The Bills are on the brink of making the playoffs for the third time in four seasons with Sean McDermott as head coach. But after two wild-card berths behind New England in 2017 and 2019, Buffalo is ready to elevate to status of AFC East champion — for the first time in 25 years.
Going into their Week 15 game favored at the Broncos, the Bills (10-3) have yet to clinch at least another wild-card spot in the top-heavy AFC. They don’t need to much more to officially get into the Super Bowl tournament again, but here’s a breakdown of what’s right in front of them and how high the Bills can go in the seeding:
What happens if the Bills beat the Broncos?
The Bills, two games up on the Dolphins, would win the division with a win in Denver on Saturday night, regardless of what Miami does against New England on Sunday. Even if the Dolphins win out, including winning at the Bills in Week 17, they would have no chance to catch up.
The Bills have a 4-0 record in AFC East play, still needing to play the Patriots and Dolphins. The Dolphins at 2-2, at best can finish 4-2 to tie the Bills. But the Bills would have a 6-2 record in common games, the next tiebreaker. The Dolphins already have three losses in that department, to the Seahawks, Chiefs and Broncos.
The Patriots, at 6-7, were eliminated from winning another division title in Week 14.
What happens if the Bills lose to the Broncos?
The Bills can still clinch the AFC East in Week 15 here if the Dolphins lose to the Patriots. They also would clinch a playoff spot if the Ravens lose the Jaguars on Sunday, a far less likely event.
While winning in Week 15 sews up everything, losing can put everything on hold for another week.
How high of a AFC playoff seed can the Bills get?
The Bills are long shots to get to No. 1 ahead of the Chiefs (12-1). The Chiefs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker and lead by two games, which means the Chiefs would need to lose out and the Bills would need to win out. That also assumes the Steelers (11-2), whom the Bills beat in Week 14, also lose one game.
The Bills have a more realistic shot at jumping the Steelers because they just need to catch them. The Bills would need to win one more game than the Steelers in the final three to climb to No. 2. That seed doesn’t mean as much in 2020, because only No. 1 gets a bye along with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Bills are looking good to at least keep No. 3, but they can’t rest there, either, because they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Titans. So if the Titans win the AFC South and have the same record as the Bills, the Titans would push them down to No. 4.
The Colts (9-4) are in a virtual tie with the Titans, however, and can steal that division. The Bills’ conference record is two games better than the Colts at 7-2. With only three games left and the Bills one game up, it is hard to see the Colts jumping the Bills, especially because the Colts still need to play the Steelers. The Titans also have a hard Week 16 game at the Packers to think they will lose at least once more.
Can the Bills still miss the playoffs?
Mathematically, yes. Factually, no. There are too many things that need to go wrong for them and right for everyone else, starting with the Dolphins, to see them miss out on the postseason. The Bills getting to 10 wins in Week 14 increased their chances to as close to 100 percent as possible.