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Buffalo Bills playoff scenarios: NFL Week 10 rooting interests

The Buffalo Bills begin a stretch where they play four of the seven teams ahead of them in the AFC standings, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Who else should we root for?

Brett Carlsen
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 still control their own destiny in the AFC East and AFC wild card races, but things became tougher with New England beating Denver. In fact, only San Diego's loss helped the Bills in any meaningful way this past weekend.

As we enter the final half of the 2014 NFL season, let's examine who Bills fans should root for in Week 9 in descending levels of importance.

The big games

Buffalo Bills (5-3) over Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)
Sunday, November 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

Massive playoff implications abound as the Bills host the team directly ahead of them in the standings this week. If Buffalo wants to be considered a contender, they need to win this game over the Chiefs and at least split with the two AFC West wild card contenders (the other being San Diego, to whom they have already lost). Of the teams with a winning record in the AFC, only Baltimore has a worse conference record than Buffalo, the first tiebreaker after head-to-head matchups in the wild card round, and they'll need to make hay in the AFC over the last two months.

New York Jets (1-8) over Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
Sunday, November 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

With eight losses, the Jets are all but mathematically eliminated from the AFC playoff picture and the Steelers sit a half-game up on the Bills in the wild card - with a better AFC record to boot. If Buffalo is going to catch Pittsburgh, they are going to need some help from the other teams in the AFC, and a win from a bad Jets team this week would be a bonus.

Tennessee Titans (2-6) over Baltimore Ravens (5-4)
Sunday, November 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Ravens are one of those AFC teams that could spring up and bite the Bills from behind. The Titans have six losses and are essentially out of the playoff picture. It's an easy call here, though not a likely one.

Cleveland Browns (5-3) over Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1)
Thursday, November 6, 8:30 p.m. ET

Because both teams have winning records, the outcome of this game is probably a net wash for the Bills in the long run. We'll go with Cleveland since Buffalo will have a chance to beat the Browns but won't get a chance to play the Bengals, who also happen to be further ahead in the standings. If the Bills can take care of their own business on November 30, it won't matter if the Browns win this week and are ahead of them on November 10. The AFC North needs to beat themselves up down the stretch, as all four teams are currently above .500 with the Bengals in the lead. Cincinnati has the much more difficult schedule down the stretch with two games against Pittsburgh and a home date with Denver.

Detroit Lions (6-2) over Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Sunday, November 9, 1:00 p.m. ET

That's enough winning out of you, Miami. Thanks for knocking off San Diego. Now die a quick and painful death. A loss to the Lions followed by a Thursday night loss against the Bills could put Miami at 5-5 and all but out of the AFC playoff race in 11 days.

Oakland Raiders (0-8) over Denver Broncos (6-2)
Sunday, November 9, 4:05 p.m. ET

I mean, anything can happen, right? The Bills still technically control their own destiny against the Broncos thanks to a Week 14 matchup in Denver. Still, it's a no-brainer that we root against the Broncos in this spot when the Raiders are an afterthought in the playoff picture.

Chicago Bears (3-5) over Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Sunday, November 9, 8:30 p.m. ET

The fourth tiebreaker is strength of victory. As the Bills have already beaten the Bears and have not yet beaten the Packers, root for Chicago so they have a better record, driving up Buffalo's strength of victory metric. If Buffalo beats the Packers in Week 15, it will be moot.

The Bills can't move past idle New England in the AFC East hunt this week, but can gain ground on them. While they may have dispatched the Broncos, New England still plays six teams with winning records over the home stretch: at Indianapolis, Detroit, at Green Bay, at San Diego, Miami, and, yes, Buffalo. If the Bills win, they are just one game out in the AFC East race with a Week 17 meeting in Foxboro.

In the wild card race, Buffalo could move all the way up to fifth if the Jets are somehow able to upset the Steelers and the Bengals drop the Browns to stay atop the AFC North. They'll be sixth with a Bengals loss and a win. With a loss, though, the Bills could fall all the way to No. 11 and perilously behind in the important conference record tiebreaker at 2-4 in the AFC. Like New England, Buffalo has six games remaining against teams with winning records.