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AFC Playoff Picture: What will it take Buffalo Bills to clinch the AFC East?

The numbers are aligning.

The Buffalo Bills were on a bye this week and the entire AFC East lost. Pretty nice. Naturally it got Bills fans thinking about how their team can eventually clinch the first division win since the mid-1990s.

At 7-3, the Bills hold a one-game lead over the 6-4 Miami Dolphins. At 4-6, the New England Patriots are three games back with six to play. The New York Jets have been officially eliminated at 0-10.

So what’s it going to take to clinch the AFC East? I told you the Dolphins winning six straight would be a pretty great run from a team that hasn’t proven it was great. That article was laying the groundwork to show folks why the Bills were still likely to win the AFC East. I’ve been saying for weeks now that the Dolphins weren’t going to go 10-1 to clinch the AFC East before they met the Bills in Week 17.

So how can the Bills clinch the division?

It’s going to be a while. Though highly improbable, Miami could still get to 12 wins. If Buffalo gets to 12, they clinch the division. The Bills’ magic number is five, so a combination of five Bills’ wins and five Dolphins’ losses gets the job done. Still very early in the conversation.

It should be noted that with the Bills’ win over the Dolphins earlier this season and Miami’s 1-2 division record and Buffalo’s 4-0 record in the AFC East, the Bills hold at least the first two tiebreakers. It would move to record vs common opponents, which probably goes to Buffalo. I haven’t worked a scenario where Miami wins a tiebreaker, so they would need to come into Week 17 tied with or ahead of Buffalo in the standings.

Buffalo also holds a tiebreaker over the Patriots thanks to an earlier head-to-head win. New England doesn’t have the same AFC East losses that Miami has, with a 2-1 record currently, so they could still win the division in a tie with Buffalo and/or Miami.

To this point, everything has been fact-based but I wanted to throw some opinion in here. With games remaining against the Chiefs, Patriots, Bills, and Raiders, I think Miami would be lucky to get to 10-6. If Buffalo beats all the teams on their schedule with losing records, that gets them to 11 wins and that should be enough to win the division. The wheels would have to fall off the Bills’ bandwagon for Miami to catch them.

Overall Standings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
3. Buffalo Bills (7-3, 5-2 AFC)
4. Cleveland Browns (7-3, 4-3 AFC)
5. Indianapolis Colts (7-3, win over TEN, 3-3 AFC)
6. Tennessee Titans (7-3, loss to IND, 5-3 AFC)
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4, 4-3 AFC)
8t. Miami Dolphins (6-4, 3-3 AFC)
8t. Baltimore Ravens (6-4, 4-4 AFC)
10. Denver Broncos (4-6, win over NE)
11. New England Patriots (4-6, loss to DEN)
12. Los Angeles Chargers (3-7, 3-4 AFC)
13. Houston Texans (3-7, 3-5 AFC)
14. Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
16. New York Jets (0-10)

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)
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8. Miami Dolphins (6-4, 3-3 AFC)
9. Baltimore Ravens (6-4, wins over CLE & IND, 4-4 AFC)