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Bills playoff outlook still strong after bye week

A win by the Chiefs tightened the race for the top seed a bit

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We knew it would be the case, but it bears repeating: coming off of their bye, the Buffalo Bills remain in the top spot in the AFC playoff picture entering a Week 8 showdown with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.

What we didn’t know—but probably could have guessed—was that a lot of high-performing teams behind Buffalo would tighten up the race while the Bills rested up for the remainder of the regular season. A rebound win by the Kansas City Chiefs puts them at 5-2, indicating that they’ll continue to nip at the Bills’ heels for the top seed should Buffalo falter at any point; and the New York Jets also continued their winning ways, improving to 5-2 and hoping to turn the AFC East into a three-horse race.

Still, things haven’t changed all that much from last week. After the Bills’ 24-20 road win over the Chiefs heading into the bye, Football Outsiders pegged the Bills with a 73.3% chance at securing the top seed in the AFC playoffs; that projection has slipped, but only to 70.5%, after Week 7.

Similarly, the playoff simulator from The New York Times saw the Bills’ chances for the top seed slip from 55% a week ago to 53% after Week 7. The modeling at FiveThirtyEight took the Bills from 66% last week to 62% today. These are not drastic changes—the Bills still have by far the highest odds for the top seed in all three models—but you can begin to see how much a single-game outcome can alter the outlook.

All three publications, by the way, put the Bills’ chances at making the playoffs outright at 95% or higher. And one key fact remains: the Bills still have head-to-head wins over the other three division leaders in the conference. In addition to the aforementioned win over the Chiefs, the Bills beat the Tennessee Titans, 41-7, in Week 2; and they defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 24-20, on the road in Week 4.

Here’s what the AFC standings look like heading into Week 8. The top seven teams on this list at the end of the season will end up in the playoffs.

AFC playoff picture, Week 8

1 Buffalo Bills 5-1 0-1 4-1 +95
2 Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 2-0 2-2 +51
3 Tennessee Titans 4-2 2-0 3-1 -13
4 Baltimore Ravens 4-3 2-0 4-2 +20
5 New York Jets 5-2 1-0 4-2 +22
6 Miami Dolphins 4-3 2-1 4-2 -18
7 Los Angeles Chargers 4-3 2-1 4-2 -25
8 Cincinnati Bengals 4-3 0-2 2-2 +41
9 Indianapolis Colts 3-3-1 1-3-1 3-3-1 -27
10 New England Patriots 3-4 0-1 2-2 +9
11 Las Vegas Raiders 2-4 1-2 2-3 +13
12 Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5 1-2 2-2 +18
13 Denver Broncos 2-5 0-2 1-4 -15
14 Cleveland Browns 2-5 1-1 1-4 -18
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 2-5 1-1 1-5 -55
16 Houston Texans 1-4-1 1-0-1 1-3-1 -31