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AFC Playoff Picture: Bills rooting interests for Week 14

Buffalo is in for a fight just to make the postseason now

The Buffalo Bills are in a bit of trouble in the AFC Playoff Standings following their most recent loss to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. With a middling record in conference games, they might need to win four of their last five games just to make the postseason.

Of course, they could also get some help from around the league and that’s why we’re here today. Starting on Thursday night and continuing through Sunday afternoon, there are a lot of games that could impact the Bills’ playoff run. And that’s a shift for us. We’re now going to focus just on Buffalo making the playoffs, and not seeding. So when we are rooting for the Chiefs over the Raiders, it’s simply because of the Wild Card race.

Sure, the Bills can still win the division, but they’d likely have to run the table to 12-5 for that to happen. At the very least, they’d need to be 11-6 including a win over the Patriots. Then New England would have to lose one more game to either the Colts, Jaguars, or Dolphins.

To give you some sense of what folks think is going to happen, we’ve included the betting lines from DraftKings SportsBook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Before we get to the rooting interests, here are the current standings. Division leaders are listed in the 1-4 slots.

AFC Standings

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

++ Eliminated from the postseason

Games are listed in order of importance to Buffalo.

Buffalo Bills (7-5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 12th, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: Bucs by 3.5

The Bills need to win four of their last five games to clinch a playoff spot because of divisional games between other Wild Card contenders. Right now, Buffalo is at roughly 78% chance to make the playoffs but a win over the Bucs moves them all the way to 91%, per the New York Times. The Bills have been alternating wins and losses for a while, so it’s the week they should win. A loss this week and Buffalo would essentially have to run the table just to squeak in or get some big help from around the conference.

Minnesota Vikings over Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1)
Thursday Night Football
Line: Minnesota by 3.5

A win tonight and the Steelers pass the Bills into the final Wild Card spot, at least for now. The Vikings have been incredibly hit or miss this year and hopefully they will have a chip on their shoulder after allowing the Lions to get their first win in a calendar year.

New York Giants over Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
Sunday, December 12, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Chargers by 10

The Chargers have been nearly as up-and-down as the Bills this year. They have the Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders on their remaining schedule, which will help the Bills one way or another. A loss to an NFC team (maybe even piloted by Jake Fromm?) would be beneficial to the rest of the teams in the AFC.

San Francisco 49ers over Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
Sunday, December 12, 4:25 PM Eastern
Line: 49ers by 2

Another inter-conference game that could have a big impact on Buffalo, the 49ers going to Ohio and beating the Bengals would be a big help to the rest of the AFC. Cincinnati is a pesky Wild Card team with a phenomenal Conference record, but games against four teams in the AFC Playoff Race down the stretch. They’ll need to get though the Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns after this. (Bonus: San Francisco’s first-round pick is going to the Dolphins and this would lower it.)

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) over Las Vegas Raiders (6-6)
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Chiefs by 9.5

It’s pretty simple, really. The Raiders are one game behind the Bills so if they win against the Chiefs and Buffalo loses against the Bucs, they pass the Bills based on Conference record. Not a position we want to be in come Monday.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4) over Cleveland Browns (6-6)
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Browns by 3

Same deal as Chiefs/Raiders. This one isn’t as important because Cleveland’s AFC record is worse than Buffalo’s, so the Bills would win the tiebreaker and still be ahead of Cleveland.

Detroit Lions over Denver Broncos (6-6)
Sunday, December 12, 4:05 PM Eastern
Line: Broncos by 10

The Broncos, like the Raiders, are a game back of the Bills. A Denver win and a Buffalo loss would tie them in the standings, but the Bills’ have a better AFC record than the Broncos.

Jacksonville Jaguars over Tennessee Titans (8-4)
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Titans by 8.5

The Titans still have the potential to fall apart due to injury. A Titans loss and a Bills win ties the two teams in the race for a Wild Card (though Tennessee would still control the AFC South). They have games against the Steelers, Dolphins, and 49ers down the stretch in addition to a game against the Texans.

New York Jets over New Orleans Saints
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Saints by 5.5

Wooooo. Go Jets. get that worse draft pick and bolster the Bills’ Strength of Victory. J-E-T-S!

Seattle Seahawks over Houston Texans
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Seahawks by 8.5

The Seahawks’ first-round pick is going to the Jets, so this will move that pick lower. Buffalo would gain one win in their Strength of Victory, but that tiebreaker is unlikely to matter at this point.

Washington Football Team over Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Cowboys by 4.5

Buffalo’s Strength of Victory is the only thing at play in this game.

Carolina Panthers over Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, December 12, 1:00 PM Eastern
Line: Panthers by 2.5

This game is a net neutral for Buffalo in the playoff race, but Carolina’s second-round pick goes to the Jets.

Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears
Sunday Night Football
Line: Packers by 12.5
Los Angeles Rams vs Arizona Cardinals
Monday Night Football
Line: Cardinals by 2

Buffalo didn’t have any of these teams on their schedule this year and they won’t impact the 2022 NFL Draft for Buffalo or any of their divisional opponents. It’s not worth looking at other AFC teams’ Strength of Victory right now since the Bills’ is so low, so root for whoever you want in these games.

Bye: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles

If everything goes Buffalo’s way, they can move up to the top spot in the Wild Card race and have some breathing room in front of the non-playoff teams. The sheer amount of AFC/NFC games this week means we could see a huge shift in the playoff picture.

Projected AFC Standings

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

++ Eliminated from the postseason