Like many years in recent history, the 2017 Buffalo Bills season has been a roller coaster of emotions. First the team was going to be terrible, then they were great, then they were bad, and now we’re stuck in purgatory. They aren’t terrible enough to have a great draft pick, but they aren’t good enough to be looking at a playoff spot. But, as every broadcast tells us, the Bills are still in the hunt. How, though? What has happened for the Buffalo Bills to end the dr****t? I am glad you asked.
Buffalo Bills go 10-6
The most important achievement needed is the Bills running the table and finishing 10-6, their best record since 1999. The Bills have a better record than three of their four remaining opponents, but finishing 9-7 will likely not allow the Bills into the playoffs. The Colts and the two Dolphins games should be wins for the Bills. The major roadblock in this plan is the New England Patriots. At full strength, it would take an incredible performance by the Bills to upset the Patriots, but what if they weren’t at full strength?
New England secures the #1 seed in week 15
Barring a major injury, the only way the Patriots would not be at full strength when the Bills travel to Foxboro is if New England has secured the top seed in the AFC and have decided to rest their starters. In order for the Patriots to have it all locked up, the following needs to occur.
- The Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins in Week 14.
- The Baltimore Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars lose at home to either the Seattle Seahawks (Week 14) or the Houston Texans (Week 15).
- The Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15.
If those four things happen, the Pats will be sitting at 12 wins and have a head-to-head victory over the Steelers. Also, the Jaguars loss means they will not be able to win 12 games and challenge the Patriots for the number 1 seed.
(Side note: I can’t believe I just wrote a sentence that states that the Jacksonville effin Jaguars and Doug Marrone could potentially be the #1 seed in the AFC and I did not make any of it up.)
With the Patriots locking up the AFC and resting their starters, it is up to the Bills to take care of business in their four remaining games. That gets them to 10-6, but...
Is 10-6 enough?
I think you already know the answer, but unfortunately, going 10-6 only secures the Bills their best regular season record since 1999. It does not guarantee them a playoff spot. The New York Times Playoff Simulator gives the Bills a 90% chance of making the playoffs in the “run the table” scenario. In order to make that 100%, the Bills will need one of two things to happen.
- The Baltimore Ravens need to finish below 10-6, requiring them to lose two of their three final games. (I’m already counting their win in week 14 over the Steelers in this scenario.) They have games against the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, and Cincinnati Bengals.
- If that does not occur, the Bills need the Tennessee Titans to lose two of their final four games. The Titans have a West Coast trip in Weeks 14 and 15 for games against the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. They return home for their final two games against the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars. I see at least two, maybe three, games that the Titans could lose down the stretch.
The Bills and their fans will need some less-than-likely events to occur, but the team is not dead yet. Here’s to another December spent rooting on the Bills and whatever other teams they need to help them. ‘Tis the season.