The Buffalo Bills clinched their playoff berth last weekend, which means that when it comes to rooting interests for Week 16, the number of games with outcomes that fans should care about significantly shrinks.
Sure, if you’re thinking about the NFL Draft right now, you may be able to drum up reasons to root for one team or another to win in otherwise inconsequential matchups. The Bills are thinking about the Super Bowl, and so are we. There are 16 games to be played this weekend, and we’re going to focus on five of them.
These five games are, however, very important to the Bills. Buffalo currently controls its own destiny; a win over Chicago on Saturday clinches their third straight AFC East title, and also ensures they’ll retain the top spot in the conference with two games to play. But it’d sure be nice for the Bills to have a little wiggle room, wouldn’t it?
Games that matter a lot
Obviously, you know who to root for here, but we’ll lay it out for you once again: a Bills win yields a Bills win, a division championship, and retention of the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture. A win is a win, and this win would be a win-win-win win.
It almost seems crazy to be rooting for the Chiefs to stumble at this point, and also for that stumble to not be when the Bills and the Chiefs inevitably play each other in the postseason. Alas, while the Bills can win out and secure home-field advantage and a first-round bye, it sure would be nice if one of Kansas City’s mid-at-best opponents in the final three weeks could steal a win from this group and increase Buffalo’s margin for error. Seattle is the first team with that opportunity.
Root for a Seahawks win.
Cincinnati is the other team with a puncher’s chance at edging out the Bills for the top seed in the conference, so we’re also rooting for them to slip up at some point — and it once again feels weird, since the Bills are playing the Bengals in Ohio on Monday Night Football in Week 17. But we’re rooting for ideals here, and ideally, Buffalo has a two-game cushion on Cincy going into that contest.
Root for a Patriots win.
It would still be advantageous for the Bills if Baltimore won the AFC North — and that will definitively be true if Buffalo isn’t able to top the Bengals in their penultimate game of the regular season — since the Bills have already beaten the Ravens. For now, however, fans should be rooting for the elimination of the possibility of Baltimore passing them in the standings, which could happen if Buffalo loses out and Baltimore wins out.
Root for a Falcons win.
This could quickly become a game we don’t care about if the Bills handle their business against the Bears. Without knowing that outcome before publishing, however, we’re including this game on the list, as the Bills can clinch the AFC East with a Dolphins loss this week.
Root for a Packers win.
Other games that don’t matter outside of entertainment value
- Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8) at New York Jets (7-7) — Thursday, 8:15 p.m. EST, Prime Video
- Detroit Lions (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-9) — Saturday, 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX
- New Orleans Saints (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (6-8) — Saturday, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS
- New York Giants (8-5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (11-3) — Saturday, 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX
- Houston Texans (1-12-1) at Tennessee Titans (7-7) — Saturday, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS
- Washington Commanders (7-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4) — Saturday, 4:05 p.m. EST, CBS
- Philadelphia Eagles (13-1) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) — Saturday, 4:25 p.m. EST, FOX
- Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) — Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST, NFL Network
- Denver Broncos (4-10) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10) — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST, CBS
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) at Arizona Cardinals (4-10) — Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EST, NBC
- Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1) — Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN
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|
|6||Los Angeles Chargers||8-6||2-3||6-4||-28||W2|
|8||New England Patriots||7-7||2-2||5-4||+31||L1|
|9||New York Jets||7-7||2-3||5-5||+18||L3|
|11||Las Vegas Raiders||6-8||3-2||5-5||+1||W1|
|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|