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How the Buffalo Bills can clinch the No. 1 seed in Week 17

It may not be particularly likely, but it is still technically possible

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills can clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture in Week 17 with a Monday Night Football road win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and a little help from an also-ran in the AFC West.

Buffalo enters Week 17 in possession of the top seed in the conference. They’re tied with the Kansas City Chiefs at 12-3 overall, but hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs thanks to their 24-20 win at Arrowhead Stadium back in Week 6. The Bengals, meanwhile, are 11-4 and nipping at both teams’ heels, and also already own a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs.

The Bills can clinch the top seed in the playoffs next weekend if the following two things happen:

  • Kansas City loses to the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon
  • Buffalo beats Cincinnati on Monday night

When Buffalo and Cincinnati square off next week, the two longest winning streaks in the conference will be on the line; Buffalo has won six straight games, while Cincinnati has won seven straight. Meanwhile, the Chiefs host the 4-11 Broncos, who have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention to close out a desperately disappointing campaign.

A Bills win in Cincinnati would put them at least two games ahead of both AFC North contenders, the Bengals and the 10-5 Baltimore Ravens, with one game to play — meaning that they would not be able to finish lower than the No. 2 seed in the conference. If that hypothetical Bills win is preceded by a Chiefs loss at Arrowhead Stadium, the Bills would have a one-game lead in the standings plus the head-to-head tiebreaker, giving them the top-seed clinch.

We’ll leave you to ruminate about the likelihood of that scenario coming to pass in the comments section below. Merry Christmas, Bills fans!

AFC playoff picture, Week 17

1 z — Buffalo Bills 12-3 3-2 8-2 +157 W6
2 z — Kansas City Chiefs 12-3 4-0 7-3 +106 W3
3 x — Cincinnati Bengals 11-4 2-3 7-3 +85 W7
4 Jacksonville Jaguars 7-8 2-2 6-4 +22 W3
5 x — Baltimore Ravens 10-5 3-1 6-4 +49 W1
6 x — Los Angeles Chargers 9-6 2-3 7-4 -11 W3
7 Miami Dolphins 8-7 2-2 6-4 -5 L4
8 New England Patriots 7-8 2-2 5-5 +27 L2
9 New York Jets 7-8 2-3 5-6 +2 L4
10 Tennessee Titans 7-8 3-2 5-6 -43 L5
11 Pittsburgh Steelers 7-8 1-3 3-7 -55 W2
12 Las Vegas Raiders 6-9 3-2 5-6 -2 L1