Bills playoff picture: The view from far above

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) takes a bite of a turkey during a television interview with CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, right, after an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. Buffalo won the game 26-15. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — We’re only to week 14 and the Bills already have a playoff clinching scenario! It’s not likely, but here’s how Buffalo secures their second playoff spot in 20 years:

Bills win + Texans loss/tie + Colts loss/tie + Raiders loss/tie.

The Texans host Denver. Indy is at Tampa. The Raiders host Tennessee in a pretty big game for the (likely) non-Bills wild card spot.

Here’s the big picture on where the AFC playoff race stands through 13 weeks:

Top Wild Card: Buffalo Bills

Current record: 9-3

Likely wins remaining: 1 (vs NYJ)

Likely losses remaining: 2 (vs BAL, at NE)

Toss-ups remaining: 1 (at PIT)

Overview: The Bills currently have a two game lead over every non-division leader and are three clear in the playoff race as a whole with four to play. Needless to say, they’re doing OK.

Any two wins will secure a postseason berth and there’s a good chance one will be enough. The only real playoff fear is a three-way tie with the Raiders and Steelers at 10-6. Oakland would have to run the table and Pittsburgh must beat at least Buffalo or Baltimore. The Bills, by the way, are the only game left scheduled for Heinz Field this year.

The New York Times playoff machine has the Bills at a 94% chance to make the playoffs. We might not be too far off rooting for a first round opponent instead of Buffalo simply landing a ticket to the dance.

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

2nd Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers

Current record: 7-5

Likely wins remaining: 1 (at NYJ)

Likely losses remaining: 1 (at BAL)

Toss-ups remaining: 2 (at AZ, vs BUF)

Overview: It ain’t pretty, but the Steelers keep grinding out wins. Devlin Hodges led Pittsburgh to 17 points over just over seven minutes of game time (with halftime in between) and, to the surprise of no one, ended Cleveland’s season. The Steelers hold a lot of the tiebreaking cards, but still have the Baltimore roadblock left on the schedule. The Sunday Night clash with Buffalo may be EVERYTHING for Pittsburgh.

Bills tiebreaker projectionDecided 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: Tennessee Titans.

Current record: 7-5

Likely wins remaining: None

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

Toss-ups remaining: 2 (at OAK, vs HOU)

Overview: Holy Tannehill! Tennessee beat another decent to good opponent Sunday, scoring the last 24 points in a 31-17 win over Indy. The swing play was Tye Smith’s 63 yard blocked field goal return that broke a 17-all tie with five minutes to play. Ryan Tannehill has now won 5 of his last 6. Like Cleveland-Pittsburgh last week, the Titans game in Oakland Sunday has a strong whiff of win or kiss the playoff chances goodbye.

Bills tiebreaker projection: Almost certain win. Bills have the head to head win in any two team tie. The Titans’ only shot would be to win all the AFC games and lose to only the Saints. They would then have a better conference record, but even that comes into play only in a 3-team tie.

Still Alive, But Having Trouble Breathing: Oakland Raiders

Current record: 6-6

Likely wins remaining: None

Likely losses remaining: None

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

Overview: The Raiders vacation extended to two weeks Sunday when they were thrashed 40-9 in Kansas City. Oakland has lost the last two games 74-12. The Chiefs, you can understand, but last week was against the Jets. As in, The Only Team To Lose Against Two 0-7 Or Worse Teams In The Same Season Ever Jets.

Chuckie Gruden better get his team’s act together in a hurry or their season will go back to being a warm up act for the great 2020 move to Vegas. Oakland is back home Sunday where they have won four in a row.

Bills tiebreaker projection: loss. The only drawback to Buffalo knocking off Dallas Sunday is that the Bills will now lose a few tiebreakers on conference record, including this one. Pretty sure the team will deal with it just fine.

A Semi-Live Longshot: Indianapolis Colts

Current record: 6-6

Likely wins remaining: 1 (at TB)

Likely losses remaining: 1 (at NO)

Toss-ups remaining: 2 (vs CAR, at JAC)

Overview: That blocked field goal Sunday might cost Indy the season. They have a good shot to get back on track this week in Tampa, but follow with a trip to New Orleans. The teams above them are hardly murderer’s row, but you’d figure one of them gets to ten wins. If nine Ws turns out to be enough, the Colts have all six losses in conference. That won’t work out well for a tiebreak. Frank Reich’s crew might be done, even if the math won’t let them accept it yet.

Bills tiebreaker projection: win. Indy could only match Buffalo on conference record IF Buffalo crashes and burns with a four game losing streak to finish the season. Even then, Buffalo has already locked the Colts out in common games (The Bills are 4-0 vs. MIA, PIT, TEN, DEN. Indy has losses to Miami, Pittsburgh and now Tennessee). You can take the Colts off Buffalo’s radar.

For The Bills Fans Still Drunk On The Thanksgiving High

Now that Buffalo beat a good team for the first time all year (the pre-Tanny Titans are debatable), the thinking is they’re going to run the table with wins over the two top AFC teams and on the road against a Pittsburgh team maybe playing for their lives. Ok, sure.

That is still Buffalo’s best path to a division title. Unless the Patriots somehow fall to 1-11 Cincy (loony toons) or Miami (NEVER dismiss a Ryan Fitzpatrick team, but still…), New England is locked into no worse than a 12-4 record AND they’d have the tiebreak with Buffalo (on common games). In that case, Buffalo must win each of their final four.

The only other possibility worth discussing would be if Buffalo drops a game to the Pats over the next two weeks: say… a Bills loss to Baltimore and a win over Pittsburgh coupled with two Patriots wins. In this case, the Bills go to Foxboro two games back. Buffalo could then beat Tom Brady on the road in a game that matters for the first time ever, take care of business against the Jets week 17 and hope for some Fitzmagic.

The chances of this happening, according to the aforementioned NY Times playoff machine are half that of Buffalo missing the playoffs. So, getting in is still priority one for the Bills.

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