins with a win over New England.
Jaguars remaining opponents: Colts, Seahawks, Texans, 49ers, Titans
Current record 7-4, conference record 7-2
The Jags likely beat the Colts, Texans, and 49ers while losing to the Seahawks. They lost to the Titans early in the year. That's 10-11 wins. 9-7 doesn’t lift the Bills past the Jags. What’s worse than another year of no playoffs? Missing them because of Doug Marrone. Note: Either the Jags or Titans will be the AFC South winner so only one will threaten for a wild card.
Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs remaining opponents: Jets, Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins, Broncos
Current record 6-5, conference record 4-3
The Chiefs likely beat the Jets, Raiders, Dolphins, and Broncos with the Chargers being a loss. That gets them to 10 wins. That’s assuming that KC wakes up and doesn’t play like they did against the Bills. Of the teams left vying for wind card positioning, the Chiefs are the most likely to collapse but also the only one over whom the Bills have a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage.
Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers remaining opponents: Browns, Redskins, Chiefs, Jets, Raiders
Current record: 5-6, conference record 3-5
The Chargers, if they keep playing like they have the last 2 weeks, win all of these games ending at 10-6, with 9-7 if they drop one. They own the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Bills so 9-7 won’t get it done.Either the Chiefs or the Chargers will be the AFC West winner so only one will threaten for a wild card.
A ridiculous number of games have to break Buffalo's way in order for the Bills to make the playoffs. The idea that 9-7 gets it done seems far-fetched when considering that every team seriously vying for a wild card slot has a soft schedule remaining except Buffalo. If the Chiefs do melt down, then the Chargers are out of the mix as they’d be AFC West champs. That leaves the Ravens and Jags/Titans loser.
A 10-6 record makes it far more likely but not certain that the Bills end the drought. There is a path to 10-6. The Bills have to win winnable games against the Colts and the two against Miami. In Week 16 the Bills face New England in Foxboro. After racking up likely wins against Buffalo next week, the Dolphins, and possibly the Steelers, the Patriots could be sitting at 12-2 with nothing left to play for. By pulling starters after a few series, the Bills would have a chance to steal a win at Gillette Stadium in Week 16. That would seem to be Buffalo’s best chance of avoiding playoff elimination.
The Patriots, by the way, don’t have to worry about finishing ahead of Pittsburgh so long as New England beats the Steelers in 3 weeks. The problem for Bills fans is that the Steelers play the Bengals and Ravens, who they beat handily earlier in the season, before the New England game and then the Texans and Browns right after. There’s an excellent chance Pittsburgh and New England both enter their matchup 11-2. The Patriots, assuming they beat the Steelers, would then face Buffalo needing one more game to clinch home field through the playoffs. Buffalo really needs the Bengals to step up and find a way to beat the Steelers. Otherwise, the Patriots will still have something to play for in Week 16.
Houston, loser of the Monday Night game against the Ravens, still plays the Titans and Jaguars. Bills fans have to hope that the injury-ravaged Texans don’t pack it in for the season.