The Buffalo Bills are in first place.
I’m the most relentlessly optimistic Bills fan alive, and even I can’t believe it. At 4-1, it’s hard not to dream that impossible dream…Buffalo back in the playoffs.
Maybe it’s too soon to think about this mathematically, but let’s do it anyway. It’s probably going to take nine or more likely ten wins to make the playoffs in the AFC this season, or maybe even 11. Buffalo already has four, meaning the Bills will need between 5 and 7 wins in their final 11 games.
Are there enough potential wins in Buffalo’s remaining games to make the playoffs? Let’s check out the remaining schedule. I’ll rank each game as either Likely Win, Toss-up, Likely Loss.
Week 6 – @ New York Giants: Tough one for me to call. The Giants might be the least consistent team in the league. Some weeks they look unbeatable, other weeks they’re league’s worst team (for example, losing to a dreadful Seahawks team at home last week). Basically, this one will come down to turnovers. Who makes more mistakes – Ryan Fitzpatrick or Eli Manning? Verdict: Toss-up.
Week 7 – Bye Week
Week 8 – vs. Washington (in Toronto): Washington’s been a good story so far, raking up three wins in four games. The ‘Skins are moving in the right direction, but I’m not sold on them yet. Especially on the road (even though this one is at Buffalo’s bizarro home field at Rogers Centre). And Rex Grossman is their quarterback. I may regret saying this later, but the Bills should get a win here. Verdict: Likely win
Week 9 – vs. New York Jets: This game scares the crap out of me. Yeah, the Jets have struggled, but they are too talented to stay down all season. The Jet secondary is outstanding, and there’s a real concern the Bills won’t be able to throw it effectively. Plus, the Jets will be well rested coming off their bye week. Still a winnable game, especially at home, but it will be tough. Verdict: Toss-up
Week 10 – @ Dallas: The Cowboys are probably a more talented team. But are they a better team? I don’t think we know that yet. And who knows which Tony Romo shows up? Will it be the all-star or the turnover-prone disaster? This one could be a blowout for either team or anything in between. Verdict: Toss-up
Week 11 – @ Miami: If you’re a playoff team, you have to win this game. Period. The Dolphins stink. And if we’re lucky, they’re tanking for Andrew Luck. Verdict: Likely Win
Week 12 – @ New York Jets: This is going to be tough. The Jets are likely to be desperate for wins at this point and I’m not sure the Bills match up well with them. This is also at the back end of a three-week road swing. I see a loss coming here. Verdict: Likely loss.
Week 13 – vs. Tennessee: A little early to tell with the Titans. What was the mirage: their strong play in the first four weeks or the whoopin’ the Steelers gave them Sunday? But really, except for their big win over Baltimore, have they really been all that impressive? I’m guessing they aren’t great, but will hang around the playoff race for a while. That will make this game key. And it’s a game Buffalo needs to have. Verdict: Toss-up
Week 14 – @ San Diego: Ah, the Chargers. Another super talented team that can’t seem to get it together. I do think they might be a little too talented for the Bills right now, though. Especially when the Bills have to fly cross country. Verdict: Likely loss.
Week 15 – vs. Miami: An absolute must win. A December home game against a bad team from Miami? Should be a gimme for any team that fancies itself a contender. Verdict: Likely win
Week 16 – vs. Denver: Unless Tim Tebow can resurrect this Broncos team, this should be another win. Verdict: Likely win.
Week 17 – @ New England: Depends. Will the Patriots need this game? Despite their loss to our Bills, I think the Pats are the best team in the AFC by quite a bit right now. There’s a decent chance New England is 13-2 and already clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs by this game. If they don’t need to care, gotta like Buffalo’s chances. If the Patriots need it, this will be very difficult. Verdict: Who knows?
To sum up:
Four likely wins
Four toss up
Two likely losses
One Week 17 “Who Knows?” game
Breaking it down, the schedule isn’t easy, but it’s manageable. If the Bills can make sure they win the four games they should, and then pull out a few toss-ups, the playoffs are within reach.