The Buffalo Bills playoff chances will be recalculated each week with many factors out of their own control. There are a few good and bad things that they have going for them.
The good news…
For starters, the Buffalo Bills are still in the hunt with a 6-5 record after 11 games. They are tied for the last seed in the playoffs but they lose the tiebreaker to the Baltimore Ravens. For the most part, they control their own destiny with four divisional games and another conference game against the Indianapolis Colts.
They have three beatable opponents including the Dolphins twice and Colts once. They also have three homes games in a row right now giving them a chance to get some momentum started before they head on the road to close the season.
They own head to head tiebreakers against Kansas City and Oakland who are two of the teams they are competing with for the playoffs. The best news I have is that one win against the Patriots changes everything with the Bills playoff chances as you will see in the predictions section below.
The last piece of good news is that of the teams the Bills are competing with, there are five games where two of their competitors play head to head guaranteeing one team a loss. Those games are:
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WK 14 OAK at KC
WK 15 LAC at KC
WK 17 JAX at TEN
WK 17 CIN at BAL
WK 17 OAK at LAC
The bad news…
The bad news is that they play the Patriots twice. Both will be extremely difficult games to win. Another negative is that they lose head to head tiebreakers against the Chargers and Bengals who they are competing with. They also will lose the tiebreaker to the Ravens due to conference record.
Four of their five remaining games are against divisional opponents which are always tougher and more physical games. They are harder to recover from and it will be tough sledding for the Bills. They also end the season on the road the last two weeks against the Patriots and Dolphins which will be no easy task if they need to win one or both those games to make the playoffs.
Finally, the predictions…
The Bills are competing with the Chiefs, Jaguars, Titans, Ravens, Bengals, Chargers, and Raiders. The Steelers and Patriots will finish as the top two seeds in my opinion and the only way the Bills are competing with them is if they sweep the Patriots which is highly unlikely. Using the ESPN playoff machine it’s time to predict the remainder of the season to see where the Bills will end up.
First I want to acknowledge that there were some games in the schedule I felt more confident in my picks than others. So I grouped my picks into the below categories:
Strong win = team has greater than 67 percent chance of win
Strong loss = team has less than 33 percent chance to win
anything else I considered up for grabs but picked who I thought had the edge
Let’s start with the Bills. I have them finishing the season 9-7. They have two strong losses to the Patriots, two strong wins (Colts and Dolphins at home) and one up for grabs win the last week of the season on the road in Miami. As you will see in the scenario below a win against the Patriots would be key to improving Buffalo’s chances.
Cincinnati Bengals (would finish 6-10 based on below and miss playoffs)
1 strong win (CHI)
3 strong losses (MIN, DET, PIT)
1 up for grabs loss (BAL)
Jacksonville Jaguars (would finish 11-5 based on below and 3rd seed in playoffs)
3 strong wins (IND, HOU, SF)
1 up for grabs win (TEN)
1 strong loss (SEA)
Oakland Raiders (would finish 7-9 based on below and miss playoffs)
1 strong win (NYG)
1 strong loss (PHI)
2 up for grabs losses (KC, LAC)
1 up for grabs win (DAL)
Los Angeles Chargers (would finish 10-6 based on below and 4th seed in playoffs)
4 strong wins (CLE, WAS, KC, NYJ)
1 up for grabs win (OAK)
Kansas City Chiefs (would finish 10-6 based on below and 5th seed in playoffs)
2 strong wins (NYJ, MIA)
2 up for grabs wins (DEN, OAK)
1 strong loss (LAC)
Tennessee Titans (would finish 10-6 based on below and 6th seed in playoffs)
2 strong wins (HOU, SF)
1 strong loss (LAR)
1 up for grabs win (ARI)
1 up for grabs loss (JAX)
Baltimore Ravens (would finish 9-7 based on below and miss playoffs)
1 up for grabs win (CIN)
1 up for grabs loss (DET)
1 strong loss (PIT)
2 strong wins (IND, CLE)
In the scenario above, the Bills would finish tied for 7th, the first spot out of the playoffs with Baltimore. However, a win against the Patriots this week would pull the Bills record up from 9-7 to 10-6 tying them with the Titans and Chiefs. The Bills win that three-way tiebreaker getting the fifth seed, the Chiefs end up with the sixth seed and the Titans get knocked out of the playoffs.
If the Titans beat the Jaguars on the last day of the season to win their division, in this same scenario the Jaguars would get the fifth seed but Buffalo would still make the playoffs with the sixth seed.
As you can see it’s a tougher road than it appears for the Bills to make the playoffs because so many other teams have winnable games left on their schedules. FiveThirtyEight.com has the Bills playoff chances at 30 percent currently. A more speculative percentage from NewYorkUpstate.com puts their chances at 25 percent. I wish I didn’t have to be negative but I see their chances as closer to 20 percent.
My reasoning is that I give the Bills about a 30 percent shot of beating the Patriots at home this week and if they do, they will still need to beat Miami twice, and the Colts once based on my other predictions which is why I settled on 20 percent which is a little lower than 30. It should be a fun end of the year push even if the Bills don’t make it. As I have written about recently, I’d advise you to just sit back and enjoy the ride while you can.