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Buffalo Bills rooting interests for the Week 17 AFC Playoff Picture

The Bills can have a spot sewn up by the time Sunday Night Football kicks off

NFL: SEP 18 Dolphins at Ravens Photo by Randy Litzinger/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.

According to the New York Times, the Buffalo Bills have an 89% chance of making the postseason. A win over the New England Patriots would bump that to 98%. Pretty good. But it’s still not everything that they need to make the postseason.

In each of the last few weeks, the Bills have received help from other teams and they can use a smidge more to clinch a playoff spot this weekend, and set themselves up for a huge Week 18 matchup.

With some help against the AFC North and AFC South, Buffalo can clinch a Wild Card spot this weekend. With some help from the Baltimore Ravens, the Bills can stay alive for a winner-take-all game against the Miami Dolphins for the AFC East championship.

Before we get into the rooting list, here are the current AFC Standings heading into Week 17:

AFC Standings

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

x - Baltimore and Miami have clinched a playoff spot
* - The first tiebreaker is the AFC South. The Jaguars win the division tiebreaker thanks to head-to-head record vs Houston and Indianapolis. Indianapolis has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Texans.
# - In the Wild Card race, the divisional tiebreakers apply first. Pittsburgh swept the Bengals and Indianapolis has a win over Houston, so the Steelers and Colts go to a tiebreaker first. Indy has a win over Pittsburgh, so they’re in the final playoff spot. The Texans and Steelers go to a tiebreaker, which Houston wins on head-to-head victory.
e - The Titans, Jets, Chargers, and Patriots have been eliminated from the postseason.


Here are all the matchups in order of importance:

Buffalo Bills (H) over New England Patriots
Sunday, December 31, 1 p.m. EST

The Bills can still back into the playoffs in Week 18 but, hey, let’s not test that theory. A Bills win gets them incredibly close to their first goal of the season, which is to qualify for the playoffs. They lost to the Mac Jones Patriots earlier this year and they can’t afford another slip.

Seattle Seahawks (H) over Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, December 31, 4:05 p.m. EST

The Seahawks are also fighting for a playoff spot. So let’s hope they can win again.

Kansas City Chiefs (H) over Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, December 31, 4:25 p.m. EST

In a two-way race for a playoff seed, the Bills hold a tiebreaker over the Chiefs. So I have no problem rooting for this outcome when it can help the Bills clinch this weekend.

Carolina Panthers over Jacksonville Jaguars (H)
Sunday, December 31, 1 p.m. EST

The Jaguars could be without Trevor Lawrence in this game — but, at the very least, he’s going to be hurting if he plays. Pretty straightforward when it’s an NFC team vs an AFC team at this point.

Tennessee Titans over Houston Texans (H)
Sunday, December 31, 1 p.m. EST
Las Vegas Raiders over Indianapolis Colts (H)
Sunday, December 31, 1 p.m. EST

We’re putting these games together because it’s a package deal for clinching. If either the Bengals or Steelers lose, a combo where the Colts and Texans both lose would clinch for Buffalo because Indianapolis and Houston play each other in Week 18.

New York Jets over Cleveland Browns (H)
Thursday Night Football

A Browns loss would keep the five seed in play if the Ravens lose to the Dolphins, so it’s a pretty easy call on Thursday.

Baltimore Ravens (H) over the Miami Dolphins
Sunday, December 31, 1 p.m. EST

This one is lower than the others only because the first goal needs to be a playoff spot. Ideally, the Ravens win and Bills win, which sets up a huge game in Week 18 for the AFC East Championship between the Dolphins and Bills. This game is massively important.

Dallas Cowboys over Detroit Lions
New York Giants over Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles over Arizona Cardinals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New Orleans Saints
Washington Commanders over San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Chargers over Denver Broncos

I haven’t seen a tiebreaker scenario where strength of victory or strength of schedule matters, but just in case, these are those games.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

I don’t see a pick in these games.


Buffalo’s scenarios for this weekend from best case to worst:

  • Clinch a playoff spot plus be in a Week 18 AFC East title game
  • Bills win and Dolphins loss for a Week 18 AFC East title game plus a likely Wild Card spot
  • Win and keep spots 5 through 7 in play for a Wild Card (Bills & Dolphins win)
  • Win and keep spots 6 and 7 in play for a Wild Card (Bills, Dolphins, and Browns win)
  • Lose but keep spots 6 and 7 in play

The Bills can’t be eliminated this weekend.