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AFC playoff picture: Buffalo Bills tied with Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans for fifth

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The Bills are still going to need some help.

After their surprisingly nail-biting victory over the Miami Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills (8-6) look to the AFC playoff standings and around the rest of the NFL for help. They can finally clinch a playoff spot on their own.

The Baltimore Ravens also improved to 8-6 courtesy of a win over the division foe Cleveland Browns, but the Tennessee Titans lost, leaving them in the 8-6 logjam. Tennessee’s conference record puts them on top of that list, though. Another thing that did help the Bills, the Los Angeles Chargers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night, knocking them a game behind Buffalo.

There is some controversy in this discussion again this week, though. One of the tiebreakers used to determine playoff teams is record vs. common opponent. The Bills have wins over the Dolphins, Raiders, and Colts (3-1 total) while the Ravens beat the Bengals, Dolphins, and Raiders (3-0 total). Buffalo has another game against the Dolphins to bring up that record while the Ravens face Indianapolis and Cincinnati over the final two weeks of the season. While some outlets won’t count this tiebreaker yet because the two teams haven’t yet played four common opponents, they are on the schedule eventually so I’m counting them here. That puts Buffalo below Baltimore. If you don’t count it, Buffalo wins on the next tiebreaker (strength of victory - see below).

So NFL.com, ESPN.com, and a bunch of other outlets have the Bills in the lead at 6th. But ESPN’s playoff machine, the Monday Night Football broadcast, and a lot of other outlets have Buffalo in 7th. Until Buffalo controls their own destiny, we think it’s better to put them on the outside looking in.

Here is the full AFC playoff picture with only the relevant tiebreaker information listed:

AFC Playoff Standings (with common opponent tiebreaker)

1. New England Patriots (11-3, head-to-head win over PIT)+
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3, head-to-head loss to NE)+
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)+
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
5. Tennessee Titans (8-6, 7-4 AFC record)
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6, 6-4 AFC record, 3-0 vs. common BUF opponents)
7. Buffalo Bills (8-6, 6-4 AFC, 3-1 vs. common BAL opponents, head-to-head loss to LAC)
8. Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)
9. Oakland Raiders (6-8, head-to-head win over MIA)
10. Miami Dolphins (6-8, head-to-head loss to OAK)
11t. New York Jets (5-9)*
11t. Cincinnati Bengals (5-9)*
11t. Denver Broncos (5-9)*
14. Houston Texans (4-10)*
15. Indianapolis Colts (3-11, 2-6 AFC)*
16. Cleveland Browns (0-14)*

* Cleveland, Indianapolis, Houston, Denver, Cincinnati, and New York have been eliminated from the 2017 postseason race.
+ New England, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville have clinched playoff spots.


I wanted to include this for folks who want to see it. Here is the race for the sixth spot without including the record vs. common opponent. This does not take into account future games played against common opponents.

AFC Wild Card Standings (without common opponent tiebreaker)

6. Buffalo Bills (8-6, 6-4 AFC, better strength of victory than BAL)
7. Baltimore Ravens (8-6, 6-4 AFC record, worse strength of victory than BUF)