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Buffalo Bills’ rooting interests for Week 16 in AFC Playoff Picture

The Bills need some help to make the postseason

NFL: NOV 26 Steelers at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills have beaten two Super Bowl contenders in consecutive weeks to claw back into the AFC Playoff Race, but they’re still going to need some help down the stretch. They found a helping hand in a couple contests in Week 15, and need some more in Week 16.

The Bills currently stand ninth in the AFC Playoff Picture, and several teams ahead of them are playing each other, so let’s dive in.

Before we get to the games, here are the current standings:

AFC Standings

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

x - Baltimore has clinched a playoff spot

* The first tiebreaker is the AFC South. The Jaguars win the division tiebreaker thanks to a superior AFC South record. Indianapolis and Houston move on to the Wild Card tiebreaker, where the Colts win over the Texans on head-to-head. Then the Colts, Bengals, and Bills go to a tiebreaker. Cincinnati has wins over Indianapolis and Buffalo, so they are 6th. The Bills and Colts go to a tiebreaker, which Indy wins on AFC record. The Bills and Texans go to a tiebreaker, which Houston wins on AFC record.

e - The Titans, Jets, and Patriots have been eliminated from the postseason.

I’ve listed the games in order of importance for the Bills and labeled the home teams:

Buffalo Bills over Los Angeles Chargers (H)
Saturday, December 23, 8 p.m. EST

The Bills are in a highlighted spot on Saturday night and with the Chargers down QB Justin Herbert, Buffalo needs to slam the door on this game early. The Bills winning out doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot, so a loss here wouldn’t just be embarrassing, it would be highly detrimental. A win takes them from 69% chance of making the playoffs to 74% per The New York Times.

Dallas Cowboys over Miami Dolphins (H)
Sunday, December 24, 4:25 p.m. EST

Miami hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since Week 3 of 2022. The Cowboys have a 3-4 record in road games this season. Something has to give, and we sure hope it means a Dallas win in Miami. A Dolphins loss means that if the Bills win out, Buffalo is hosting a playoff game as the four-time consecutive AFC East champions.

Pittsburgh Steelers (H) over Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, December 23, 4 p.m. EST

The Bengals are in playoff position despite losing quarterback Joe Burrow. The Steelers are starting their third quarterback of the season after turning to Mason Rudolph. Bills fans aren’t just tuning in at 8 p.m., they should be watching the previous game, too. This one rises to the top of the other games because the Bengals have a head-to-head win over Buffalo.

Atlanta Falcons (H) over Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, December 24, 1 p.m. EST

Atlanta is ping-ponging quarterbacks, meanwhile the Colts are thriving with their backup, Gardner Minshew III. An NFC team dropping one of the teams in the AFC Playoff Picture is really helpful.

Houston Texans (H) over Cleveland Browns
Sunday, December 24, 1 p.m. EST

This one is very much up for discussion. Both outcomes could theoretically help the Bills, we just need that crystal ball for the future games. Here are the arguments:
- The New York Times Playoff Simulator says to root for Cleveland to win, because it would allow Buffalo to pass Houston this week.
- Root for the Texans because it sets up elimination games down the road for others in the picture. In Week 18, if Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, and Buffalo all enter the Week at 10-6, the Bills would not be in playoff position but the Browns and Bengals play each other and the Colts and Texans play each other, so two of those teams losing would allow the Bills to pass the two losers into playoff position with a win. Really what this does is open up ALL THREE Wild Card spots for the Bills (in addition to the division) so it ups percentages for that alone.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (H) over Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, December 24, 4:05 p.m. EST

Speaking of an NFC team knocking off an AFC playoff team, the Jaguars could very easily find themselves in the Wild Card picture very soon.

San Francisco 49ers (H) over Baltimore Ravens
Monday, December 25, 8:15 p.m. EST

The Bills can’t pass Baltimore in the standings, but we’re rooting against them anyway because we don’t want them to clinch the number-one seed until Week 18. That way they have something to play for in the final two weeks of the season when they face the Dolphins and Steelers.

New England Patriots over Denver Broncos (H)
Sunday Night Football

If the Bills drop a game down the line and Denver wins out, they would pass Buffalo. A loss by the Broncos should take them out of the conversation.

Las Vegas Raiders over Kansas City Chiefs (H)
Monday, December 25, 1 p.m. EST

Buffalo can pass Kansas City in the standings, so it’s a no-brainer here on a lot of levels.

New York Giants over Philadelphia Eagles (H)
Monday, December 25, 4:30 p.m. EST

This helps the Bills’ strength of victory, which isn’t very important looking down the list of tiebreakers.

New York Jets (H) over Washington Commanders
Sunday, December 24, 1 p.m. EST

The Bills play the Jets twice, so this helps Buffalo’s strength of schedule, which isn’t really important. It also moves the Jets down the draft board, so that’s good!

New Orleans Saints vs Los Angeles Rams
Seattle Seahawks vs Tennessee Titans
Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers vs Carolina Panthers
Arizona Cardinals vs Chicago Bears

None of these games directly impact the Bills. Root for your fantasy players.

With these outcomes, the Buffalo Bills’ chances of making the playoffs top 90%. That would be pretty good, obviously, considering they were in the low-teens a few weeks ago. These outcomes would 1) allow Buffalo to control their own destiny in the AFC East and 2) move them into a playoff position by the end of the day on Christmas Eve.