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AFC playoff picture: 2015 NFL Week 14 rooting interests

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If things break right for the Bills this weekend, they'll control their own playoff destiny. If things don't break right for the Bills this weekend, they'll need a football miracle to make the playoffs. Here's who to root for.

The Buffalo Bills enter Week 14 in position to make a run at the playoffs, but they need some help, especially this week. Anyone who says Buffalo shouldn't yet be scoreboard watching hasn't fully realized how important one out-of-town game is for the Bills' playoff chances. Hopefully, our additional article about it drives that point home.

Standings

1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-2, 8-1 AFC)
2. Denver Broncos (10-2, 6-2 AFC, head-to-head win over NE)
3. New England Patriots (10-2, 7-1 AFC, head-to-head loss to DEN)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-6, head-to-head win over HOU)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5, 6-2 AFC)
6. New York Jets (7-5, 5-4 AFC)
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7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, 4-4 AFC)
8. Buffalo Bills (6-6, 6-5 in AFC, head-to-head win over HOU)
9. Houston Texans (6-6, 4-5 AFC, head-to-head losses to IND & BUF)
10. Oakland Raiders (5-7, 5-4 AFC)
11. Miami Dolphins (5-7, 3-6 AFC)
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8, head-to-head win over BAL)
13. Baltimore Ravens (4-8, head-to-head loss to JAX)
14. San Diego Chargers (3-9, 2-6 AFC)
15. Tennessee Titans (3-9, 1-7 AFC)
16. Cleveland Browns* (2-10)

* - Eliminated from playoff contention

Who to root for

Here's a reminder on the NFL's tiebreaker procedures.

Cincinnati (10-2) over Pittsburgh (7-5)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

It's strange that the most important game for Buffalo this week isn't the one the Bills are playing in, but that's where we are at. If Pittsburgh wins this game, they will move into an insurmountable lead in the record versus common opponent tiebreaker; the Steelers would be 2-3 in their five games against the Patriots, Bengals, Chiefs, and Colts, while Buffalo is already 1-4 in those games. While this metric is the third tiebreaker behind head-to-head and conference record, Pittsburgh has four remaining conference games, while Buffalo has just one. With one loss the rest of the way to fall even with the Bills, Buffalo and Pittsburgh would be tied for AFC record, but the Steelers would still beat out the Bills in record versus common opponents.

It boils down to this: if Pittsburgh wins this week, Buffalo would need to make up two games on Pittsburgh, with the Steelers playing Denver, Baltimore, and Cleveland over their final three weeks. Or, they'd need to make up two games on the Kansas City Chiefs, who own head-to-head tiebreakers over both the Bills and Steelers, and have a crazy-easy schedule this month. So, yeah. The importance of a Bengals win cannot be understated.

Buffalo (6-6) over Philadelphia (5-7)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

Rex Ryan said the Bills were out of mulligans, but Houston apparently didn't receive that memo, double-teaming Matthew Mulligan and leaving Charles Clay open for a late touchdown to keep the Bills in the playoff race. A loss to an NFC opponent over the next three weeks also could be the elusive mulligan Ryan was referencing. Pittsburgh is playing the top two teams in the conference, and could very realistically lose both games. The Jets are playing the Patriots in Week 16, and are in Buffalo to end the season. There are a lot of ways Buffalo can make it in at 9-7, but obviously 10-6 would be better. Therefore, a win over the Eagles would be great, but a loss wouldn't be a total back-breaker.

San Diego (3-9) over Kansas City (7-5)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

If somehow the Chiefs were able to stumble down the stretch, they would need to lose two of their last three games for Buffalo to pass them. They'd need to fall to some cupcakes down the stretch, though, and this is the first shot.

Tennessee (3-9) over New York Jets (7-5)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

Buffalo controls their own destiny against the Jets and New York plays New England in Week 16, so this isn't an essential win. It would, however, go a long way toward eliminating the Jets from the playoff picture.

New England (10-2) over Houston (6-6)
Sunday, December 13, 8:30 p.m. ET

While not usually a supporter of the Patriots, this week we want them to move Houston firmly behind Buffalo. Here's a scenario: after Week 13 the Bills, Steelers, and Texans are all tied at 7-6. Guess who would be in? That's right; it's the Texans. In a three-way tie, the tiebreaker is AFC record, not head-to-head, so the Bills' Week 12 win over Houston would be meaningless. Houston's AFC record is better than Buffalo and Pittsburgh's and they would be ahead. Let's end that right now.

Minnesota (8-4) over Arizona (10-2)
Thursday, December 10, 8:30 p.m. ET

Detroit (4-8) over St. Louis (4-8)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

San Francisco (4-8) over Cleveland (2-10)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

Seattle (7-5) over Baltimore (4-8)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

If the Bills and Steelers end up tied in conference record and record against common opponents, the tiebreaker is strength of victory. The more game the AFC North loses, the better. Same goes for the NFC West, due to the Steelers' wins over Arizona and St. Louis.

Miami (5-7) over New York Giants (5-7)
Monday, December 14, 8:30 p.m. ET

This might seem counter-productive when the Giants could all but eliminate the Dolphins from playoff contention, but a Miami win ups Buffalo strength of victory twice - and if Miami and Buffalo end up tied, the Bills have the tiebreakers anyway. Root for the Dolphins for the same reason you're rooting for the Seahawks and 49ers.

Washington (5-7) over Chicago (5-7)
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 p.m. ET

Dallas (4-8) over Green Bay (8-4)
Sunday, December 13, 4:25 p.m. ET

This is an eye toward the same strength of victory and strength of schedule tiebreakers. The Bills want the NFC East records to improve.

Denver (10-2) over Oakland (5-7)
Sunday, December 13, 4:05 p.m. ET

Another nail in the playoff elimination coffin could come to the Raiders this week. It's not likely that the Raiders are going to end up in a tie with Buffalo, but this would seal their playoff fate.

Tampa Bay (6-6) vs. New Orleans (4-8)
Carolina (12-0) vs. Atlanta (6-6)

These intra-divisional contests aren't going to have much effect on the Bills' playoff hopes. The NFC South played the AFC South, and Buffalo has wins over the Colts and Texans as the initial tiebreaker.

Outcomes

If this happens, Buffalo will be in sixth place entering Week 15 thanks to their head-to-head win over the Jets and their better AFC record over Pittsburgh. Buffalo would then control their own destiny. If Pittsburgh and Kansas City both win this week, however, Buffalo will need one of them to lose two of their remaining three games against bottom-feeders in order to make the playoffs.

Week 13 Rooting