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What Bills need to make playoffs if they lose to Patriots and beat Dolphins

The Bills got some help in the wild-card race Sunday, but still need more help to end their postseason drought.

The Bills took care of business on their end, beating the Dolphins to improve to 8-6. The Ravens followed suit, beating the Browns to stay level with the Bills in the wild-card race, but the Titans lost to the 49ers on a last-second field goal to drop to 8-6, creating a three-way tie for both wild-card positions.

The Bills could still win out and not make the playoffs, but that only happens in one scenario. That would involve the Titans and Ravens winning out with the Jaguars losing out, which would propel the Titans to the AFC South title and give the Jags and Ravens the wild-card spots. If the Bills, Titans and Ravens all win out and the Jaguars still win the division, the Titans miss out.

In most other scenarios, the Bills have a decent chance of making the playoffs. Here's a look at what the Bills would need to qualify if they lost to the Patriots in Week 16 but beat the Dolphins in the finale to finish 9-7:

(Note: The current standings are based on incomplete tiebreakers, so don't pay too much attention to where the Bills fall currently. The Titans finish with the Rams and Jaguars (both 10-4) and the Ravens close against the Colts (3-11) and Bengals (5-9).)

Bills tie with Ravens

If the Titans win out and the Bills and Ravens tie for the final playoff spot at 9-7 ... the Bills almost certainly get in as long as they beat the Dolphins. The Bills and Ravens would be tied on conference record and tied on common opponents. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, which is the combined win-loss record of the teams you've beaten, and the Bills have a sizable lead on this stat. However, if the Bills beat the Patriots but lose to the Dolphins, the Ravens would have the edge in common games.

What the Bills need most: A Ravens loss. The Bills win a two-team tiebreaker with the Ravens at 9-7.

Bills tie with Titans

If the Ravens win out to finish fifth and the Bills and Titans split their final two games to finish 9-7 and tie for the final wild-card spot ... the Bills getting in would depend on which game the Titans lose. The Titans are currently ahead on conference record, 7-4 to 6-4, so the Bills would need them to lose their one remaining AFC game, against the Jaguars in Week 17. If the Bills and Titans tie in that scenario, the Bills would have the edge on record against common opponents (as long as they beat the Dolphins). But if the Titans lose to the Rams and beat the Jaguars, the Titans have the edge based on conference record.

What the Bills need most: A Titans loss to the Jaguars in Week 17. The Bills lose a two-way tie to the Titans if the Titans beat the Jags.

Bills tie with Chargers

This scenario is unlikely, but if either the Ravens or Titans win out and the other loses out, the Bills split and the Chargers win out without passing the Chiefs for the division lead ... the Bills and Chargers would be tied for the final wild-card spot at 9-7, and the Chargers would have the edge based on their head-t0-head win. This assumes the Chiefs don't lose out, because if that happened in this scenario, the Chargers would win the AFC West and the Chiefs would miss at 8-8. The Chiefs win a tie with the Chargers at 9-7.

The Chargers close with the Jets (5-9) and Raiders (6-8), so they could get to 9-7, but a two-way tie is the only way the Chargers could pass the Bills in the wild card. The Chargers would be the first team eliminated in any multi-team tiebreaker due to their conference record.

What the Bills need most: A Chargers loss, or everything else not falling into place. The Bills lose a two-way tie with the Chargers.

Three-team tie with Ravens and Titans

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Three-way scenarios are more complicated but may come into play. Teams can be separated from three-way ties one at a time, and if two teams remain, the tiebreaker reverts back to the start of the two-team tiebreakers instead of continuing down the three-team tiebreakers.

If all three teams tie for both wild-card spots at 9-7 ... playoff order would depend on which game the Titans lose, but the Bills would advance from this scenario. These teams haven't all played each other so the first tiebreaker is conference record. The Bills and Ravens would be tied on that but the Titans could have an edge if they beat the Jaguars. Then the Bills would likely beat the Ravens, as long as they beat the Dolphins in Week 17.

If all three teams tie on conference record, the next tiebreaker would be record in common games. All three teams will have five games against the Raiders, Dolphins, Colts and Bengals. The Bills and Ravens will be 4-1 and the Titans will be 3-2, so the Bills are Ravens would go back to the two-team tiebreaker for the fifth playoff spot and the Bills would likely win. Then the Ravens and Titans would compete for the sixth spot, and Titans would get in based on their head-to-head win.

What the Bills need most: A loss from the Ravens and Titans. The Bills advance from a three-way tie with this group at 9-7.

Three- or four-team tie that includes the Chargers

Again, the Chargers would likely be the first team eliminated in any multi-team tie due to their conference record. The remaining teams in this tied group would be sorted using the scenarios above.

The Jaguars or Chiefs being passed for the division lead

If the Jaguars or Chiefs win again, they'll clinch their respective division. The only way they could be passed is if they lose out. In the Chiefs' case, that would mean they'd finish 8-8 and would be behind the Bills at 9-7. If the Jaguars lose out and the Titans win out, the Titans win the division and the Jaguars would get the first wild-card spot at 10-6. Then the Bills would be competing with the Ravens and/or Chargers.

So there are only three ways the Bills can beat the Dolphins and miss the playoffs:

  • Going 10-6 but being beaten by the 10-6 Ravens and 10-6 Jaguars while the 10-6 Titans win the AFC South.
  • Going 9-7 but losing a two-team tie with the 9-7 Titans if the Titans lose to the Rams but beat the Jaguars.
  • Going 9-7 but losing a two-team tie with the 9-7 Chargers while the Chiefs win the AFC West and the Ravens or Titans lose out.

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