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The AFC road to Super Bowl XXV is looking more and more like a cold, snowy, icy trail through Buffalo.

At least, those are the conditions the Bills hope will prevail here in January.

At 10-2, they have the best record in the American Football Conference. The next-closest team is Eastern Division neighbor Miami, at 9-3. After that are Kansas City and the Los Angeles Raiders, both 8-4, followed by erratic Cincinnati at 7-5.

No other club is even worth mentioning.

Of course, the Bills have yet to officially claim a wild-card playoff spot, let alone their third consecutive division championship and home-field advantage through the post-season.

The only thing certain is that they can clinch a wild-card berth with a victory over Indianapolis this weekend.

But after Sunday's 30-23 over Philadelphia, it isn't unreasonable to say the Bills have the best chance of any team to represent the AFC when the Lombardi Trophy is on the line Jan. 27 at Tampa Stadium.

Especially if Rich Stadium, where the Bills have won 22 of their last 24 regular-season and playoff games, is the site of the AFC Championship showdown.

"We're looking forward to not just making the playoffs, but doing something in the playoffs," cornerback Nate Odomes said Monday.

"And that's the object -- to play at home. You don't want to go on the road to enemy territory."

"If we could get home-field advantage, that would be a big plus for us," linebacker Darryl Talley said. "We just seem to play a lot better at home than we do away. It's that simple."

Which is evident in the 10-13 regular-season and playoff record the Bills have posted in road games since 1988.

The easiest way the Bills can assure themselves of remaining at Rich in the playoffs is to finish the regular season with the best record in the AFC, tie-breakers and all. That also would guarantee them a division crown and first-round bye.

Most of the other scenarios seem to spell trouble since they involve a three-game journey to the Super Bowl and at least one road playoff game.

Because the NFL added a third wild-card team in each conference, the division champion with the third-best record will play host to the wild-card team with the third-best record on the weekend of Jan. 5-6. On the same weekend, the wild-card with the best record will play host to the wild-card with the second-best record.

Under the new setup the Bills could face a particularly painful situation if they don't win the East Division.

For instance, they could wind up tied with Miami for the best record in the AFC. But if they lose the division on a tie-breaker, they would host a wild-card game.

If they won that game, they would then travel to the home of one of the division champions with the two best records on the weekend of Jan. 12-13.

At present, the top five tie-breaking categories between the Bills and Dolphins shape up as follows:

Head-to-head: Miami, 1-0. The rematch is Dec. 23 at Rich.

Record in division: Bills 5-1, Miami 6-0.

Record in conference: Bills 8-2, Miami 8-1.

Record against common opponents: Bills 9-0, Miami 7-3.

Net points in division games: Bills 50, Miami 71.

"We're one game up on Miami, which is nice, and they have to play basically the same teams we do the rest of the year," linebacker Shane Conlan said. "But I was hoping Miami would keep winning so we'd have a real shoot-out here Dec. 23."

To a man, most Bills players expressed confidence the team, because of its greater maturity, wouldn't experience the late-season swoon of the previous two years.

Sunday's success in fending off a fierce Eagle rally went a long way toward enhancing that feeling.

"Everybody has got an unwilling-to-die spirit in them," Talley said. "As long as everybody won't quit, we've got a chance at anything. And down the home stretch, we're going to need that."

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