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Buffalo Bills’ rooting interests in Week 15 AFC Playoff Picture

The Bills got help last week. Can the rest of the AFC Playoff Picture help out in Week 15?

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Last week was “AFChaos” in the playoff picture. A whole bunch of underdogs picked up upset wins and while the Buffalo Bills didn’t move up in the standings, they are now tied for two playoff spots and are only one game behind a winner-take-all showdown in Week 18 for the AFC East crown.

So what games are we watching with some extra attention this weekend?

Thursday night, multiple Saturday games, and all the Sunday time slots have games of interest to the Buffalo Bills. Let’s dive in.

Before we get to the games, here’s a reminder of where we stand right now:

AFC Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (10-3)
2. Miami Dolphins (9-4)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-5, win over JAX)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5, loss to KC)
5. Cleveland Browns (8-5)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers*+ (7-6, win over CIN)
7. Indianapolis Colts*+ (7-6, win over HOU)
8. Houston Texans*+ (7-6, loss to IND)
9. Denver Broncos+ (7-6)
10. Cincinnati Bengals*+ (7-6, loss to PIT)
11. Buffalo Bills+ (7-6)
12. Los Angeles Chargers# (5-8, win over LV, win over NYJ)
13. Las Vegas Raiders# (5-8, loss to LAC, win over NYJ)
14. New York Jets# (5-8)
15. Tennessee Titans# (5-8)
16. New England Patriots (3-10)

* In the multi-way tiebreaker at 7-6, you need to get down to one team per division first. Pittsburgh has a win over Cincinnati, Indianapolis has a win over the Texans. The Steelers and Colts move on to the first group of the tiebreaker.

+ Once we get to the Steelers, Colts, Broncos, and Bills, it goes to AFC record. The Steelers and Colts are both 5-4, so they go against one another. Pittsburgh (6 seed) wins on record in common games. Indianapolis, Denver, Buffalo, and now Cincinnati go to a four-way tiebreaker, which the Colts (7 seed) and their 5-4 AFC record win. The Broncos, Bills, Bengals, and Texans now go to a four-way tiebreaker, which the Texans (8 seed) win on their 4-4 AFC record. The Broncos, Bills, and Bengals go to a three-way tie, and the Bills & Broncos advance based on their AFC record before Denver (9 seed) beats Buffalo thanks to a head-to-head win. Buffalo and Cincinnati go to a head-to-head tiebreaker, which the Bengals (10 seed) win thanks to their victory over the Bills (11 seed).

# The Chargers and Raiders go to an AFC West tiebreaker first, which the Chargers win because they’ve beaten Las Vegas. The Chargers, Jets, and Titans go to a tiebreaker and Los Angeles wins that with a better AFC record. The Raiders join the Titans and Jets in a tiebreaker, which the Raiders win on AFC record. Then the Jets beat the Titans on Strength of Victory tiebreaker.

The games are presented in order of importance for the Bills and I’ve marked the home teams.

Buffalo Bills (H) over Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, December 17, 4:25 p.m. EST

The Bills control their own destiny. If they win out, they make the playoffs. This is the next step. It’s not the most important game left on their schedule because it’s not going to help them in the conference record tiebreaker. It’s a home game and the first way to determine playoff teams is overall record, of course. Let’s get a W.

New York Jets over Miami Dolphins (H)
Sunday, December 17, 1 p.m. EST

The Jets pulled off the upset last week and helped the Bills. Can they do it again? Miami needs to lose at least once for the Week 18 game to be a showdown for the AFC East. The Jets have a good enough defense to get the job done. Can their offense? If the Bills and Jets both win this week, Buffalo’s chances of winning the division go from 22% to 40%.

Tennessee Titans (H) over Houston Texans
Sunday, December 17, 1 p.m. EST

Can Houston get upset for the second week in a row? Can the Titans knock off an AFC playoff team for the second straight week? Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is likely to be out due to a concussion, and Tennessee quarterback Will Levis is playing with a ton of confidence. To make it better, the Titans are wearing Houston Oilers throwbacks this week.

Minnesota Vikings over Cincinnati Bengals (H)
Saturday, December 16, 1 p.m. EST

With lots of AFC teams playing each other, an NFC team knocking off an AFC Wild Card team could really help the Bills. Especially when that AFC team has a win over the Bills. The Vikings are going with a new quarterback after their three-point performance last week.

Detroit Lions (H) over Denver Broncos
Saturday, December 16, 8:15 p.m. EST

This wouldn’t even be an upset. An NFC team toppling a Wild Card contender and one that has a head-to-head win over Buffalo would be awesome.

Chicago Bears over Cleveland Browns (H)
Sunday, December 17, 1 p.m. EST

Another game, another NFC North team that can knock off an AFC Wild Card team. The Browns aren’t tied with the Bills, so even a Buffalo win and Cleveland loss won’t move the needle this week. (Cleveland’s AFC record is better than Buffalo.) However, with the number of games the Browns play against other AFC Wild Card contenders, evening the playing field will certainly help Buffalo.

Baltimore Ravens over Jacksonville Jaguars (H)
Sunday Night Football

Two division leaders playing each other, but looking at it through a Wild Card prism, it’s more likely that the Jaguars could fall into the mix with Buffalo, so we’re rooting against them this week. If the Jags win, we probably want them to keep winning for a playoff spot but keep losing if we’re going to win the division and want a better seed.

New England Patriots (H) over Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, December 17, 1 p.m. EST

The Patriots pulled off an upset last week. Do they have another one in them this week? This would help Buffalo if the Chiefs somehow fall into the Wild Card race, and we want the Bills to catch KC if both teams win the division. No-brainer.

Indianapolis Colts (H) over Pittsburgh Steelers
Saturday, December 16, 4:30 p.m. EST

These teams have identical overall records and AFC records, so either outcome is equal for the Bills as long as one team wins. Pittsburgh’s Strength of Victory is better than Buffalo’s, but that’s way down the list of tiebreakers, but it tips the scale slightly to the Colts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Green Bay Packers (H)
New York Giants over New Orleans Saints (H)
Washington Commanders over Los Angeles Rams (H)
Sunday, December 17, 1 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. EST

These three games would help Buffalo’s Strength of Victory tiebreaker.

Philadelphia Eagles over Seattle Seahawks (H)
Monday Night Football

This helps the Bills’ Strength of Schedule.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Thursday Night Football

Buffalo has a win over the Raiders and they’ll need a win over the Chargers if they want to make the postseason. If you really need a rooting interest, go Raiders since the Bills already have that win. This one shouldn’t matter.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals

These two NFC divisional contests won’t impact Buffalo directly, and with so many teams in the mix in the AFC, there isn’t an advantage to either team winning or losing.

The Buffalo Bills’ position improved so much last week and they sit at 49%, according to the New York Times. If these outcomes play out like the Bills want, they’ll be at a 79% chance of making the playoffs. Pretty good boost.