For only the second time during the Drought, the Bills will still have a chance to make the playoffs when they play their final game of the season.
Now, the question is... how do they get in?
Buffalo still does not control their own destiny, though two more wins would almost certainly mean a playoff spot.
The only way the Bills miss the playoffs at 10-6 is if Baltimore wins their last two, Tennessee wins their last two and Jacksonville loses their last two. All four teams would end up 10-6.
The Titans would have a sweep of the Jags and win the AFC South. The wild card tie would be JAX/BAL/BUF for two spots.
Jacksonville already has nine conference wins. Buffalo and Baltimore can't finish with more than eight, so the Jags get the first wild card.
Baltimore would beat Buffalo because of a better record in common games (MIA/OAK/CIN/IND). The Ravens would be 5-0 and the Bills 4-1.
Other than that, 10-6 works fine for the Bills.
Buffalo cannot be eliminated this weekend, even if they lose to the Patriots. They also can't clinch a playoff spot this week.
The only way Buffalo can control their own destiny week 17 is to beat New England. The Bills are "win and in" for the final week with a win over NE and a Ravens loss or Titans loss or Jags win this week.
If the men of Orchard Park lose to New England and still beat Miami, there are three paths to the playoffs. The Bills would need:
One Ravens loss (they host Indy and Cincy) OR
A Titans win this week vs. the Rams and a loss next week vs. Jacksonville OR
Two Titans losses and one Chargers loss (at the Jets, home for the Raiders)
Both of the Ravens' final two games are against common opponents with the Bills. If Baltimore loses one, that evens the common games records at 4-1 for both.
The next tiebreak is strength of victory and the Bills are dominating. The nine teams we are projecting Buffalo to beat currently have won 51 games combined. Baltimore's strength of victory total can't be higher than 41. There's almost no way Buffalo loses this lead.
The Bills are dead against the Titans if they beat Jacksonville. It would give Tennessee eight conference wins. Buffalo can only finish 7-5 in conference if they are 9-7 overall.
If Tennessee loses to the Jags to square the conference records, the Bills win thanks to common games. Buffalo would be 4-1 vs MIA/OAK/IND/CIN. The Titans are 3-2.
However, if Tennessee collapses to finish 8-8, it opens the door to the Chargers.
L.A. has the head to head tiebreak with the Bills thanks to the 54-24 shellacking Philip Rivers and company delivered Buffalo just before Thanksgiving. If Tennessee is 8-8 and Baltimore is 10-6, L.A. would get the final playoff spot over the Bills with both at 9-7.
BillsMafia is hoping for a three-way tie. A 9-7 Tennessee team negates the head to head factor because the Titans and Chargers did not face each other.
The Chargers would be eliminated on the next tiebreak: conference record. L.A. can't do better than 6-6 in the AFC. Buffalo and Tennessee would both be 7-5. After the Lightning Bolts get zapped, Buffalo would get in over Tennessee as stated above.
If Buffalo were to somehow beat New England then lose to Miami (the Billsiest finish of them all), it actually would be worse for their playoff chances.
The extra loss against Miami knocks Buffalo's common games record down to 3-2 and that comes into play against Baltimore and Tennessee.
The Ravens would win a 9-7 tie with Buffalo because their 4-1 common games record is now a trump card. In this case, the Bills need two Ravens losses and an 8-8 finish to get a wild card spot ahead of Baltimore.
Buffalo and Tennessee would have identical 3-2 common games records in this scenario, so now we're back to strength of victory.
Projecting a Buffalo win over New England instead of Miami bumps their strength of victory number to 56. Tennessee, with a win over the Rams and a loss to Jacksonville, would be at 51.
The only adjustment to scenario two from above is the Bills need the Titans to 9-7 Buffalo's way AND the Bills need to hold their strength of victory lead. A five game lead with two weeks to go is not insurmountable, but it's fairly safe.
It's seems unlikely a suddenly energized Ravens team loses at home to the moribound Colts or the Bengals with a Dead Man Walking head coach.
The best chance for Buffalo likely lies with the Titans or Chargers. The Rams will be on the road a second straight week, traveling cross country, playing a 1pm game and coming off an emotional, franchise altering win. There's gotta be a letdown. Maybe it's enough to allow Tennessee to sneak a win.
L.A. pays a visit to the Bryce Petty-led Jets this weekend. Hard to expect an upset there, but the Chargers close at home against the Raiders. Oakland is dangerous and will have zero pressure. Maybe it's enough to pick off the Chargers and do Khalil Mack's hometown team a favor.
The Bills have their best playoff chance since 2004, and easily their second best during the Drought.
Buffalo can end all the suffering with a win in Miami and just one more break.
U of R grad returns home
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo…
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