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AFC postseason outlook following Week 12, plus what Bills fans should root for

The Buffalo Bills are "out of mulligans," as coach Rex Ryan put it, in regards to the AFC postseason race.

With five games remaining, the Bills might need to win out to have a chance at ending a 15-year postseason drought. A 4-1 finish would give them a fighting chance, and seems required at this point.

That's bad news for a team that hasn't had more than a two-game winning streak after Nov. 1 since 2004, as 13WHAM Sports Director Mike Catalana pointed out on Twitter.

With Week 12 now in the books, here is a complete look at the AFC standings, along with the remaining games for each team, the chances that team has to make the playoffs according to The New York Times' playoff simulator and what Bills fans should hope that team does in Week 13.

1. New England (10-1).

Remaining schedule: Philadelphia, at Houston, Tennessee, at New York Jets, at Miami.

Chance will make playoffs: Greater than 99 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: New England beats Houston in Week 14 and the New York Jets in Week 16.

2. Cincinnati (9-2).

Remaining schedule: at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, at San Francisco, at Denver, Baltimore.

Chance will make playoffs: Greater than 99 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The Bengals beat Pittsburgh in Week 14.

3. Denver (9-2).

Remaining schedule: at San Diego, Oakland, at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, at San Diego.

Chance will make playoffs: 99 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The Broncos beat the Raiders in Week 14 and the Steelers in Week 15.

4. Indianapolis (6-5).

Remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh, at Jacksonville, Houston, at Miami, Tennessee.

Chance will make playoffs: 66 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The Colts beat Pittsburgh on Sunday and the Texans in Week 15.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5).

Remaining schedule: at Oakland, San Diego, at Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland.

Chance will make playoffs: 91 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: Kansas City picking up the head-to-head win over the Bills was huge Sunday. The Chiefs have what amounts to a two-game lead over Buffalo because of it. If the Chiefs go 3-2 the rest of the way – which seems like a good possibility given their schedule – the Bills would have to go 5-0 to pass them. If Kansas City goes 2-3, Buffalo could pass them with a 4-1 record. The Chiefs also own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Steelers. Regardless, the best-case scenario for the Bills would be for Kansas City to lose out. We didn't say it would be a "likely," scenario, just what would be best for the Bills.

6. Houston Texans (6-5).

Remaining schedule: at Buffalo, New England, at Indianapolis, at Tennessee, Jacksonville.

Chance will make playoffs: 42 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The Texans bring a four-game winning streak into Sunday's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Obviously, losing out would be the best for the Bills, but even a two-game losing streak starting Sunday would be greatly beneficial to Buffalo.


7. New York Jets (6-5).

Remaining schedule: at New York Giants, Tennessee, at Dallas, New England, at Buffalo.

Chance will make playoffs: 25 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: A loss to the Giants on Sunday would be big for the Bills. Because of their Week 10 win over the Jets, Buffalo can go into Week 17 a game behind New York and still control its own destiny with the opportunity to sweep the season series. So even if New York loses just once the next four weeks, the Bills can pass them in the standings if they win three of their next four. It's not particularly important where the loss comes.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5).

Remaining schedule: Indianapolis, at Cincinnati, Denver, at Baltimore, at Cleveland.

Chance will make playoffs: 58.7 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The Steelers have all AFC games remaining. The Bills have just two AFC games left, and can at best have a 7-5 conference record. Pittsburgh is currently 3-4 in the conference, and can at best finish 9-4. If the Steelers finish 3-2 in conference games, the Bills will hold that tiebreaker, so if Buffalo goes 4-1, it needs Pittsburgh to go no better than 3-2. Where the losses come isn't that important, just as long as two of them come.

9. Oakland (5-6).

Remaining schedule: Kansas City, at Denver, Green Bay, San Diego, at Kansas City.

Chance will make playoffs: 5 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The Raiders have a 5-3 record with four conference games remaining. If they also go 4-1 down the stretch, they'd beat out the Bills if both teams finished 9-7 based on a better conference record. That means the Bills need two losses from the Raiders somewhere in their last five games.

10. Buffalo (5-6).

Remaining schedule: Houston, at Philadelphia, at Washington, Dallas, New York Jets.

Chance will make playoffs: 25 percent.

Analysis: As laid out above, catching the Chiefs is a tall task. So let's focus on the sixth playoff spot. To get there, a 4-1 record seems necessary. Two of those wins have to come against Houston and the Jets. It doesn't really matter where the other two come from, but given the Bills' struggles in stringing wins together, a loss in Washington wouldn't be the end of the world. Getting to 4-1 doesn't guarantee the Bills get in, but based on the Times' simulator, if that scenario plays out (including the loss to Washington), they would have a 67 percent chance to make the playoffs. If they win out, the chance increases to 78 percent. That's far from controlling your own destiny, but that's the position the Bills have put themselves in. Their playoff chances took a huge hit Sunday, and now only a terrific closing stretch of the season – and some help – will end a 15-year playoff drought.

If the Bills do their part, they'd need Houston and the Jets to lose one other game, and the Steelers and Raiders to lose twice. The hard part? That's the 4-1 record the Bills will need in this scenario.

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7).

Remaining schedule: at Tennessee, Indianapolis, Atlanta, at New Orleans, at Houston.

Chance will make playoffs: 2 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: If the Bills get to 9-7, Jacksonville needs to just lose one game. If they can beat the Texans in Week 17, that could help the Bills.

12. Baltimore Ravens (4-7).

Remaining schedule: at Miami, Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati.

Chance will make playoffs: Less than 1 percent.

Best-case scenario: Baltimore could give the Bills a hand with wins against the Chiefs in Week 15 and Steelers in Week 16.

13. Miami Dolphins (4-7).

Remaining schedule: Baltimore, New York Giants, at San Diego, Indianapolis, New England.

Chance will make playoffs: Less than 1 percent percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: The only game that could seemingly play any part in helping the Bills is against the Colts in Week 16, but that seems only slightly more possible than the Dolphins' playoff chances. Again, just one Miami loss would put them behind the Bills if they can reach our projected 9-7 record.




14. San Diego Chargers (3-8).

Remaining schedule: Denver, at Kansas City, Miami, at Oakland, at Denver.

Chance will make playoffs: Less than 1 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: Victories over the Dolphins, Chiefs and Raiders would be good for Buffalo.

15. Cleveland Browns (2-9).

Remaining schedule: Cincinnati, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh.

Chance will make playoffs: Less than 1 percent.

Best-case scenario for Bills: Mike Pettine gives old friend Rex Ryan a parting gift in what is likely is last game as Browns coach by beating the Steelers.

16. Tennessee Titans (2-9).

Remaining schedule: Jacksonville, at New York Jets, at New England, Houston, at Indianapolis.

Chance will make playoffs: Less than 1 percent.

Analysis: The Titans could play spoilers against the Jets, Texans or Colts. Beating all three would be good for the Bills.


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