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Where the Bills stand in the playoff picture after today's games

Print this out, ball it up, and throw it in the trash. It's over.

Raiders 26, Bills 24.

All scenarios of Buffalo making the playoffs were contingent on it winning its last two games, the second of which (next week at New England) had the raised the most concern.

The story below explained where Buffalo was entering the game against the Raiders, who are now 3-12.

* * * 

In order to make the NFL playoffs, the Buffalo Bills need to win their last two games and get some help from other teams.

After not getting help Saturday night, they got some big help on Sunday afternoon.

In Sunday's 1 p.m. games, it got some help from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans.

Pittsburgh defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-12. That clinched a playoff spot for the Steelers, who will take a wild-card spot if they do not win the AFC North.

Those two games averted a possible scenario in which the Bills would have been all but eliminated from the playoff race before they even kicked off against Oakland at 4:25 p.m.

That scenario was in play after the Bills did not get any help from the San Francisco 49ers Saturday night. The Niners led twice by 21 points, but ultimately lost to the San Diego Chargers, 38-35, in overtime after midnight Buffalo time on Saturday night.

That moved San Diego to 9-6 overall and kept the Chargers' own postseason hopes alive. That was bad news for the Bills, particularly because Buffalo lost to the Chargers this year and would likely lose out on a head-to-head tiebreaker if both teams finish the regular season with the same records.

The New England Patriots have clinched the AFC East title, so the Bills' only hope is for one of the AFC's two wild-card spots.

The Bills' chances have been unlikely due to its two road games left (today at Oakland, then its finale at New England) and it's current eighth-place standing.

However, there are still ways the Bills can get to the playoffs.

What the Bills need to make the playoffs: 

  • The Bills win their last two to finish 10-6
  • Kansas City beats San Diego next week, leaving both KC and SD at 9-7
  • Cincinnati loses its last two games (Monday night vs. Denver and next week at Pittsburgh) to finish 9-6-1 OR Baltimore loses its finale next week vs. Cleveland to finish 9-7.

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Here are the current AFC standings.

Who's in the playoffs for good: 

1. z-New England    12-3    clinched AFC East championship
2. z-Denver               11-3    clinched AFC West championship
3. z-Indianapolis     10-4    clinched AFC South championship

Who's in the playoffs right now:

4. Cincinnati            9-4-1    leads AFC North
5. Pittsburgh              10-5    clinched at least a wild-card spot
6. San Diego               9-6    wins tiebreaker with Baltimore based on head-to-head win; would win tiebreaker over Buffalo based on head-to-head win (22-10 on Sept. 21)

Who's out of the playoffs right now:
7. Baltimore                 9-6
8. Buffalo                     8-6
9. Houston                   8-7  wins tiebreak with KC and Miami due to higher conference winning percentage
9. Kansas City              8-7    would win a tiebreaker over both San Diego and Buffalo (17-13 on Nov. 9) based on head-to-head wins; also owns head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami
10. Miami                     8-7

Here are the remaining schedules among the major teams in the hunt:

Week 16
Today
Pittsburgh 20, Kansas City 12
Houston 25, Baltimore 13
Buffalo at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Monday
Denver at Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m.

Week 17
Sunday, Dec. 28
Buffalo at New England, 1 p.m.
Cleveland at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
San Diego at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

Obviously the most likely path to the playoffs for the Bills would have them winning their final two games to go to 10-6.

* However, if Baltimore and Kansas City had won their 1 p.m. games today, things would have looked extremely bleak for the Bills, even if they finished 10-6.

Baltimore would be 10-5, Kansas City would be 9-6 along with San Diego and Pittsburgh. It appears that in this scenario, the Bills would have only made the playoffs by finishing 10-6, getting help (a Cincinnati loss Monday night) PLUS having the Week 17 game between Kansas City and San Diego end in a TIE.

We'll update this post with more scenarios as they become available.

Have fun figuring out your own choose-your-own-adventure possibilities (you can spell them out in the comments section below).

The scenarios listed above don't get into tiebreaker situations too deeply -- those would likely mean bad news for the Bills. In addition to head-to-head losses to San Diego and Kansas City, Buffalo's 4-6 conference record is the worst among the six teams listed above. For wild-card spots, the second tiebreaker (after head-to-head) is conference record. That's why the Bills, even at 10-6, would lose out to other contenders.

Some of this information was culled from NFL.com and ESPN.com, which have full conference records and more tiebreaker specifics.

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