Before going any further, let’s slap a big disclaimer on this post.  If you’re hoping the Buffalo Bills are going to make the playoffs, we’re very much grasping at straws. To even get to any type of semi-realistic playoff scenario, the Bills are going to have to finish 10-6. That means winning three of their next four, of which just one will be played at home.

As you’re also probably well aware of, that would mean having to beat at least two of the following three iconic quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Ummm, sure.

Still, purely for the sake of discussion let’s say the Bills pull off the improbable over the last month and finish 10-6.  Where would that leave them in the AFC playoff race?

Let’s find out as best we can.

First we’ll cover the AFC East, which is slightly less complex.  If the Bills win two of their next three they’d go into New England for the finale at 9-6. If New England does what it’s expected to do over the next three weeks (games at San Diego, Miami and at the Jets) it would hardly matter, at least in terms of division titles. But at 9-3, let’s say the Patriots managed to lose two of their next three. That would put them at 10-5 going into the Bills season finale. If the Bills were to win they’d finished tied for the AFC East at 10-6, and actually get the tiebreaker nod based on a season split and a 4-2 division record. The Patriots would only finish 3-3 inside the division (if they were to lose two of their next three).


Under the unlikely scenario the Patriots fell apart by losing three of their last four including Buffalo, it’s very conceivable the Miami Dolphins could join the party at 10-6 to force a three-way tie. In a three-team divisional tie the first tiebreaker is head-to-head among the teams. Miami is 1-1 against Buffalo and 1-0 against New England with a game remaining between the two. It’s possible all three teams would be 2-2 against each other. The next tiebreaker is divisional record; which would eliminate New England and also Buffalo IF Miami beats both the Jets and Patriots in getting to 10-6. If they were to lose one  (between New England and New York) then both them and the Bills would be 4-2 inside the division.  The third tiebreaker is record against common opponents. Miami is currently 5-4 with games still remaining against New England, Minnesota and the Jets.  The Bills are currently 5-3 with games remaining against Denver, Green Bay, Oakland and New England.  The Bills winning three of their last four, all common opponents would give them a 8-4 record against similar teams.  The ONLY way Miami could match that is by beating New England, Minnesota and the Jets with their lone loss coming against Baltimore. If that happened both teams would be 8-4.

And then……

It comes down to conference record. The best the Bills could do is 7-5.  The worst Miami could do if they got to 10 wins is 8-4.  Ultimately, Miami would win a three-team AFC East tie, unless they lose to the Patriots, Minnesota or Jets, giving the Bills the second tiebreaker (record against common opponents) and not having it come down to conference record.

One last note—if the Patriots were to somehow fall off the face of this earth this last month with Buffalo and Miami finishing at 10-6, it would go the same way as the three-team tie.

It’s too hard to come a conclusion on either scenario, as it depends on which of the last four opponents Miami lost to in order to finish 10-6. For the Bills sake, any (Patriots, Jets, Vikings) but Baltimore would suffice just fine.

Here’s the Bills best case scenario: The Patriots lose to San Diego and Miami, making them 10-5 going into the finale.  Meanwhile, Miami beats New England but loses to the Jets (very unlikely). The best they could finish in that scenario is 10-6 with a 4-2 division record. If that doesn’t happen the Bills need Miami to beat New England but lose two of three to Baltimore, Minnesota and the Jets. That would have them finished at 9-7.

If New England beats Miami, Buffalo would need the Patriots to lose to both San Diego and the Jets to enter Week 17 at 10-5 and still catchable by the Bills (if Buffalo wins two of their next three).  Sorry, I just don't see New England losing two of their next three under any circumstances.

Now, let’s examine wild card possibilities…

WILDCARD CONTENDERS WITH AT LEAST 7 WINS (remaining opponents in parenthesis):

SAN DIEGO (8-4, 6-3 in AFC): New England, Denver, At San Francisco, At Kansas City

The Bills cannot pass the Chargers if both teams finish 10-6 and ended in a two-team tiebreaker. If the Chargers finished 10-6, that would put them at 7-5 in AFC conference play, at worst. They also beat the Bills head to head. The only scenario where head-to-head wouldn’t come into play is if the Bills tied with San Diego and also a team Buffalo beat during the season (Miami or Cleveland) or a team San Diego beat but the Bills didn’t play. That would render any head-to-head moot.

Conclusion: It won’t matter if San Diego gets the top wild card, but if they’re tied with the Bills for a second spot in almost any way, it’s lights out for Buffalo.  However, San Diego even getting to 10-6 is no lock—their last four contests are definitely all losable.

KANSAS CITY (7-5, 5-4 in AFC): At Arizona, Oakland, At Pittsburgh, San Diego

Getting to 10-6 won’t be a piece of cake for the Chiefs, even with a gimme contest at home against the Raiders.

Conclusion: For the Bills a best-case scenario would be losing at Arizona and Pittsburgh while beating the Raiders. That would put them at 8-7 going into their finale against San Diego.  Beating the Chargers would only get the Chiefs to nine wins, while hurting the Chargers chances of getting to 10 if they lose two of their next three next games.

BALTIMORE (7-5, 3-5 in AFC): At Miami, Jacksonville, At Houston, Cleveland

Jacksonville and Cleveland at home should be relatively easy wins for the Ravens, getting them to 9-6.  The key game could be next week at Miami.  Losing to them or at Houston would leave them at best with 10 wins. With all AFC games remaining, the Ravens getting to 10-6 would mean finishing with a 6-6 conference record, making them the only team besides Cleveland without a better conference record than Buffalo, should the Bills get to 10-6 as well (with that sixth loss coming against an AFC team).

Conclusion: For the Bills a best-case scenario would be Baltimore losing two of their last four, with one of those wins coming at Miami next week.  That would leave Baltimore at 9-7 while stacking Miami with another loss.

PITTSBURGH (7-5, 6-3 in AFC): At Cincinnati, At Atlanta, Kansas City, Cincinnati

A brutally tough schedule for the Steelers down the stretch. Atlanta has a poor record but is still in contention for a division title and knocked off Arizona this week.  Winning three of these last four won’t be easy. If they did, they’d own no less than an 8-4 conference record, a mark the Bills can’t match.

Conclusion: For the Bills a best-case scenario would be losing to Atlanta and one of the two Cincinnati games but beating the Chiefs, leaving Pittsburgh at 9-7.  Again, the Bills can’t match Pittsburgh’s conference record if they get to 10-6.

CLEVELAND (7-5, 4-5 in AFC): Indianapolis, Cincinnati, At Carolina, at Baltimore

The Browns may be reeling after getting rolled over in Buffalo this week, not to mention a pending quarterbacking controversy.  With games against the Colts, Bengals and at Baltimore remaining they’ll be hard pressed to get to 10 wins.

Conclusion: Long as the Browns don’t win out to finish 11-5, it may not matter where they finish. In fact the Browns and Ravens are the lone teams on this list where it may be advantageous for Buffalo to be tied with at 10-6.

MIAMI (7-5, 6-3 in AFC): Baltimore, At New England, Minnesota, Jets

They probably have the easiest road of any team listed to get 10 wins.  Home, very winnable games against the Vikings and Jets over the last two weeks would get them to nine, leaving them to beat either Baltimore at home or New England on the road to get to 10-6.

Conclusion: The Bills would be in trouble with Miami getting to 10 wins. They split head to head, but at 10-6 Miami would have an 8-4 AFC conference record.  The best-case scenario for Buffalo, by far is for them to lose two more games.

BUFFALO (7-5, 4-5 in AFC): At Denver, Green Bay, At Oakland, At New England

Best Bills Scenario at 10-6 is losing to only Green Bay, leaving them with a 7-5 conference record. If they lost to either Denver, Oakland or New England they’d finish with a 6-6 record in the AFC. Only Baltimore and Cleveland finishing with the same records would leave them an identical 6-6 in the AFC.





TO BE DETERMINED: Baltimore.  Why? They didn’t play each other head-to-head and at 10-6 would finish with identical 6-6 conference records (assuming the Bills sixth loss was an AFC loss).  The third tiebreaker is record against common opponents (minimum of four).   As of right now the Ravens are 1-1 in those games (beat Cleveland, lost to San Diego) with three more games remaining in that category: (Miami, Houston Cleveland).  The Bills are 2-3 in games versus common opponents with none remaining.  The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, and it’s way too early to go down that road.


Here is the best “realistic” scenario I can come up with where the Bills finish 10-6 and earn a playoff spot.

  • Bills win three of their last four (praying for a miracle here, folks)
  • San Diego loses three of their last four (can happen)
  • Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore and Miami all go 2-2 down the stretch.

That, folks, would put Buffalo in as the top wild card. If not, they could still make the second spot if this scenario stayed true to form for four of the five teams. (Sorry, but I’m not counting the Browns at this point).

Again, it’s very unlikely the Bills win three of their next four for any of this to even matter, but hey---anything’s possible.

(Editor’s Note—we’re jumping the gun with this post on the assumption Miami beats the Jets tonight. If by chance that doesn’t happen, it changes plenty for Miami, all of which is good for Buffalo

If Miami loses to the Jets tonight, it makes them 6-6 with a 2-2 divisional record and 5-4 conference record.  Most importantly it would make Miami have to win all of their four remaining games in order to get to 10 wins.

Go Jets).

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