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AFC Playoff Picture: Bills’ rooting interests all over the Week 16 schedule

Buffalo won and got the help they needed

With so many teams in the AFC Playoff race, there are a ton of games on the schedule this weekend that have implications for the Buffalo Bills. Between Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, there are also a ton of those games on television.

Last week was similar, and Buffalo received some absolutely huge help on Saturday night along with helping hands on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday.

With that in mind, here are the rooting interests for the Bills this weekend. We’ve included the betting odds from DraftKings SportsBook to give you a sense of what oddsmakers think of the game. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Before the rooting interests for Bills fans, here is what the AFC looks like right now.

AFC Standings

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

++ Eliminated from the AFC Playoffs


Note: Rooting interests are listed in order of importance for Bills fans. We’re assuming a Wild Card Bills team is 10-7 and an AFC East division champ Bills team is 11-6 for these picks. If Buffalo can’t beat the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, they won’t be in the postseason and won’t deserve to be there either.

Buffalo Bills (8-6) over New England Patriots (9-5)
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Patriots by 2.5

A marquee game on the NFL calendar, the winner of this game is likely going to be the AFC East division winner while the loser will be in a fight to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. It’s Buffalo’s biggest regular season game in at least 17 years—and probably longer.

Arizona Cardinals over Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
Saturday, December 25th, 8:15 PM Eastern
Line: Cardinals by 1

If the Colts take over the division lead, Buffalo can’t pass them on a tiebreaker. If the Colts are in the Wild Card race, it’s the same situation. That’s why this game is the most important one outside of the division. Plus it’s an NFC opponent so it’s not a problem for us if the other team wins. Send Santa a letter at the North Pole.

Houston Texans (3-11) over Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Chargers by 10

With the Chiefs’ two-game lead in the AFC West, we want the Wild Card Chargers to fall as far as possible. With the bottom-dwelling Texans on the docket, it’s an easy call.

Green Bay Packers over Cleveland Browns (7-7)
Saturday, December 25th, 4:30 PM Eastern
Line: Packers by 7.5

Another NFC team that could end Cleveland’s chance of passing a Wild Card Bills team with their eighth loss of the year.

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) over Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bengals by 3

Cincy has a much better AFC record than Baltimore and since that is a prominent tiebreaker and the primary tiebreaker in a three-way race, we are rooting for the Ravens to beat the Bengals. In a two-team race, Buffalo is 3-2 against common opponents with the Ravens, so it would then go to AFC record and then Strength of Victory, where the Ravens likely win unless Buffalo gets some help from bottom-dwellers. The Bengals are 3-1 against common opponents with the Bills and a Week 17 showdown against the Chiefs. The Bills are 2-2 against those same opponents but have a Week 17 game against the Jets so both teams could realistically end up 3-2 in those games, moving to AFC record. Buffalo would actually win in the Strength of Victory over Cincy, so we want the Bengals in the Wild Card race. The New York Times puts this outcome as 3 percent better for the Bills to make the playoffs, so we will go with them. With both the Ravens and Bengals facing a very difficult final two weeks, the AFC North is going to beat each other up pretty good.

Denver Broncos (7-7) over Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
Sunday, December 26th, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Broncos by 1

Denver has a lousy record in the AFC and Las Vegas has a good one, so we want the team we can beat in tiebreakers up in the Wild Card race.

San Francisco 49ers over Tennessee Titans (9-5)
Thursday Night Football
Line: 49ers by 3

An NFC team beating an AFC team is usually helpful and if and when Buffalo beats the Patriots, they will be tied with the Titans if Tennessee loses. That would allow the Bills to pass them over the final two weeks for a higher seed or if both teams fall into the Wild Card race.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) over Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
Sunday, December 26th, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Chiefs by 8.5

If you’ve given up on getting the one seed, root for the Chiefs to knock Pittsburgh out of the playoff picture with their seventh loss. Honestly, it’s a pretty big longshot to nab the one seed but with Buffalo likely needing to get to 10-7 just to make the playoffs, they shouldn’t have to worry about the Steelers in the Wild Card race. If Pittsburgh wins out, they will beat the Browns and Ravens, which would help Buffalo get in as a Wild Card anyway. And if Pittsburgh loses, Buffalo will be ahead of them.

New Orleans Saints over Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Monday Night Football
Line: Saints by 3

Ending Miami’s latest run would help the Bills in the Wild Card race, but with the Bills holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, it’s not really important. The Bills would have to lose twice down the stretch for Miami to pass them.

New York Jets (3-11) over Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Pick-em

There is a lot on the line for this game, for how terrible the team records are. This will help Buffalo in those strange Strength of Victory tiebreakers they need. It would also push the Jets down the draft board.

Seattle Seahawks over Chicago Bears
Sunday, December 26th, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Seahawks by 6.5

This will help the Bills in two ways, too. The Seahawks traded their first-round pick the Jets, and this will lower that pick. Also, Baltimore beat the Bears so this will lower their Strength of Victory for that crazy scenario.

Atlanta Falcons over Detroit Lions
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Falcons by 6

One of the crazy one-seed scenarios for Buffalo involves help in the Strength of Victory tiebreaker, and this would help there. Not very important.

Carolina Panthers over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 26, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Buccaneers by 10

One of the crazy one-seed scenarios for Buffalo involves help in the Strength of Victory tiebreaker, and this would help there. Not very important.

Los Angeles Rams over Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Rams by 2.5

This is another one of those weird games for Strength of Schedule. Since the Ravens beat the Vikings but don’t play the Rams until next week, we want the Vikings to stay low in the win column. Hopefully the Rams blasting the Ravens next week will make it a moot point.

Washington Football Team over Dallas Cowboys
Sunday Night Football
Line: Cowboys by 10.5

This likewise helps Buffalo's Strength of Victory.

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants
Sunday, December 26th, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Eagles by 10

Keep the Giants’ record lousy so they have a higher draft pick over in the NFC than any of the bad AFC teams, especially the Jets.


These outcomes would move Buffalo from a 74 percent chance of making the playoffs to a 97 percent or 98 percent chance of making the postseason. Not only would they be in the driver’s seat in the AFC East, they would have a lead in the Wild Card chase, as well, with big games among contenders for the 5-7 spots coming up in Week 17 & 18 while the Bills play two poor teams. One game out of the top spot in the Conference, too.

Here is what the projected AFC Standings would look like if all of this came true.

PROJECTED AFC Standings

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

++ Eliminated from the AFC Playoffs

The Bills would lose to the Titans on AFC record, not head-to-head, as it is a three-way tie with the Bills, Ravens, and Titans. The Bills could take over the one seed in Week 17 with a win, a Dolphins win over the Titans, and a Chiefs loss to the Bengals. Not exactly a difficult path to envision. A win in Week 18 would then give them a first-round bye and home-field advantage.