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AFC playoff picture: Buffalo Bills sitting pretty, for now

Their chances for the No. 1 seed improved dramatically following their win over Kansas City

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, before the Buffalo Bills’ 24-20 Week 6 road win over the Kansas City Chiefs, we spent some time talking about what a Bills win might mean for their chances of securing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs this season. The too long, didn’t read version of that discussion, in case you missed it, was this: a Bills win wouldn’t clinch anything definitively, but it would significantly improve their chances of making their Super Bowl bid in the comfortable confines of Highmark Stadium.

The Bills did win, and a week later, that win has in fact dramatically increased their chances of securing the AFC’s top playoff seed. It helps tremendously that, just six games into the season, the Bills already have wins over the other three divisional leaders in the conference: 4-2 Kansas City, the 3-2 Tennessee Titans, and the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens.

Let’s start at Football Outsiders, where their 50,000 simulations following Week 6 had the Bills as the AFC’s top seed a whopping 73.3% of the time. That’s higher than the 68% figure that the site projected with a Bills win going into the week. The FO modeling also gives the Bills an 85.9% chance of winning their third straight AFC East title, despite increased competition from the other three teams in contention.

The New York Times and its playoff simulator had the Bills with a 35% chance at the top seed entering Week 6, with Kansas City just behind at 25%. Today, the Bills’ chances in this model have increased to 55%, while the Chiefs are down to 10%—just ahead of their division rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers, at 8%.

FiveThirtyEight and its model had a much closer race between the Bills and the Chiefs this time last week, with the Bills having a 41% chance at the top seed, and the Chiefs nipping at their heels at 39%. Today? Buffalo is at 66%, while Kansas City is down to 14%.

This was a big win for the Bills. It was not a definitive win, for the reasons that we discussed last week: after Week 5 in 2021, when the Bills also beat the Chiefs on the road, Buffalo was 4-1 and the Chiefs were 2-3, and these models also skewed heavily in Buffalo’s favor. Those models likely did not predict that Buffalo would lose to Urban Meyer’s doomed Jacksonville outfit less than a month after the Kansas City win, which is why it’s important to angle these sorts of discussions around probabilities, not certainties.

Buffalo is probably through the toughest portion of their schedule, but their road to the top seed is not without peril. They’re still 0-1 in the division at the moment, so there’s work to do there—though they’ll only see one more division rival before the final six weeks of the season. They have two Thursday games to navigate—mercifully in back-to-back weeks, which will help—and non-divisional matchups with Green Bay, Minnesota, and Cincinnati, in particular, don’t necessarily line up as walks in the park.

That said, at this point, the expectations are fairly straightforward: win the division, secure the top seed, and play all of your playoff games in Orchard Park, where they’re 3-0 in postseason play under head coach Sean McDermott. (They’re 0-4 on the road.) Here’s where the AFC playoff picture stands entering Week 7; no matter this weekend’s outcomes, the Bills will remain at the top going into Week 8.

AFC playoff picture, Week 9

1 Buffalo Bills 6-1 0-1 4-1 +105 W4
2 Tennessee Titans 5-2 3-0 4-1 -6 W5
3 Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 2-0 2-2 +51 W1
4 Baltimore Ravens 5-3 2-0 4-2 +25 W2
5 New York Jets 5-3 1-1 4-3 +17 L1
6 Miami Dolphins 5-3 2-1 4-2 -14 W2
7 Los Angeles Chargers 4-3 2-1 4-2 -25 L1
8 New England Patriots 4-4 1-1 3-2 +14 W1
9 Cincinnati Bengals 4-4 0-3 2-3 +22 L1
10 Indianapolis Colts 3-4-1 1-3-1 3-3-1 -28 L2
11 Cleveland Browns 3-5 2-1 2-4 +1 W1
12 Denver Broncos 3-5 0-2 2-4 -11 W1
13 Las Vegas Raiders 2-5 1-2 2-3 -11 L1
14 Jacksonville Jaguars 2-6 1-2 2-3 +14 L5
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 2-6 1-1 1-5 -77 L2
16 Houston Texans 1-5-1 1-1-1 1-4-1 -38 L2