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AFC Playoff Picture: Buffalo Bills rooting interests, Week 14

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It’s coming into focus

The Buffalo Bills can actually clinch a playoff spot this week. Bask in it, Buffalo Bills fans. It’s rarefied air around these parts. I was in high school the last time the Bills had a playoff spot locked up before the final seconds of the regular season.

Before we present the games where you should have a rooting interest, we’ll run down the AFC playoff picture for you. The games are presented in order of importance and only for the chances for the Bills to make the postseason. (We’re not talking about the Miami Dolphins getting a higher draft pick in these parts.)

Full AFC Standings

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

Full AFC Playoff Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (10-2, head-to-head win over NE)
2. New England Patriots (10-2, head-to-head loss to BAL)
3. Houston Texans (8-4, head-to-head win over KC)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4, head-to-head loss to HOU)
5. Buffalo Bills (9-3)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, 6-3 AFC)
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7. Tennessee Titans (7-5, 5-4 AFC)
8. Oakland Raiders (6-6, head-to-head win over IND)
9. Indianapolis Colts (6-6, head-to-head loss to OAK)
10. Cleveland Browns (5-7, 5-4 AFC)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8, 4-5 AFC)
12. Los Angeles Chargers (4-8, 2-7 AFC)
13. New York Jets (4-8, 1-7 AFC)
14. Denver Broncos (4-8, 4-5 AFC)

Buffalo Bills (9-3) over Baltimore Ravens (10-2)
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 PM Eastern

One of the biggest games on the NFL schedule this year is relegated to an early afternoon Sunday tilt as the Bills host the Ravens with major playoff implications. The Ravens can clinch a playoff spot and their division this week. Buffalo can clinch a playoff spot this week. These two teams could theoretically be jockeying for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Lots on the line at New Era Field this week.

Arizona Cardinals over Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Sunday, December 8, 4:25 PM Eastern

Buffalo can take care of the Steelers in Week 15 on Sunday Night Football, but it would also be pretty beneficial if Pittsburgh lost to the NFC West’s Cardinals this Sunday, dropping them to six losses. It would help Buffalo sneak in the back door of the Wild Card if things go to hell in a hand basket.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 PM Eastern

If Buffalo is going to clinch this week, they need the Colts to lose to set up the AFC South showdown between Houston and Tennessee. It’s even more helpful because it’s an NFC team doing the beating so you don’t have to worry about propping up other contenders like...

Tennessee Titans (7-5) over Oakland Raiders (6-6)
Sunday, December 8, 4:25 PM Eastern

Normally, you’d expect to see us trying to even out records, but that’s not the case this week. Buffalo’s win over the Titans and Tennessee’s remaining schedule make it a very clear rooting interest to root against Oakland. You can virtually eliminate the Raiders from the Bills’ line of sight with their seventh loss and you set up a rather deadly cage match between Houston and Tennessee, who play each other twice over the last three weeks of the year. One is likely to win the division, leaving the other with losses in the Wild Card race. It only helps Buffalo.

Denver Broncos (4-8) over Houston Texans (8-4)
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 PM Eastern

This is the other half of the Houston/Tennessee cage match. Getting the Texans to their fifth loss is what sets up the Bills’ playoff-clinching scenario. Then if they lose twice to Tennessee, Buffalo will be ahead of them. If they go 0-2 or 1-1 against the Titans, Buffalo will be ahead of Tennessee while the Texans take the division. Houston could be prime for a letdown game after toppling the Patriots on Sunday Night Football this week.

Note: If the Bills, Buccaneers, Titans, and Broncos all win, Buffalo makes the playoffs based on all the pending games between Houston and Tennessee. Buffalo can’t clinch over the Steelers this week.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) over New England Patriots (10-2)
Sunday, December 8, 4:25 PM Eastern

If the Bills have any shot of winning the division and hosting a playoff game, they really need the Chiefs to beat the Patriots. The other two games on New England’s schedule this year in addition to the Week 16 game against Buffalo are the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins, so not a lot of hope of a major upset there. If the Patriots lose and the Bills win this week, Buffalo controls their own destiny in the AFC East.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) over Cleveland Browns (5-7)
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 PM Eastern

Cleveland could still tie a foundering Bills team at 9-7 and their head-to-head win over Buffalo could matter, even in a three-way or four-way tie. If the Bengals win, it sweeps up the dust in that corner.

Dallas Cowboys over Chicago Bears
Miami Dolphins over New York Jets
Washington over Green Bay Packers
New York Giants over Philadelphia Eagles

These games are very unlikely to matter in the grand scheme of things. If it comes down to the strength-of-victory tiebreaker, these outcomes would help Buffalo. It shouldn’t come down to the strength-of-victory tiebreaker.

San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings
Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams

None of these games will directly affect the Bills’ chances of making the playoffs, though they could alter strength-of-victory and strength-of-schedule tiebreakers for other teams in the Wild Card race.


If everything goes Buffalo’s way, they will clinch a playoff spot this week (HOLY CRAP) and they will be in control of their own destiny in the AFC East once again (HOLY CRAP) which would put them in line for a home playoff game and the number-one seed in the AFC (HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP). Here’s what the board would look like:

Full HYPOTHETICAL AFC Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (10-3, head-to-head win over NE)
2. New England Patriots (10-3, head-to-head win over BUF, head-to-head loss to BAL)
3+. Buffalo Bills (10-3, head-to-head loss to NE)
4+. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
5. Houston Texans (8-5, 3-1 AFC South )
6. Tennessee Titans (8-5, 2-2 AFC South)
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6, 6-3 AFC)
8. Oakland Raiders (6-7, head-to-head win over IND)
9. Indianapolis Colts (6-7, head-to-head loss to OAK)
10. Denver Broncos (5-8, head-to-head win over CLE)
11. Cleveland Browns (5-8, head-to-head loss to DEN)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)
12. Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Chargers (4-9)
13. New York Jets (5-8 or 4-9)
15. Miami Dolphins (4-9 or 3-10)*
16. Cincinnati Bengals (2-11)*

Full HYPOTHETICAL AFC Playoff Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (10-3, head-to-head win over NE)
2. New England Patriots (10-3, head-to-head win over BUF, head-to-head loss to BAL)
3+. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)
4. Houston Texans (8-5, 3-1 AFC South )
5+. Buffalo Bills (10-3, head-to-head loss to NE)
6. Tennessee Titans (8-5, 2-2 AFC South)
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7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6, 6-3 AFC)
8. Oakland Raiders (6-7, head-to-head win over IND)
9. Indianapolis Colts (6-7, head-to-head loss to OAK)
10. Denver Broncos (5-8, head-to-head win over CLE)
11. Cleveland Browns (5-8, head-to-head loss to DEN)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)
12. Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Chargers (4-9)*
13. New York Jets (5-8 or 4-9)
15. Miami Dolphins (4-9 or 3-10)*
16. Cincinnati Bengals (2-11)*

* Cincinnati and Miami eliminated from the playoffs along with loser of Jacksonville/Los Angeles. Also in this scenario, New York is eliminated if they lose.
+ Bills and Chiefs would clinch a playoff spot

In this scenario, Buffalo would clinch spots ahead of the Bengals, Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, Chargers, Browns, Broncos, Colts, and Raiders plus be guaranteed to finish ahead of either the Titans or Texans. That puts them in the top six teams in the conference with a chance to clinch a spot over the Steelers next week. These results put them in control of their destiny to the number-one seed in the AFC in addition to the AFC East crown. Crazy talk, or is it?