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AFC Playoff Picture: Buffalo Bills rooting interests, Week 12

Last week, the Buffalo Bills went from second place in the conference all the way down to seventh. A terrible fall, but a rectifiable one. With a little help this week, the Bills can be back on top of the AFC East and in prime position for a playoff run. Plus, they’ll have an extra few days to prepare for the team they’re battling for division supremacy; the New England Patriots.

As the Bills play on Thanksgiving night, you’ll get chances to see a lot of other NFL games this weekend, so here are your rooting interests. They’re listed in order of importance and we’ve added the betting line from our friends at DraftKings SportsBook so you can see the predicted outcomes. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Before we get to the games, here’s a reminder of the current playoff seeding. Note: Rankings are listed in playoff order, so division leaders are listed 1-4 followed by the Wild Card teams.

Current AFC East

  1. New England Patriots (7-4)
  2. Buffalo Bills (6-4)
  3. Miami Dolphins (4-7)
  4. New York Jets (2-8)

Current AFC Playoffs

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

Buffalo Bills (6-4) over New Orleans Saints
Thanksgiving night, 8:20 PM Eastern
Line: Bills by 6.5

The Saints are banged up and starting backups among at least four positions including quarterback and running back this week. When we talk about beating teams you’re supposed to beat and handling business, this is exactly the type of game we’re talking about.

Tennessee Titans (8-3) over New England Patriots (7-4)
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Patriots by 7

Two schools of thought here, so let me explain my reasoning for picking the Titans first. This outcome significantly increases the chance of the Bills getting a home playoff game or two or three. Buffalo needs to win the division for that to happen and this will give the Bills wiggle room for that. Mathematically, this is the right call because of the importance of the division.

The other side of the coin is if you think Buffalo is going to split or sweep the Patriots and win the division regardless of the outcome of this particular game. In that case, you would root for the Patriots to win. While that keeps the Bills in second place in the division for one more week, it gives the Titans their fourth loss of the year to tie Buffalo in that metric. Then the Bills could tie Tennessee in the standings in Week 13 and potentially pass them in Week 14.

Cleveland Browns (5-5) over Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
Sunday Night Football
Line: Ravens by 4

Ideally, Buffalo gets back to the top of the division this week and passes the Ravens into second place in the Conference. That can’t happen without a Ravens loss. While this keeps the Browns in the Wild Card race, it won’t matter if the Bills top their division once again. Plus a one-game division lead isn’t enough to gift the AFC North to the Ravens.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bucs by 3

A half-game behind Buffalo, but owning the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Colts are a dangerous team for the Bills in the Wild Card race. The Super Bowl champs could help us out a bit the same week we help them out by beating a divisional opponent.

Dallas Cowboys over Las Vegas Raiders (5-5)
Thanksgiving afternoon, 4:30 PM Eastern
Line: Cowboys by 7

Best to keep them out of the Wild Card race for now. As it stands now, they are a game behind the Bills for the final playoff spot.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1) over Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bengals by 5

We just need the AFC North to keep beating each other up so they all end up around .500. The Bengals have the better record, so we went with the Steelers here. Because of the tie on Pittsburgh’s ledger, the tiebreaker over the Bills isn’t likely to come into play since they aren’t likely to have the same record when all is said and done. It’s too early to just pick one and try to eliminate the other.

Denver Broncos (5-5) over Los Angeles Chargers (6-4)
Sunday, November 28, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Chargers by 2.5

Similar to the previous game, we want all the AFC West teams around .500 because it’s too early to just wish for one of them to win the Wild Card and beat up the others. Later in the year, we might end up rooting for the second-place team in a division, but not now.

Atlanta Falcons over Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Falcons by 2

First of all, screw the Jaguars. Now that that is out of the way, this is also the right math call. If and when Buffalo beats the Falcons, this will up the Bills’ Strength of Victory, something that a Jags win can’t do.

Miami Dolphins (4-7) over Carolina Panthers
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Panthers by 2

The Bills don’t really have to worry about the Dolphins in the Wild Card race at this point, so a Miami win would help Buffalo in Strength of Victory and move them further down the NFL Draft order.

Washington Football Team over Seattle Seahawks
Monday Night Football
Line: Washington by 1.5

The Bills have a win in hand over the Washington (D.C.) team, so we want them to beat the Washington (state) team. It helps Buffalo’s Strength of Victory metric.

New York Jets (2-8) over Houston Texans (2-8)
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Texans by 2.5

Another easy call. The Bills want to up their Strength of Victory tiebreaker and they play the Jets twice. There’s an added benefit of knocking New York down the NFL Draft order, as well.

Chicago Bears over Detroit Lions
Thanksgiving afternoon, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bears by 3

The rest of these games aren’t really relevant, but the Bengals lost to the Bears but beat the Lions. SO this would hurt their Strength of Victory by one game.

New York Giants over Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, November 28, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Philly by 3.5

Far, far down the list. The Raiders lost to the Giants but beat the Eagles, so this helps keep down their Strength of Victory.

Green Bay Packers over Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, November 28, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Rams by 1

The Rams play the Ravens later this year, so this will knock down their Strength of Schedule and Strength of Victory. The Packers play the entire AFC North this season.

San Francisco 49ers over Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, November 28, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: 49ers by 3

The AFC North has already run down the Vikings, so keep their Strength of Victory low by allowing other teams to do it.

Byes: Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals


If everything goes Buffalo’s way mathematically, they can be back in second place in the AFC by the end of the day Sunday. It’s not even a longshot.

A Buffalo win coupled with a Patriots loss moves the Bills back to the top of the division. The Ravens losing to the Browns would give Buffalo everything they need to be back in the number-two spot based on Conference record. They’ll be two spots plus a tiebreaker behind the Titans for the top spot, though.

Projected AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills (7-4)
  2. New England Patriots (7-5)
  3. Miami Dolphins (5-7)
  4. New York Jets (3-8)

Projected AFC Playoffs

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

Here’s another look for you since some of you are gunning for the top spot in the conference. If the Patriots beat the Titans, here’s what it will look like heading into Week 13. I kept all the other results the same. Buffalo then beating the Patriots in Week 13 would move the Bills into the top spot in the division. A loss by the Titans in Week 13 would drop them to 8-5 on a three-game losing streak and Buffalo would be in the top spot in the AFC.

But the list below also highlights the downside of rooting for the Patriots to beat the Titans. A Buffalo loss on Monday Night Football next week could move them completely out of the playoff picture, even with a Week 12 win. That’s why I am rooting for the Titans.

Projected AFC East

  1. New England Patriots (8-4)
  2. Buffalo Bills (7-4)

Projected AFC Playoffs

  1. New England Patriots (8-4, win over TEN)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-4, loss to NE)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (7-4, win over KC)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, loss to BAL)
  5. Buffalo Bills (7-4)
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4-1)
  7. Cleveland Browns (7-5, loss to NE)