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Moving up in AFC playoff picture is going to be tough for Buffalo Bills

The Bills likely can’t climb higher than the third seed.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Buffalo Bills fans are looking at the AFC playoff race from every possible angle. After a week of hand-wringing over a surging Miami Dolphins team, Bills fans looked around the conference on Sunday and saw mostly negative outcomes outside of that Dolphins team losing.

The Tennessee Titans, holder of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo, won in overtime as did their AFC South colleagues, the Indianapolis Colts. The Kansas City Chiefs won in the last minute. The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cleveland Browns let the Philadelphia Eagles mess up enough to win.

Here are the AFC Playoff standings right now:

AFC Playoff Standings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
3. Buffalo Bills (7-3, 5-2 AFC)
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-3, win over TEN, 3-3 AFC)
5. Tennessee Titans (7-3, loss to IND, 5-3 AFC)
6. Cleveland Browns (7-3, 4-3 AFC)
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4, 4-3 AFC)
8. Miami Dolphins (6-4, 3-3 AFC)
9. Baltimore Ravens (6-4, wins over CLE & IND, 4-4 AFC)

Man, it is going to be tough to move any higher than the three seed. It’s more likely that the Bills pass the Steelers than the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo and are two games up. Kansas City does have games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints on the schedule, plus a Week 17 game against a Chargers team that took them to overtime earlier in the season. Even if KC loses to both NFC South teams, Buffalo running the table won’t put them ahead of the Chiefs. They need three losses from the presumptive AFC West champs.

The Steelers are three games up in the overall standings. Buffalo plays Pittsburgh, so if the Bills win that game, they’ll still need two more wins than the Steelers down the stretch. Pittsburgh faces the Ravens this week on Thanksgiving night in an always-competitive game and they have contests against the Bills, Browns, and Colts that could be potential stumbling blocks.

Looking over Buffalo’s shoulder, the Titans and Colts play this Sunday in an epic 1:00 PM EST clash for supremacy in the AFC South. A win by Indy would clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker for the Colts. That would certainly help Buffalo because Tennessee has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills. With the Colts and Bills both winning Sunday, Buffalo stays in third for another week. If the Titans and Bills win, or if Buffalo loses, the Bills fall to the four seed.

Let’s not forget, that while they are a game plus a tiebreaker ahead of Miami, it’s going to be a while before they can clinch the division.