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Bills’ rooting interests for Week 15 feature huge games in AFC Playoff Picture

The Bills need to win some games down the stretch, but they could use some help, too

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 hung onto a playoff spot despite two consecutive losses, but they won’t have that benefit with a third straight loss. They also have the possibility of playing next week for the lead in the AFC East, so there are a lot of rooting interests this weekend.

With the addition of Saturday games, there are a veritable smorgasbord of viewing options for Bills fans and so many big AFC contests. Several teams in the playoff hunt are playing each other, too, so we have to make some interesting calls this week.

Our friends at DraftKings SportsBook have provided betting odds lines so you can see how likely a particular outcome is to come to fruition. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details. UPDATE: I updated the changing betting odds when I updated the days and time of the postponed games since the COVID-19 diagnoses are playing with many of the betting lines.

Before we get to the rooting interests, here are the current AFC Playoff Standings. 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

These game outcomes are presented in order of how important they are to the Bills. If I prioritized the division over the Wild Card, I noted it in the paragraph.

Buffalo Bills (7-6) over Carolina Panthers
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bills by 11 (Updated to 12)

Simply put, the Bills need to beat the teams that aren’t very good and the Panthers definitely qualify. They fired their offensive coordinator mid-season and are without their top offensive weapon, with no identity on that side of the ball. They are platooning two different quarterbacks at the moment. Buffalo’s defense needs to step up. The Panthers’ defense is stout, with a solid pass rush, and that concerns me with Josh Allen’s bum foot. This would be a good week to get the run game going with someone other than their 250-million-dollar QB.

Indianapolis Colts (7-6) over New England Patriots (9-4)
Saturday, December 18, 8:20 PM Eastern
Line: Colts by 2 (Updated to 2.5)

The New York Times says we should root for the Patriots to serve up another AFC loss to the Indianapolis Colts and help the Bills in the Wild Card race. Nah. We are still gunning for the AFC East crown. A Patriots loss and a Bills win this weekend means Buffalo vs New England is for first place on December 26. If you’re only looking to get into the playoffs, root for the Patriots, I guess. If you think the Bills are going to beat the Patriots next week, root for the Colts this week. A Patriots win would help the Bills make the playoffs as a Wild Card, as the Colts have games against the Cardinals and Raiders over the next two weeks, and could find themselves completely out of the playoffs by the end of the stretch.

Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
Sunday, December 19, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Packers by 5.5 (Updated to 7)

The Ravens lead the AFC North right now but with games against the Bengals, Rams, and Steelers, they could find themselves in the Wild Card hunt, as well. Either way, its an NFC team vs an AFC team and if Buffalo wins the division, we want them to have losses and if they fall into the Wild Card we want them to have losses. So root for a loss.

Denver Broncos (7-6) over Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)
Sunday, December 19, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Broncos by 2.5 (Updated to 3)

This one is actually pretty simple; it’s a lot easier for the Bills to win a tiebreaker over Denver than Cincinnati. The Bengals are currently 5-3 in the AFC while the Broncos are 3-5. Continuing to knock down Cincy is going to be vital for Buffalo in both the Wild Card and if both teams win the division. This is a really easy call.

Las Vegas Raiders (6-7) over Cleveland Browns (7-6)
Saturday, December 18, 4:30 PM Eastern
Monday, December 20, 5:00 PM Eastern
Line: Raiders by 1.5 (Updated to Browns by 1)

We should be fine with either outcome here, honestly. The Browns are reeling from COVID-19 diagnoses this week and play the Packers, Steelers, and Bengals down the stretch. The Raiders play the Broncos, Colts, and Chargers. It’s hard to see either of them running the table. Essentially when we make this pick, we want to keep Cleveland in the Wild Card race and not moving up into the division lead.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1) over Tennessee Titans (9-4)
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Titans by 1 (Updated to Steelers by 1)

Here’s another one where I disagree with the New York Times for a few reasons. Because Tennessee is first place in their division, the simulator wants them to keep winning and Pittsburgh to keep losing to help out the Bills in the Wild Card race. If you think the Bills are going to 1) Run the table or 2) Win their division, that won’t matter. If you want a better seed for the Bills in the postseason, root for the Steelers. I don’t think Pittsburgh is consistent enough to win multiple games down the stretch against the Titans, Chiefs, Browns, and Ravens. They won’t be a threat to Buffalo so we’ll take a win from them this week.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) over Los Angeles Chargers (8-5)
Thursday Night Football
Line: Chiefs by 3.5

This one is actually super-tricky. Buffalo has a win over the Chiefs and KC’s AFC record is bad, so do we want them in the Wild Card race or the divisional one? We expect both of these teams to make the playoffs, so do you want the Chiefs to run away with the division? The Chargers play the Texans, Broncos, and Raiders. The Chiefs play the Steelers, Bengals, and Broncos. If the Bills run the table to 11-6, they still might not pass either of these teams. That’s why it’s so low on the priority list. Because of tiebreakers, either of these teams needs to lose twice for the Bills to pass them, so I’m going with the Chiefs for now to try and avoid a cross-country road trip. Then maybe L.A. can lose to the Broncos or Raiders in January and the Chiefs can lose twice to their three potential playoff opponents. This loss plus a Denver win could put the Chargers on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, as well, since they would be behind the Broncos.

Miami Dolphins (6-7) over New York Jets (3-10)
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Dolphins by 9.5

Theoretically we want to knock the Dolphins out of the playoff race for good, but they play the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots in the final two weeks. Them throwing in the towel won’t benefit the Bills, so keeping them from running to the bus might actually help the Bills more than getting their eighth loss of the season. So we’re flipping the script.

Houston Texans (2-11) over Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Jaguars by 3.5 (Updated to 5.5)

This helps Buffalo’s Strength of Victory and screw the Jaguars.

Washington Football Team over Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Tuesday, December 21, 7:00 PM Eastern
Line: Eagles by 9.5 (Updated to 7.5)

This helps Buffalo’s Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule.

New Orleans Saints over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday Night Football
Line: Buccaneers by 11 (Updated to 11.5)

This helps Buffalo’s Strength of Victory.

Seattle Seahawks over Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, December 19, 4:25 PM Eastern
Tuesday, December 21, 7:00 PM Eastern
Line: Rams by 4.5 (Updated to 5.5)

Seattle’s first-round pick in 2022 heads to the Jets, so we want it as low as we can get it. GO SEAHAWKS!

San Francisco 49ers over Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, December 19, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: 49ers by 9.5 (Updated to 9)

Miami has San Francisco’s 2022 first-round selection, so we’ll take the one-game hit on the Strength of Schedule right now and root for a worse 49ers/Dolphins draft pick.

Arizona Cardinals vs Detroit Lions
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Cardinals by 12

I’m still rooting for the Lions, but it has no bearing on the Bills.

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
Sunday, December 19, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Cowboys by 11

No real rooting interest here.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
Monday Night Football
Line: Vikings by 4.5 (Updated to 6)

I think after watching games on Thursday night, Saturday afternoon and night, and all day Sunday, you should probably drink some water and get work done around the house. But what do I know?

If all these results happen, Buffalo’s chances of making the playoffs move to 73 percent and their chance of winning the division up to 34 percent. Those numbers right now are 64 percent and 16 percent, so they’ll double their chances of winning the AFC East. Then they can flip the script with a win in New England.

Here is what the picture would look like:


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

++ Eliminated from the postseason

Like we’ve said, the Bills would be playing the Patriots for control of the AFC East with games against Atlanta and the Jets to finish out the year. They would still have a path to the one seed and the two seed, but not really a lot of breathing room in the Wild Card race. They don’t need to be perfect, but winning three of their last four games should be enough for the postseason. It is going to be messy with so many teams at or above .500 in the conference, but a lot of them are playing each other over the final month.