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Buffalo Bills bye week: Who should fans root for?

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’ bye week is upon us. While many of us can kick back and relax, for the rest of us, it means we get to watch a bunch more NFL action this weekend and enjoy ourselves. If, like me, you’re always trying to figure out the angle, we have one.

Here are your rooting interests for the Bills’ playoff chances and seeding. Current betting odds are listed on each game from DraftKings and to give you a sense of what bettors think is going to be the outcome. They are listed in order by importance. But first, a reminder on the state of the AFC.

AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills (4-2)
  2. New England Patriots (2-4)
  3. New York Jets (1-4)
  4. Miami Dolphins (1-5)

AFC Playoffs

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

Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) over Tennessee Titans (4-2)
Sunday, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Kansas City by 5

It’s real weird rooting for the Chiefs, but with the Titans and Bills tied and Tennessee owning the tiebreaker, we need them to lose some games. Buffalo has that same tiebreaker over Kansas City, so it’s pretty clear Bills fans are Chiefs fans this weekend, even if Kansas City is going to be back above .500.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) over Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
Sunday, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Baltimore by 6.5

The only reason this one isn’t first is Buffalo’s loss to the Titans and win over the Chiefs. The Bills need the Ravens to lose to get into first place and this is a pristine opportunity. With a Bengals win, both teams would be 5-2, making Baltimore and Cincinnati ahead of Buffalo overall. That makes it a bit less important, but we’d rather have more two-loss teams in the AFC then worry about the half-game lead on the AFC North bye.

Philadelphia Eagles over Las Vegas Raiders (4-2)
Sunday, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Las Vegas by 3

The surprising Raiders are tied with Buffalo right now in the AFC standings. A win by an NFC team over Las Vegas would be a great help to the Bills.

Denver Broncos (3-3) over Cleveland Browns (3-3)
Thursday Night Football
Line: Cleveland by 1

This one is tricky. Both of them are 3-3. Both of them play in a division with top contenders and upstarts. Both have losing records in the AFC for tiebreaker purposes. I landed on the Broncos because of the injuries to the Browns. Cleveland has the horses to make a solid postseason run if they get healthy, so adding a few losses to the ledger now while they’re starting Case Keenum is the decision I made. Ultimately, the Browns were a few plays away from the AFC Championship Game last year and putting them behind the 8 ball wins out. This would also lower Baltimore and Cincinnati’s Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule tiebreakers.

Miami Dolphins (1-5) over Atlanta Falcons (2-5)
Sunday, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Atlanta by 2.5

OK, so “rooting” might be too strong of a word here. The “best outcome” for Buffalo would be a Miami win to boost Buffalo’s Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule. Right now, multiple AFC teams have identical Conference records and Strength of Victory has become important for jostling. It doesn’t always matter by the end of the year, but as long as it does, we’re tracking it.

Washington Football Team over Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Green Bay by 7.5

Buffalo has a victory over Washington, so a win by the Football Team helps the Bills’ Strength of Victory in addition to Strength of Schedule. It’s straightforward.

Houston Texans (1-5) over Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Arizona by 17.5

Buffalo’s victory over the Texans makes it a clear rooting interest for Strength of Victory. We didn’t say it had to be likely.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Chicago Bears
Sunday, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Tampa Bay by 12

The Bills play the Bucs later this year, so this is a boost to Strength of Schedule at least and could be bump in Strength of Victory. Plus the Bears play the AFC North, so this would hinder the Browns, Ravens, and Bengals in their Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule tiebreakers.

Indianapolis Colts (2-4) over San Francisco 49ers
Sunday Night Football
Line: San Francisco by 4.5

With Buffalo’s upcoming game against the Colts, this helps with tiebreakers down the line. Indy isn’t really a threat in the AFC right now. If you’re worried about them going on a run to 13-4, you can root against them if you prefer.

Carolina Panthers over New York Giants
Sunday, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Carolina Panthers by 3

Buffalo plays the Panthers later in the year, so this will boost Strength of Schedule and potentially the Strength of Victory tiebreakers. Either way, we should root for all those future Bills. (I’m kidding on that last part.)

New Orleans Saints over Seattle Seahawks
Monday Night Football
Line: New Orleans by 4.5

Buffalo plays the Saints later, so this helps with Strength of Schedule and potentially Strength of Victory.

Los Angeles Rams over Detroit Lions
Sunday, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Los Angeles by 15.5

With the Lions playing both the AFC North this year, this result will hurt the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns in Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule.

New York Jets (1-4) over New England Patriots (2-4)
Sunday, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Patriots by 6.5

This one shouldn’t really matter. Buffalo should beat both of these teams twice and neither are a real danger to win the division. We’re just going bas on AFC East record and overall record at this point, plus it will be fun to keep seeing Belichick miserable.

Bye week: Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers

Here is what the AFC Standings will look like on Tuesday morning if everything goes the way of our Rooting Interests piece:

AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills (4-2)
  2. New York Jets (2-4)
  3. Miami Dolphins (2-5, win over NE)
  4. New England Patriots (2-5, loss to MIA)

AFC Playoffs

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

The Bengals and Chargers have a significantly more difficult schedule than the Bills going forward. Buffalo would be in a good position for the one seed.

With Baltimore relegated to a Wild Card team and the Chiefs on the outside looking in, it’s a very interesting draw as described above.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.