Bills playoff picture: Margin for error gone

Buffalo Bills

El pateador Stephen Hauschka (4), de los Bills de Buffalo, falla un gol de campo de 53 yardas cerca del final del encuentro ante los Browns de Cleveland, el domingo 10 de noviembre de 2019, en Cleveland. (AP Foto/Ron Schwane)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Here’s where the Bills’ playoff hopes stand through week 10 in the NFL:

Top Wild Card: Buffalo Bills

Current record: 6-3

Likely wins remaining: 3 (at MIA, vs DEN, vs NYJ)

Likely losses remaining: 3 (at DAL, vs BAL, at NE)

Toss-ups remaining: 1 (at PIT)

Overview: It’s hard to think any game is a likely win after Sunday’s loss in Cleveland, but the Bills schedule still sets up favorably to reach 10-6. The Browns loss is Buffalo simply using up its margin for error. Handle the three win or less teams left on the schedule and that leaves the Pittsburgh game as the only obstacle, assuming the Bills can’t steal one from Dallas.

For Buffalo’s current situation in a tie with any of their playoff chase rivals, see below.

Second Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers

Current record: 5-4

Likely wins remaining: 2 (at CIN, at NYJ)

Likely losses remaining: 1 (at BAL)

Toss-ups remaining: 4 (at CLE, vs CLE, at AZ, vs BUF)

Overview: The Steelers toss up games lean towards the soft side. I didn’t think it was fair to just expect a sweep over a division opponent as talented as Cleveland (especially with a short week road game), but it’s likely the Steelers win at least one from Baker Mayfield and friends. Which means, unless Kyler Murray can score touchdowns on a defense that shut out the Rams (not impossible), the Bills are the only thing standing between the Big Ben-less Steelers and 10-6.

Bills tiebreaker projection: Decided by head to head. It’s possible there’s a three team tie that would negate the head to head winner’s tiebreaking advantage. If so, that’s bad for the Bills.

Top Contender: Oakland Raiders

Current record: 5-4

Likely wins remaining: 2 (vs CIN, at NYJ)

Likely losses remaining: 1 (at KC)

Toss-ups remaining: 4 (vs TEN, vs JAC, at LAC, at DEN)

Overview: The Raiders finish with their four toss-up games, leaving their spot in this chase locked for a while. Denver may be ready to throw in the towel by week 17, making that game a likely win. If so, the Raiders could get to 10-6 just by sweeping the Titans and Jags at home. Granted, it’s the last two games EVER for the Raiders in Oakland. Who knows what kind of home field advantage they’ll have left (it’s actually been fine so far).

Bills tiebreaker projection: leaning loss. The Raiders are locked into a 2-2 NFC record. The Bills match that with a loss to Dallas. If the Bills win on Thanksgiving, their 3-1 NFC record would guarantee a worse AFC record if they and Oakland tie overall. The next tiebreak is common games. Both teams are yet to lose against their common opponents (NYJ, CIN, TEN, DEN), but the Bills have already gotten their toughest assignment here out of the way (Titans). If common games can’t break the tie, the Raiders currently have a fairly safe lead in strength of victory.

Second Contender: Indianapolis Colts

Current record: 5-4

Likely wins remaining: 1 (at TB)

Likely losses remaining: 2 (at HOU, at NO)

Toss-ups remaining: 4 (vs JAC, vs TEN, vs CAR, at JAC)

Overview: The Bills’ chances against the Colts are suddenly feeling Fitzmagical after Indy dumped Sunday’s game to Miami. Their final seven games are brutal. I even debated whether the road trip to Tampa deserved “likely win” status. However, the Colts have already beaten Houston at home and Kansas City on the road. You can argue every game left on their schedule is a toss-up. Indy still has to go 5-2 down the stretch to reach ten wins, which seems like a tough ask even if Jacoby Brissett is healthy.

Bills tiebreaker projection: likely win. It’s hard to imagine Indy being even with Buffalo at 10-6 and having even an equal AFC record. Let’s assume the Bills are 2-2 in the NFC. Indy is currently 1-0. The Colts can only lose twice more and still finish 10-6. That means both the losses have to come against NFC teams to even tie Buffalo’s AFC record. Then, the loss to Miami probably dooms Indianapolis against the Bills in common games.

Anyone else: Not really.

The Titans and Jags need to go from here to season’s end with only one loss to reach 10-6. Tennessee still has two with a Houston and meeting with New Orleans left. Jacksonville is done with the brutal games, but still has road trips to Tennessee, Indy and Oakland plus home games with the Colts and Chargers. It’s hard to imagine either finishing 10-6.

Any chance at the division: Don’t hold your breath.

The problem is the Bills are unlikely to win a tie with New England. So, what’s the pie in the sky Buffalo record right now? Maybe 12-4.

The Patriots still have dates with Cincy and Miami, so assume they have ten wins in the bag. We’ll also assume a loss to Buffalo, since this scenario is impossible otherwise.

That means New England would have to lose three of these four to finish 11-5: at PHI, vs DAL, at HOU, vs KC. Any one individually could be a loss, but these are the Patriots. You’d think they find a way to split at worst.

New England can just about starting printing the hats and T-shirts. This race is over.

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