If Buffalo loses today, or even if they win, the Buffalo Bills (currently 8-7) could potentially be sitting at home thanks to a tiebreaker loss. If it happens, it will be the first time in team history Buffalo loses a tiebreaker for a playoff spot.
If either the Tennessee Titans (8-7) or Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) win their game, Buffalo would lose the tiebreaker to them, even after defeating the Miami Dolphins. The Bills are behind in conference record against the Titans, and lost a head-to-head matchup against the Chargers.
Buffalo has finished one game back of a playoff spot six times in their 58 seasons, most recently in 2014. They also were one game out in 2004, 2002, 2000, 1983, and 1973. In 2004, had they won their game they would have won the tiebreaker to get into the postseason.
In 1981, the Bills made the postseason on a tiebreaker, squeezing out the Denver Broncos. Buffalo had defeated Denver earlier in the season by a 9-7 score. The Broncos were also tied with the San Diego Chargers for the AFC West crown but lost that tiebreaker, too, and had to stay home.
In 1963, the Bills and the Boston Patriots had to play a divisional championship game after both teams finished 7-6-1 to lead the AFL East. There were no tiebreakers in place. The Bills won 28-21 in Week 8 with the Patriots returning the favor in Week 13, 17-7. In the rubber match the Patriots prevailed 28-6 before being blown out by the Chargers in the AFL Championship.
Buffalo has lost a tiebreaker to move from division champ to a wild card spot. In 1992, the Bills and Miami Dolphins tied at 11-5 but Miami’s conference record was better than Buffalo’s. It didn’t stop Buffalo from mounting the greatest comeback in NFL history and eventually beating the Dolphins in Miami for the AFC Championship.