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NFL Week 15: open thread

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Here’s your thread to discuss the early and late-day games

The Buffalo Bills find themselves in a holding pattern 12 years in the making, with kickoff for their prime-time showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 pm EST on Sunday Night Football. (In case you need a reminder where and how to catch tonight’s game, click here.)

Fear not, Rumblers, there are plenty of great games to watch this afternoon, highlighted by the Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans at 1 pm. EST pitting two 8-5 teams against each other for control of the AFC South. If you’re feeling spiteful, there’s the match-up between the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals—themselves the victims of the Patriots’ latest taping scandal. Can the Bengals sink their claws into the Patriots enough to help the Bills’ playoff hopes a second time?

The late-afternoon slate of games is highlighted by the seldom-showcased Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys are in the midst of an epic slide while the Rams appear to be heating up at just the right time.

So, what do the Buffalo Bills’ rooting interests this week look like? Thankfully Matt Warren does a masterful job at figuring it all out each week. His work is reprinted here below the break for you to enjoy.


Full AFC Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-2) [Clinched playoff spot]
2. New England Patriots (10-3)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, 7-3 AFC) [Clinched AFC West]
4 . Buffalo Bills (9-4, 6-3 AFC)
5. Houston Texans (8-5, 7-3 AFC)
6 . Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, 6-3 AFC)
7 . Tennessee Titans (8-5, 6-4 AFC)
8. Cleveland Browns (6-7, 6-4 AFC)
9. Oakland Raiders (6-7, 4-5 AFC, head-to-head win over IND)
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-7, 5-6 AFC, head-to-head loss to OAK)
11. Denver Broncos (5-8, head-to-head wins over LAC, 4-5 AFC)
12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8, head-to-head losses to DEN, 3-7 AFC)*
13. New York Jets (5-8, 1-7 AFC)*
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9, 4-6 AFC)*
15. Miami Dolphins (3-10)*
16. Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)*

Full AFC Playoff Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-2) [Clinched playoff spot]
2. New England Patriots (10-3)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, 7-3 AFC) [Clinched AFC West]
4. Houston Texans (8-5, 7-3 AFC)
5 . Buffalo Bills (9-4, 6-3 AFC)
6 . Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, 6-3 AFC)
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7 . Tennessee Titans (8-5, 6-4 AFC)
8. Cleveland Browns (6-7, 6-4 AFC)
9. Oakland Raiders (6-7, 4-5 AFC, head-to-head win over IND)
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-7, 5-6 AFC, head-to-head loss to OAK)
11. Denver Broncos (5-8, head-to-head wins over LAC, 4-5 AFC)
12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8, head-to-head losses to DEN, 3-6 AFC)*
13. New York Jets (5-8, 1-7 AFC)*
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)*
15. Miami Dolphins (3-10)*
16. Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)*


Buffalo Bills (9-4) over Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Sunday, December 15, 8:20 PM Eastern

If the Bills win, they are in. They won’t be eliminated from the AFC East race if they lose, though. Week 16 is going to matter one way or the other.

Houston Texans (8-5) over Tennessee Titans (8-5)
Sunday, December 15, 1:00 PM Eastern

This has everything to do with three-way tie scenarios. We want the Texans to win the division, leaving the Titans in the Wild Card mix. Houston is 7-3 in the conference while the Titans are 6-4. In three-way ties, Buffalo’s win over Tennessee might not matter anymore.

Arizona Cardinals over Cleveland Browns (6-7)
Sunday, December 15, 4:05 PM Eastern

A Cleveland loss would eliminate the Browns from being able to pass the Bills in a worst-case scenario.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) over Oakland Raiders (6-7)
Sunday, December 15, 4:05 PM Eastern

A Raiders loss would eliminate Oakland from being able to pass the Bills in a worst-case scenario.

New Orleans Saints over Indianapolis Colts (6-7)
Monday, December 16, 8:15 PM Eastern

There is a weird scenario where the 9-7 Colts win the AFC South and Buffalo loses a tiebreaker to the 9-7 Texans and 9-7 Steelers for a playoff spot. Root for the Saints to finish off Indy.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-12) over New England Patriots (10-3)
Sunday, December 15, 1:00 PM Eastern

The Bills need some help to win the division. A Buffalo win plus a Patriots loss this week would set up the Bills to control their own destiny in the AFC East and a possible path to a first-round bye.

Denver Broncos (3-8) over Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
Sunday, December 15, 1:00 PM Eastern

If the Bills want that path to the first-round bye, they need another Kansas City loss or two.

New York Jets (5-8) over Baltimore Ravens (11-2)
Thursday, December 12, 8:20 PM Eastern

Another way for Buffalo to secure a first-round bye or even home-field advantage would be for the Ravens to lose out, going 11-5, while the Bills win out to get to 12-4. It’s not likely to happen, clearly, but there’s nothing stopping us from rooting this way. With the Ravens having a tiebreaker over New England, the AFC isn’t likely to run through Massachusetts this year.

Washington over Philadelphia Eagles
Miami Dolphins over New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys over Los Angeles Rams

These would help Buffalo’s strength-of-victory metric, but I don’t recall seeing a tiebreaker scenario where that actually matters.

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Detroit Lions
Seattle Seahawks vs Carolina Panthers
Minnesota Vikings vs Los Angeles Chargers
Atlanta Falcons vs San Francisco 49ers

None of these games matter for the Bills.


If everything goes Buffalo’s way this week, they move from a 5% chance to win the division to a 25% chance to win the division and they clinch the top Wild Card spot at minimum. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Here are the hypothetical standings heading into next weekend’s big showdown against the Patriots with only the teams within reach of the Bills:

Full HYPOTHETICAL AFC Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-3) [Clinched AFC North]
2. New England Patriots (10-4, head-to-head win over BUF)
3. Buffalo Bills (10-4, head-to-head loss to NEP) [Clinched playoff spot]
4. Houston Texans (9-5, head-to-head win over KC)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5, head-to-head loss to HOU) [Clinched AFC West]
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6, 6-4 AFC)
7. Tennessee Titans (8-6, 6-5 AFC)

Full HYPOTHETICAL AFC Playoff Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-3) [Clinched AFC North]
2. New England Patriots (10-4, head-to-head win over BUF)
3. Houston Texans (9-5, head-to-head win over KC)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5, head-to-head loss to HOU) [Clinched AFC West]
5. Buffalo Bills (10-4, head-to-head loss to NEP) [Clinched playoff spot]
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6, 6-4 AFC)
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7. Tennessee Titans (8-6, 6-5 AFC)

The Bills control their own destiny, but there are still several moving parts that could benefit Buffalo heading into the postseason.


So sit back, relax, and join your fellow Buffalo Rumblings brethren to discuss the games leading up to one of the Bills’ biggest road games in the last two decades.