BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – With three weeks to go in the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills are two games behind the Miami Dolphins for first place in the AFC East. Yet, they still have a reasonable path to win their fourth straight division title.
Here’s how the Bills can win the division and secure a home playoff game.
Before we dive into scenarios, first examine the opponents each team has left on the schedule.
Bills: at Chargers (5-9), vs. Patriots (3-11), at Dolphins (10-4).
Dolphins: vs. Cowboys (10-4), at Ravens (11-3), vs. Bills (8-6).
Looking simply at record, the Bills appear to have fairly winnable games in Weeks 16 and 17 while the Dolphins face two difficult opponents. Then, the teams square off in the season finale.
In order to pass the Dolphins in the standings, the Bills need two main things to happen. These apply to any scenario in which the Bills win the division.
First: The Dolphins must lose at least one of their games prior to the Week 18 showdown, either against the Cowboys or Ravens. (If the Dolphins win both, they will clinch the division.)
Second: The Bills must beat the Dolphins in Week 18. If the Bills lose the regular-season finale in Miami, they cannot win the division title.
What else needs to happen
If you factor in a Bills win in Week 18, the Bills would still need to make up at least one more game in the standings.
That means if the Dolphins beat either the Cowboys or Ravens and lose the other game, the Bills would need to win all of their remaining games to win the division.
If the Dolphins were to lose to both the Cowboys and Ravens, the Bills would still be alive for the division title even if they lost a game against the Chargers or Patriots.
OK, give me the scenarios
Now that we’ve gone over the mechanics of what needs to happen, here are the scenarios where the Bills would win the division. Remember that both of these require the Bills beating the Dolphins in Week 18.
The simplest scenario: The Bills win out + the Dolphins lose to the Cowboys OR Ravens = Bills win the AFC East with an 11-6 record.
The other way it could happen: The Dolphins lose all three remaining games + the Bills win at least two of their remaining games = Bills win the AFC East with a 10-7 or 11-6 record.
What are the odds of this happening?
With a two-game lead, the Dolphins remain betting favorites to win the division.
FanDuel lists the Dolphins as -230 favorites to win the AFC East and gives the Bills +205 odds. DraftKings sees the Dolphins as slightly bigger favorites, giving them -270 odds and paying +210 on the Bills. That means a $100 bet on the Bills to win the division would win $210 at DraftKings.
What about the wild card?
If the Bills don’t win the division, they can still make the playoffs as a wild card. They’d need to keep winning games and get a little help in the standings.
As it stands now, winning all three remaining games wouldn’t guarantee the Bills a playoff spot (which the NFL confirmed to WIVB this week), but almost every other result over the final three weeks would have to go against the Bills for them to miss the playoffs with an 11-6 record.
Check back next week for an updated look at the Bills’ playoff outlook.