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AFC playoff race: Buffalo Bills rooting interests, Week 16

Bills fans are huge Colts fans this week.

The Buffalo Bills need some help to make the postseason for the first time since 1999. That all starts on Saturday and continues into Christmas Eve on Sunday. While the Bills can’t clinch a playoff spot this week, they also can’t be eliminated. These games will set the course for a huge Week 17.

For the first time this season, the Bills game is probably not even the most important game on the NFL schedule. Because of tiebreaker scenarios, it’s just as important for other results to happen than it is for Buffalo to win (though that would be nice).

Here are rooting interests for Bills fans in the order of importance:

Buffalo Bills (8-6) over New England Patriots (11-3)
Sunday, December 24th, 1:00 p.m. Eastern

Buffalo can survive a loss to the Patriots if Baltimore stumbles in one of their final two games or if they get some help with losses by the Titans or Chargers. Beating the Patriots in New England would be pretty great, though. If Buffalo wins out they have a 96% chance of making the postseason.

Indianapolis Colts (3-11) over Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
Saturday, December 23rd, 4:30 p.m. Eastern

To win any tiebreaker over the Ravens at 9-7, Buffalo needs Baltimore to lose one of their final two games to even up the record vs. common opponents. This week they have the Colts and next week the Bengals and a loss in either would work for Buffalo, as long as the Bills defeat the Dolphins in Week 17. If Buffalo wins twice and Baltimore loses once, the Bills clinch.

New York Jets (5-9) over Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)
Sunday, December 24th, 1:00 p.m. Eastern

A West Coast team traveling east for a 1:00 p.m. start would seem to help the Jets a bit in this matchup. That’s good, because virtually everything else is working against them. Their starting quarterback is Bryce Petty and they’ve been eliminated from the postseason. Most of the problems with tiebreaker scenarios at 9-7 stem from the Chargers’ head-to-head win over Buffalo, so eliminating them from the 9-7 tiebreaker possibilities would be big. Since this is a rooting interest post and not a “what’s likely to happen post”, this is the best outcome for Bills fans.

Los Angeles Rams over Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Sunday, December 24th, 1:00 p.m. Eastern

Pretty easy call when Buffalo is tied with Tennessee in the playoff race and they are playing an NFC opponent, right? Sure. If the Chargers and Titans both lose, the Bills are sitting pretty. But...

Tennessee Titans over Los Angeles Rams
- if -
Los Angeles Chargers over New York Jets

If the Chargers lose, we want the Titans to lose. If the Chargers win we want the Titans to win. This all comes down to the 3-way tiebreaker scenarios we referenced above for the 9-7 possibilities. If Buffalo finishes 9-7, it can’t be in a two-way tie with the Chargers of Buffalo loses out. If it’s in a three-way tie with the Chargers and Titans, Buffalo would win that tiebreaker because it would remove the head-to-head loss. All three of these important games are at the same time which will make it impossible to update this at some point on Sunday. (Of course the Bills could win out and eliminate the possibility of the Chargers being in the conversation.)

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) over San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, December 24th, 4:05 p.m. Eastern

If Buffalo and Jacksonville both in on Sunday, the Bills will clinch a playoff spot by beating the Dolphins the following week. The Jaguars can throw a wrench in the Bills’ playoff hopes by losing their final two games and being tied with a 10-6 Bills team for the Wild Card spot, as Jacksonville would own the tiebreaker thanks to a better AFC record.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) over Miami Dolphins (6-8)
Sunday, December 24th, 1:00 p.m. Eastern

If you think Buffalo is going to lose their final two games, they can still make the playoffs if things go their way including a Dolphins loss to the Chiefs in Week 16 to eliminate them from postseason consideration. (It might also really help to deflate the Dolphins for them to be mathematically eliminated before Week 17.)

If all of this happens - and that’s a big if - there are three scenarios for the Bills to make the playoffs in Week 17: if any of the Jaguars, Bills, or Bengals win, it would seal the deal for Buffalo by defeating the Titans, Dolphins, or Ravens, respectively.