Buffalo Bills: Playoff Scenarios – Potential No. 2 Seed or Elimination

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The Bills travel to Miami to face the Dolphins where the winner will be crowned AFC East champion.

Buffalo might have the most interesting situation of any team entering the final week. They could be as high as the two seed, but also miss the playoffs altogether. They are a team nobody wants to face and has legit Super Bowl upside but might miss the dance. 

Here’s everything you need to know about their playoff scenarios:

How the Bills can clinch

There are five ways the Bills could clinch a playoff spot

  1. Win at Dolphins clinches AFC East title and two seed
  2. Tie clinches a playoff spot
  3. Steelers loss/tie clinches playoff spot
  4. Jaguars loss/tie clinches playoff spot
  5. Texans-Colts tie clinches playoff spot

Those are a lot of outs, and they could enter their game on Sunday night having already clinched a playoff spot with a Steelers or Jaguars loss (or tie). Yup, so if the Steelers lose in Baltimore on Saturday (4:30 ET), Buffalo is in. If the Jaguars lose at the Titans on Sunday afternoon, Buffalo is in. 

You can see why Buffalo has an 89 percent chance to make the postseason according to SportsLine projections. 

Of course, the Steelers (3.5-point favorite vs. a Ravens team that is probably resting starters) and Jaguars (5.5-point favorite vs. 5-11 Titans) could easily both win, leaving it up to the Bills to win in Miami. 

It’s kind of nuts that we are even talking about a winner-take-all game for the AFC East title considering the Bills were three games back of the Dolphins with five games to play. They could be the fourth team in NFL history to win a division after they were three games back with five weeks remaining, joining the 1973 Bengals, 2008 Chargers and 2022 Jaguars.

How the Bills can be eliminated

On the flip side, the Bills would be eliminated with a loss, plus wins by both the Jaguars and Steelers, as long as the Colts-Texans game doesn’t end in a tie. Considering what almost happened with the Raiders and Chargers in the 2021 regular season finale, you have to beware of all the doomsday tie scenarios. 

How would this scenario eliminate Buffalo? There would be three 10-7 teams for the final two Wild Card spots (1. Winner of Colts-Texans, 2. Steelers, 3. Bills) and the Colts-Texans winner and Steelers would both get in thanks to a better conference record than Buffalo. 

This all means Buffalo and its fans are in for a rollercoaster of emotions. They are the ninth team since 1990 to enter the final week of the regular season with a chance to be the two seed but also miss the playoffs entirely (h/t Pro Football researcher Ivan Urena).

If you look at the list below you’ll notice that none of those teams actually got the two seed, but only two missed the playoffs.

Could be Two Seed or Miss Playoffs Entering Final Week Since 1990 Result

1994 Patriots

AFC 5 seed

2000 Dolphins

AFC 3 seed

2001 Jets

AFC 6 seed

2002 Dolphins

Missed playoffs

2013 Saints

NFC 6 seed

2016 Lions

NFC 6 seed

2018 Ravens

AFC 4 seed

2018 Titans

Missed playoffs

2023 Bills

?

There’s so much for Buffalo to gain, but also so much to lose this week, making it a perfect appetizer for playoff football. 

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