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Playoff berth in hand, Bills turn focus to division title, first-round bye

Their odds are astronomically high to claim the AFC East title, and pretty good — though certainly not as ironclad — when it comes to the top seed in the conference

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills clinched their fourth consecutive playoff appearance with their 32-29 win over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night. It’s their fifth playoff appearance in six seasons under head coach Sean McDermott, as well.

Still left on the to-do list for the Bills before the regular season concludes: clinch their third straight AFC East division title, and try to hold off the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals to retain their current position as the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

They begin that work this coming Saturday afternoon on the road against the Chicago Bears. Let’s check in on the team’s odds of wrapping up their two remaining regular-season objectives.

AFC East standings, Week 16

This is the easy part to figure out. There is only one scenario where the Bills do not win the AFC East this season: they lose their remaining three games, and Miami wins all three of theirs. Any single Bills win or tie, or any single Dolphins loss or tie, is all that’s needed for Buffalo to wrap it up. The New England Patriots and the New York Jets, by way of being four games behind Buffalo in the standings with three games to play, are mathematically eliminated from divisional contention.

AFC East Standings

1 Buffalo Bills 11-3 3-2 8-2 +135 W5 5-0
2 Miami Dolphins 8-6 2-2 6-4 +1 L3 2-3
3 New England Patriots 7-7 2-2 5-4 +31 L1 2-3
4 New York Jets 7-7 2-3 5-5 +18 L3 1-4

AFC playoff standings, Week 16

Here’s where things get a lot more interesting for the Bills as they close out the regular season. Heading into Week 16, they are holders of the No. 1 seed in the conference. Their 11-3 record is identical to Kansas City’s, but the Bills rank above them in the event of a tie by way of their head-to-head win at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6.

Both the Bills and the Chiefs are one game ahead of the surging 10-4 Bengals, who have won six consecutive games after their 4-4 start to the season. One of those six wins came over the Chiefs at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, where the Bills are scheduled to play on Monday Night Football on January 2.

That game could play a huge role in determining which of these three teams ends up with the No. 1 seed. The Chiefs’ final three games are all against teams with .500 or worse records (Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, and Las Vegas Raiders), while the Bills have two such games (Chicago and New England), and the Bengals just one (Patriots).

The current projections from Football Outsiders, The New York Times, and FiveThirtyEight all reflect Cincinnati having the most difficult road to traverse, but if they’re able to beat the Bills in Week 17, it would not only significantly raise Kansas City’s chances of securing the top seed, but also give the Bengals head-to-head tiebreakers over both the Chiefs and the Bills in the event of a Kansas City slip-up. On the other hand, if the Bills win that game, it’s relatively easy to see them handling their business in the other two games and winning out to stay atop the field.

  • Football Outsiders gives the Bills a 57.7% chance of being the top seed, followed by the Chiefs (28.8%) and the Bengals (13.4%)
  • The New York Times gives the Bills a 53% chance of being the top seed, followed by the Chiefs (34%) and the Bengals (13%)
  • FiveThirtyEight gives the Bills a 49% chance of being the top seed, followed by the Chiefs (39%) and the Bengals (12%)

Using the playoff predictor from The New York Times to pick just one game outcome — that aforementioned Bills-Bengals matchup — we can get an idea of just how massively important that outcome is to those two teams. A Bills win jumps their top-seed odds to 81%, while a Bengals win drops Buffalo’s top-seed odds to 25%.

Buffalo has to handle their business in Chicago first, but until the playoffs start, the Bills have one gigantic game remaining on their schedule, and it’s against the reigning conference champions on the road.

AFC playoff picture, Week 16

1 x — Buffalo Bills 11-3 3-2 8-2 +135 W5
2 z — Kansas City Chiefs 11-3 4-0 7-3 +92 W2
3 Cincinnati Bengals 10-4 2-3 6-3 +81 W6
4 Tennessee Titans 7-7 3-1 5-5 -38 L4
5 Baltimore Ravens 9-5 3-1 6-4 +41 L1
6 Los Angeles Chargers 8-6 2-3 6-4 -28 W2
7 Miami Dolphins 8-6 2-2 6-4 +1 L3
8 New England Patriots 7-7 2-2 5-4 +31 L1
9 New York Jets 7-7 2-3 5-5 +18 L3
10 Jacksonville Jaguars 6-8 2-2 5-4 +6 W2
11 Las Vegas Raiders 6-8 3-2 5-5 +1 W1
12 Cleveland Browns 6-8 3-2 4-7 -13 W1
13 Pittsburgh Steelers 6-8 1-3 2-7 -58 W1
14 Indianapolis Colts 4-9-1 1-3-1 4-5-1 -92 L4
15 e — Denver Broncos 4-10 0-4 2-8 -35 W1
16 e — Houston Texans 1-12-1 1-1-1 1-7-1 -109 L9