Bills playoff picture: Breaking down Buffalo’s seeding scenarios for NFL bracket

The Bills entered Week 16 of the NFL season as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but the Steelers’ win Sunday knocked Buffalo down a notch. The Bills can reclaim that spot with a win on “Monday Night Football” against the Patriots. 

Buffalo enters Monday night with an 11-3 record, a half-game back of Pittsburgh but holding the tiebreaker. No matter what the Bills do in the season’s final two weeks, they’ve already clinched a playoff berth and the AFC East division title. Buffalo’s playoff seeding might not seem mightily important as long as the Bills are in the dance, but it could determine how favorable matchups are come January.

Here’s a look at how the Bills’ playoff positioning can change depending on the results of the their Week 16 (at Patriots) and 17 (vs. Dolphins) games.

1. Bills go 2-0 to finish 13-3

Possible seed: Clinches No. 2

If the Bills finish 13-3, they’ll be the No. 2 seed in the AFC no matter what Pittsburgh does in Week 17. That’s because the Bills hold the tiebreaker on the Steelers after beating them earlier this season.

The No. 2 seed would normally be huge because of the first-round bye it brings, but there’s no such bye in 2020. With the playoffs expanded to seven teams in each conference, only the top seed in the AFC gets a bye, and the Chiefs have already clinched that. 

Getting the No. 2 seed would ensure Buffalo two home games in the playoffs if it wins its first-round matchup.

NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: Updated AFC, NFC standings after Week 16

2. Bills split final two games to finish 12-4

Possible seeds: Either No. 2 or No. 3

In this scenario, Buffalo will finish in either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, depending on what Pittsburgh does in Week 17. Since the Bills hold the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Steelers (12-3), Pittsburgh would need to win its Week 17 game to finish with a higher win total than Buffalo to leapfrog the Bills.

The Steelers play the Browns in Week 17, while the Bills play the Dolphins. Both Cleveland and Miami will be fighting for their playoff lives against teams just jockeying for playoff seeding, so it wouldn’t be crazy to see one or both of the higher seeds lose in Week 17.

3. Bills drop both to finish 11-5

Possible seeds: Either No. 3 or No. 4

The nice thing about the Bills already clinching the AFC East is we know this: Buffalo won’t drop below the No. 4 seed in the AFC. The top four seeds all get at least one home game. The main problem with the 4-seed is this: A first-round win means a matchup with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who already beat the Bills once this year.

Whether Buffalo is the No. 3 or No. 4 seed in an 11-5 finish depends on the Titans. Tennessee holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on Buffalo, so if it won its final game in Houston to move to 11-5 and the Bills also finished 11-5, the Titans would be the 3-seed with Buffalo as the 4-seed. 

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