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AFC Playoff Picture: Buffalo Bills Rooting Interests, Week 16

The Bills can clinch the two seed this weekend.

The Buffalo Bills can clinch the number-two seed in the AFC this weekend and rest their starters in Week 17, but they will need help from elsewhere. Buffalo still also has an outside shot at the number-one seed in the AFC, but they need different outcomes for that to happen.

Before we get into the rooting interests, let’s recap where we are currently.

Overall Standings

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

+ Clinched playoff spot

Playoff Standings

1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1)+
2. Buffalo Bills (11-3, win over PIT)+
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3, loss to BUF)+
4. Tennessee Titans (10-4, 4-1 AFCS, 7-4 AFC, loss to CLE)
5. Cleveland Browns (10-4, 6-4 AFC, win over IND)
6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4, 3-2 AFCS, 6-4 AFC, loss to CLE)
7. Miami Dolphins (9-5, 6-4 AFC)
—————————————————-
8. Baltimore Ravens (9-5, 6-5 AFC)
9. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7, 5-5 AFC)

+ Clinched playoff spot


Here are the Bills’ rooting interests in order of importance if you’re rooting for the two seed. With less than a 1 percent chance of obtaining the one seed (and you’ll see why later in the article), this is the scenario we are going to highlight.

Buffalo Bills (11-3) over New England Patriots (6-8)
Monday Night Football

Sweeping the Patriots for the first time since Bill Belichick took over in New England would certainly be a feat, and it could cap the regular season for the Bills if things go their way elsewhere. A 12-win season would be outstanding and doing it against a hated division rival would be the cherry on top of the regular-season sundae.

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) over Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)
Sunday, December 27, 1:00 p.m. EST

While the Bills hold the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, if Buffalo wants to clinch the two seed, they need Pittsburgh to lose and fall one game back of the Bills—then a Week 17 loss won’t matter for Buffalo. The Bills own tiebreakers over the Colts, Titans, Browns, and Steelers in three-way situations.

Green Bay Packers over Tennessee Titans (10-4)
Sunday Night Football

The Bills win three-way ties with the Titans, but not two-way ties. If Buffalo wants to clinch the two seed this week, they need Tennessee to lose on Sunday to the Packers, who hold the best record in the NFC.

Cleveland Browns (10-4) over New York Jets (1-13)
Sunday, December 27, 1:00 p.m. EST

A win by the Browns and a loss by the Steelers this week would give Buffalo a greater than 99 percent chance of winning the two seed. It would virtually ensure one of those teams finished 12-4 and, as we’ve already said, Buffalo wins every three-way tie scenario. The only way Buffalo wouldn’t be set is if the Browns and Steelers somehow played to a Week 17 tie. Then Buffalo would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Titans at 12-4.


If you’re still holding out hope for the one seed, go buy a lottery ticket because you’re more likely to hit on that than you are to hit on all these games in the parlay.

Buffalo Bills over New England Patriots
Monday Night Football

The Bills need to win both of their final two games.

Atlanta Falcons over Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, December 27, 1:00 p.m. EST

The Bills need KC to lose their final two games.

Pittsburgh Steelers over Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, December 27, 1:00 p.m. EST

The Bills need the Steelers to win their final two games. These first three outcomes set up the 13-3 three-way tie Buffalo needs.

The three-way tie would continue through AFC record and record vs common opponents to the strength-of-victory tiebreaker. The Chiefs have a big lead in that metric with wins over Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans, so we need a bunch of wins from teams the Bills have played and losses for teams the Chiefs have played. We’re also adding in losses for the Steelers’ opponents. Here’s the list:

Buffalo’s Strength of Schedule

San Francisco 49ers over Arizona Cardinals
Miami Dolphins over Las Vegas Raiders
New York Jets over Cleveland Browns

Kansas City’s Strength of Schedule

Minnesota Vikings over New Orleans Saints
Detroit Lions over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cincinnati Bengals over Houston Texans
Washington Football Team over Carolina Panthers
New York Giants over Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Chargers over Denver Broncos

Pittsburgh’s Strength of Schedule

Jacksonville Jaguars over Chicago Bears
Tennessee Titans over Green Bay Packers

Games that wouldn’t matter

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks

Pittsburgh beat both the Eagles and Cowboys and Buffalo beat both the Rams and Seahawks, so the outcomes here won’t help either team.

If ALL 14 of these outcomes happened in Week 16, the Bills would move from a <1 percent chance of the one seed to a 7 or 8 percent chance of winning the one seed. They would need several more outcomes in Week 17 to go their way, but this would open the door a crack.