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Buffalo Bills in the AFC playoff picture: Week 8 rooting interests

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The Buffalo Bills have lost two straight games and aren't playing football this week, but we can still talk and think about the playoffs, right?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Even at 3-4 and coming off of back-to-back losses, the Buffalo Bills sit only one game out of sixth place in the AFC playoff picture despite a loss to the cellar-dwelling Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. With the Bills on a bye week and the season at the halfway point, we'll take a look at how the playoff bracket is breaking down each week, and tell you who to root for in games not featuring Buffalo.

(For a refresher on tiebreakers, head to NFL.com - but we'll also do our best to explain them here, too. We won't go all the way down to the fifth and sixth tiebreakers and just call it a tie, at least for now.)

Standings

T1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-0, 5-0 AFC)
T1. New England Patriots (6-0, 5-0 AFC)
3. Denver Broncos (6-0, 4-0 AFC)
4. Indianapolis Colts (3-4)
5. New York Jets (4-2)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)
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7. Oakland Raiders (3-3, 3-2 AFC)
8. Miami Dolphins (3-3, 2-3 AFC)
9. Buffalo Bills (3-4)
10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-5, 2-2 AFC)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5, 2-3 AFC)
12. Cleveland Browns (2-5, 2-4 AFC)
T13. Houston Texans (2-5, 1-3 AFC)
T13. San Diego Chargers (2-5, 1-3 AFC)
15. Tennessee Titans (1-5)
16. Baltimore Ravens (1-6)

Who to root for

New England (6-0) over Miami (3-3)
Thursday, October 29, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Patriots have already beaten the Bills in Buffalo, and are 3.5 games up on Buffalo in the win column. It's pretty easy to tell the Bills are in the wild card race, but out of the divisional picture. The resurgent Dolphins have passed the Bills, and need to be squished. Everyone can see it in this nationally-televised tilt.

Oakland (3-3) over New York Jets (4-2)
Sunday, November 1, 4:05 p.m. ET

With both teams ahead of the Bills, the goal of this game is to keep the Jets one game ahead of Buffalo in the race. The game is in Oakland, and the Jets can't keep up their searing early-season pace much longer, right?

Cincinnati (6-0) over Pittsburgh (4-3)
Sunday, November 1, 1:00 p.m. ET

Let the Bengals run away with the division. With the AFC currently sporting three undefeated teams, they will all have something to play for down the stretch. If Pittsburgh loses, they remain just a half-game up on the Bills heading into the final half of their season.

Detroit over Kansas City (2-5)
Sunday, November 1, 9:30 a.m. ET
Baltimore (1-6) over San Diego (2-5)
Sunday, November 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
Arizona over Cleveland (2-5)
Sunday, November 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
Tennessee (1-5) over Houston (2-5)
Sunday, November 1, 1:00 p.m. ET

All four of these games tell the same story: keep the 2-5 teams below the Bills in the win column while playing an irrelevant opponent.

Carolina over Indianapolis (3-4)
Monday, November 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

With the distinct possibility that the Colts could be overtaken in the AFC South, it's better that they lose to hurt their wild card chances. If you think the Colts can turn it around and run away with the division, go ahead and root for them to win this game to up Buffalo's strength of victory tiebreaker; I just don't believe they will dominate the AFC South.

Denver (6-0) over Green Bay
Sunday, November 1, 8:30 p.m. ET

In a game where the outcome doesn't much matter, it makes sense that the Broncos have something to play for late in the season when they play potential AFC playoff teams in each of their final six weeks. They are already three games up on their closest divisional competitor, so that "something to play for" might have to be the first-round bye.

New York Giants over New Orleans
Sunday, November 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
Dallas over Seattle
Sunday, November 1, 4:25 p.m. ET

Strength of schedule is the fifth tiebreaker, and the Bills have played the Giants and will see the Cowboys, but won't see either of the other teams. That far down, it's unlikely to matter.

Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta
Minnesota vs. Arizona
San Francisco vs. St. Louis

NFC games inside their division might matter more later for strength of victory for other AFC teams, but with the logjam in the AFC seeding right now, it's not worth diving into.

Outcomes

If everything goes right for Buffalo, they will be in eighth place in the AFC, one game behind the Jets and Raiders and a half-game behind the Steelers, when their bye week ends. Worst case scenario? The Jets are up two games (but Buffalo still plays them twice), while the Steelers and Dolphins stay ahead, as well. Lots of season left with some healthy starters returning (hopefully).