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AFC Playoff Picture: Bills can lose playoff position in Week 15 even if they win

The Bills need to win some games down the stretch

The Buffalo Bills somehow hung onto the playoff spot after their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are tied for the sixth playoff spot with five teams, so three teams with the exact same record as Buffalo are on the outside looking in.

The Cleveland Browns’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals is the saving grace right now. The Bengals have a better AFC record than Buffalo but they lost to the Browns. The division tiebreaker applies first, putting the Browns second in the AFC North and ahead of them in the Wild Card race, and Buffalo beats Cleveland in AFC Record.

Scenario 1

That could obviously change this weekend with the massive number of COVID-19 cases raging the Browns. If they lose and both the Bengals and Bills win, it sets up a scenario where Buffalo falls out of the playoff picture completely despite a victory.

  • Ravens win/tie to stay in AFC North lead
  • Bills win, going to 8-6, 5-5 in AFC
  • Browns lose, falling to 7-7
  • Bengals win, going to 8-6, 6-3 in AFC
  • Colts win, going to 8-6, 7-3 in AFC

Scenario 2

There’s another scenario that would oust the Bills from the final playoff spot, too. If the Browns and Bengals both win and the Ravens lose, Cleveland moves into the division lead, Cincinnati would be second in the division, and Baltimore would fall to third. The Bills would be behind the Bengals in this scenario, as well.

  • Browns win and Ravens lose, making Cleveland division leader
  • Bills win, going to 8-6, 5-5 in AFC
  • Bengals win, going to 8-6, 6-3 in AFC
  • Colts win, going to 8-6, 7-3 in AFC

In both of these scenarios, the AFC Wild Card picture would then have three teams in front of the Bills in the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, and the loser of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.

Ironically, both of these scenarios would actually help the Bills in their quest for the AFC East division. A Colts win would mean a loss by the New England Patriots, and the next game on December 26 between New England and Buffalo would be for the divisional lead.


Here is the current AFC Playoff Standings before we get to Week 14. Note: Division leaders are listed in the 1-4 slots.

AFC Standings

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

++ Eliminated from the postseason