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Playoff Picture: Buffalo can clinch AFC East as early as Week 14

Let’s take a look at a scenario

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

The Buffalo Bills sit at 8-3 and one game up on the 7-4 Miami Dolphins in the AFC East and three games clear of the New England Patriots at 5-6. The New York Jets have already been eliminated from the division race.

So how soon can the Bills clinch the AFC East?

In Week 13, a Bills win over the San Francisco 49ers would move them to 9-3, meaning at worst they would finish 9-7. A loss by the New England Patriots would move them to 5-7, meaning at best they could finish 9-7. With both teams at 9-7, New England would beat out the Bills on AFC East record tiebreaker, so Buffalo can’t eliminate the Patriots in Week 13.

Taking Weeks 13 and 14 as a whole, then, if Buffalo beats the 49ers and turns around to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night of Week 14, they will be 10-3. If New England loses one game to either the Los Angeles Chargers of Los Angeles Rams, they would be eliminated but if they win both, Buffalo still can’t clinch.

Similarly, the Bills can’t clinch against the Dolphins by simply winning their next two games. They’ll need Miami to lose both of their next two games to settle at six losses. With Buffalo controlling the other tiebreakers against Miami, ten wins for Buffalo and six losses for Miami would clinch the division for the Bills.

Last week, we told you the magic number was five. The Bills needed a combination of five Buffalo wins and Miami losses to clinch the division ahead of the Dolphins. With a win on Sunday for Buffalo, that number is now four. They need a combination of Dolphins losses or Bills wins to total four PLUS one loss from the Patriots down the stretch to clinch the division.

It’s a lot more likely that Buffalo clinches the division on Saturday, December 19 against the Denver Broncos or Sunday, December 20 when the Patriots and Dolphins collide in Week 15.

Scenario for clinching the AFC East in Week 14

  • Buffalo beats San Francisco, Pittsburgh


  • New England loses at least once to Los Angeles or Los Angeles


  • Miami loses to Cincinnati, Kansas City