clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

AFC Playoff Picture: Week 14 Buffalo Bills rooting interests feature lots of divisional games

Six teams are within a game of first place in the AFC

The Buffalo Bills (7-4) won last week but so did the New England Patriots (8-4), who beat the first-place Tennessee Titans (8-4). The reverberations were felt around the conference, but Buffalo’s spot stayed the same in the Wild Card race.

It’s a much different week this week. With six teams within a game of first place, a lot can change between now and Tuesday morning.

The biggest game on the card is Monday Night Football, but you already know to root for the Bills there. The Titans are on their bye this week, but the first-place Baltimore Ravens (8-3) have a big game in their AFC North race against the 5-5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. The 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals play the 6-5 Los Angeles Chargers and the 6-5 Denver Broncos are at the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. Even mid-card games between the Houston Texans (2-9) and Indianapolis Colts (6-6) and Washington Football Team and Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) can hugely impact the AFC Playoff Picture.

Before we get into the rooting interests, here’s a reminder of where the playoff seeding stands right now. Note: It’s listed in playoff order so the top four seeds are division winners.

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

The games are listed in order of importance to Buffalo. Where it’s applicable, I made sure to note that some games have rooting interests for the playoff race in general, while others concern themselves with playoff seeding in the top four. Often, those two outcomes are different and I am leaning toward the Bills as division winners in my rooting interests for now. So some games will say “this is better for seeding, but the other outcome is better for making the playoffs.”

I’ve also listed the game odds from DraftKings Sportsbook, so you can see what the bettors think is going to happen.

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

Buffalo Bills (7-4) over New England Patriots (8-4)
Monday Night Football
Line: Bills by 3

What a huge game for the Bills. If Buffalo can at least split the season series with the Patriots, they have a good chance of being the AFC East champ. A sweep gives them a strong possibility of the one seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. It starts here, where Buffalo just needs to beat a rookie quarterback to prove they are still the top dog in the division.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1) over Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
Sunday, December 5, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Ravens by 4

The current top seed in the AFC is only one game ahead of Buffalo right now. A Bills win and a Ravens loss puts the Bills ahead of Baltimore based on conference record, though the Titans would still be ahead of Buffalo for the one seed in a three-way race. The Bills’ chances of making the playoffs go up with a Ravens win by continuing to knock down Pittsburgh, but that’s the Wild Card race and we are still interested in the playoff seeding for division champs right now.

Washington Football Team over Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
Sunday, December 5, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Raiders by 2.5

The Raiders have been flying under the radar, and while they have a tough stretch of division games to finish out, they are just a game back of the Bills. Washington could provide some breathing room here in the Wild Card and seeding races.

Houston Texans (2-9) over Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Colts by 9.5

A team with a head-to-head tiebreaker is not something we want to deal with. The Colts are hot, but perhaps a divisional opponent can summon up the fortitude it takes to beat them like they did to the Titans a couple weeks ago.

Los Angeles Chargers (6-5) over Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bengals by 3

This is a tougher call than it should be. Right now, Cincy is ahead of Buffalo but if the Bills lose and the Chargers win, all three teams will be among a group of contenders tied at 7-5 with tiebreakers coming out of our ears. Cincinnati has a really good AFC record right now, so we need them to get some losses in the conference in case they win their division or if the Bills fall into the Wild Card race. We’re not ready to gift them a playoff spot just yet, but the New York Times Playoff Machine is right; Buffalo’s chances of making the postseason go up if Cincy wins.

Denver Broncos (6-5) over Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Sunday Night Football
Line: Chiefs by 9.5

Buffalo’s chances of making the playoffs goes up if the Chiefs win because they are in the lead of the AFC West and it would give another loss to a Wild Card contender. At the same time, we want to keep all the AFC West teams at .500 or so until we know more, so we’re rooting for the Broncos. As a reminder, head-to-head tiebreakers only matter in two-way races, but Kansas City’s 2-4 record in the AFC is not going to help them at all.

New York Giants over Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Dolphins by 4.5

Those pesky Dolphins are 5-5 against teams that don’t feature Josh Allen and they’re on a roll. It’s unlikely they win enough games to get near the Bills down the stretch but, until they’re eliminated, we want them gone and buried.

New York Jets (3-8) over Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Eagles by 7

Speaking of gone and buried, this helps Buffalo’s Strength of Victory tiebreaker and gives the Jets a worse draft pick.

New Orleans Saints over Dallas Cowboys
Thursday Night Football
Line: Cowboys by 6

Not super important, but it helps Buffalo’s Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule.

Minnesota Vikings over Detroit Lions
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Vikings by 7

It’s hard to root against the Lions right now, but since they lose to everyone and the Vikings don’t, this outcome will impact Strength of Victory less, even if it’s a longshot to make a difference.

Los Angeles Rams over Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
Sunday, December 5, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Rams by 12.5

Mathematically, the right call would be to root for the Jaguars. But it’s such a miniscule chance and difference that I would just like to see the Jaguars buried. If I could get a live feed of the flight home after a 50-point loss, I’d pay-per-view it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Buccaneers by 11

Perhaps we should root for the Bucs so they aren’t mad heading into next Sunday’s big showdown with the Bills? But then again, Tom Brady is Tampa’s QB.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Cardinals by 7.5
San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, December 5, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: 49ers by 3.5

These games are incredibly unlikely to effect the Bills’ playoff hopes. I guess root for the Bears and Seahawks to lose so their draft-pick position improves over the Jets and Dolphins...

Byes: Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans


If everything goes Buffalo’s way, they could jump from sixth all the way up to tied for first in the AFC. With the Titans on a bye, they can’t pass Tennessee this week. The Titans have lost two in a row but can’t lose this week sitting at home. They have a few losable games down the stretch, too, and with how injured they are, could fall back to earth.

Here are the projections based on the above results.

PROJECTED AFC STANDINGS

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

That looks pretty great for the folks that want the Bills to get the one seed, especially considering where they were after the Colts loss.

For the folks looking to just make the playoffs, the Bills have a head-to-head tiebreaker and AFC record tiebreaker over the Chiefs, so they would have breathing room for the seven seed, as well. If some of these outcomes are switched, Buffalo will have multi-game leads over the Wild Card teams, too.

The key here is Buffalo really needs to win this week.