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Bills rooting interests for Week 17: Playoffs and 2022 NFL Draft both in the picture

They can clinch a playoff spot, but not on their own

The Buffalo Bills are currently a near-lock to make the 2021 NFL postseason. The New York Times has them at 97 percent while FiveThirtyEight has them at 99 percent. Step one in their run to the Super Bowl is to secure a playoff spot and they can do that in Week 17, but they’re going to need some help.

In addition to that, we can look around the AFC for seeding purposes and there are a few matchups that will help with AFC East draft picks in 2022.

We’ve attached the betting odds to each game to give you a sense of what national oddsmakers at DraftKings SportsBook think of each matchup. Before we get to the rooting interests, here are the current standings:

Current AFC Standings

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

y- Clinched division
x- Clinched playoffs
zz- Eliminated

Rooting interests are listed in terms of importance for the Bills:

2021 NFL Postseason

Buffalo Bills (9-6) over Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bills by 14

The Bills can’t clinch a playoff spot without a tie or a win in Week 17. That’s step one on their journey to the Super Bowl and the Falcons shouldn’t be a good enough team to beat Buffalo. They’ve had letdowns this year, but we don’t expect one against Atlanta.

Los Angeles Rams over Baltimore Ravens (8-7)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Rams by 4

The cleanest way for the Bills to clinch a playoff spot this weekend is to win and have the Ravens lose. Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson returned to practice but was still hobbling in video released publicly. Remember, step one is the playoffs and this could help lock it up.

Denver Broncos (7-8) over Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Sunday, January 2, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Chargers by 6

Another way for the Bills to clinch a playoff spot this weekend is with a win and both the Chargers and Raiders lose this Sunday. That’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. The Bills have already clinched a playoff spot ahead of the Broncos, so nothing to worry about there. Denver is 3-7 in the AFC right now, so even a two-game winning streak to end the year won’t get them past Buffalo’s 6-5 AFC record.

Indianapolis Colts (9-6) over Las Vegas Raiders (8-7)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Colts by 7

Having the Raiders win would put them ahead of Buffalo if the Bills lose again, and Vegas could be playing a nothing-to-lose Chiefs team resting their starters in Week 18. So if the Raiders go 2-0 and the Bills go 1-1, Las Vegas would be ahead of Buffalo. This eliminates that possibility. Remember, Buffalo can clinch a spot this weekend with a win, plus the Raiders and Chargers both losing. That has to be the goal.

It also needs to be said that it’s highly unlikely Indy wins their division, as the Colts need to win their final two games and have the Titans lose their final two games in order to take over the AFC South lead. If the Colts aren’t winning their division, getting them to the five seed and avoiding them in the opening round is beneficial to Buffalo, who hopefully can go 2-0 down the stretch to secure the three seed.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) over Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Chiefs by 5

If you want to root for the Bengals over the Chiefs so Buffalo can win the one seed, be my guest. It’s a 0.2 percent chance of happening, so I’m going to root against the Bengals so the Bills can move up to the three seed with hope of getting all the way to the second spot. It makes it more likely to host a divisional-round playoff game and the AFC Championship Game.

Miami Dolphins (8-7) over Tennessee Titans (10-5)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Titans by 3.5

Miami can’t catch the Bills in the playoff race unless Buffalo loses both of their last two games. If that happens to the Bills, I don’t think we’ll care much about the outcome of this game in Week 17. We want to pass the Titans in the conference standings. In order for that to happen, we need them to lose twice. Put it on the board, we’re rooting against the Titans and not for the Dolphins.

Cleveland Browns (7-8) over Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1)
Monday Night Football
Line: Browns by 3.5

If Buffalo goes 0-2, and the Browns go 2-0, both teams would be 6-6 in the AFC games. The Bills would win the tiebreaker on record vs common opponents so we don't have to worry about Cleveland passing us. If the Steelers go 2-0 and the Bills go 0-2, they would lead the Bills.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) over New England Patriots (9-6)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Patriots by 16

If Buffalo goes 1-1 down the stretch and the Patriots go 2-0, New England wins the AFC East. With the tiebreakers involved, this gives the Bills wiggle room for a loss to the Falcons but not the Jets. Because it has such a limited scope, it’s far down our list of importance. If you were strictly looking at the 2022 NFL Draft, you’d want the Patriots to win to push down their draft pick and also ensure that the Jaguars stayed ahead of the Jets.

2022 NFL Draft Rooting Interests

With these outcomes, we’re not focused on the 2021 postseason, but rather the 2022 NFL Draft. We are actively rooting against the Jets and Dolphins getting high picks.

New York Jets (4-11) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Buccaneers by 12.5

We want the Jets as far down the draft board as they can get and we will obviously be rooting against them next weekend, so this is their last chance to pick up a win.

San Francisco 49ers (8-7) over Houston Texans (4-11)
Sunday, January 2, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: 49ers by 12

We want the Texans to stay ahead of the Jets in the NFL Draft order. If both teams finish with identical records, Houston will be higher based on Strength of Schedule, but let’s keep it that way. This also helps keep Miami’s first-round pick lower since the 49ers traded it to the Dolphins.

Seattle Seahawks (5-10) over Detroit Lions (2-12-1)
Sunday, January 2, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Seahawks by 7

This serves two purposes! It keeps the Lions in front of the Jets in the draft order plus the Seahawks have already sent their first-round pick to the Jets in a trade. This would make Seattle’s draft spot worse, so it’s a big rooting interest game for draft folks surrounding the Jets.

Chicago Bears (5-10) over New York Giants (4-11)
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Bears by 5.5

Let’s get the Giants firmly in front of the Jets, since we know we are rooting against the Jets next week when they face Buffalo.

New Orleans Saints (7-8) over Carolina Panthers (5-10)
Sunday, January 2, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Saints by 6.5

The Panthers can sneak in front of the Jets if New York wins this week.

Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Football Team
Sunday, January 2, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Eagles by 3.5

I guess this would keep Buffalo’s Strength of Schedule low, which could matter in the NFL Draft order. If the Bills get to the Super Bowl, it won’t matter though. :-)

Games where I can’t find any rooting interests

Dallas Cowboys vs Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, January 2, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Cowboys by 6

Unless you want to root against Dak Prescott’s MVP candidacy or you’re still sore over last year’s Hail Mary loss, I just don’t see anything in here.

Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings
Sunday Night Football
Line: Packers by 7

I’m just coming up empty for this one unless you want to go down to a fifth tiebreaker for the playoffs somewhere in the AFC North.

With these outcomes, the Bills would control their destiny to the number three seed and could get to the number two seed with some help in Week 18. They would also clinch a playoff spot in Week 17; step one toward a Super Bowl run.

In terms of the 2022 NFL Draft, they’d also get a lot of help around the division.

Projected AFC Standings

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

y- Clinched division
x- Clinched playoffs
z- Clinched home field

zzz- Eliminated