KC or LA: Bills playoff hopes will swing Saturday night

Bills fans watching the Chargers and Chiefs battle Saturday night may wonder who they should get behind. 

The real answer is we can't know until after the season, but it seems like a Chiefs win offers a more reasonable path to the postseason. 

All of the following is based on Buffalo finishing 9-7 win two wins over Miami. 

For the sake of cleaning up the scenarios, a point must be made about Buffalo's chance against the Titans. 

If the Titans finish 9-7 with a win over Jacksonville only, they would win a tiebreak with the Bills on AFC record. Tennessee would be 8-4 in conference and Buffalo would be 7-5. 

For the Bills to win a 9-7 tie that includes Tennessee, the Titans must go 1-1 over their next two games (at San Fran, home for the Rams) and lose at home against the Jags in the season finale. 

The rest of this article, we'll call that scenario the "Bills preferred 9-7". 

Now, if the Chiefs beat the Chargers Saturday night, the Bills make the playoffs with the Ravens beating Cleveland this week and losing one of their final two games (vs. Indy, vs. Cincy) OR the Titans finishing a Bills preferred 9-7. That's it. 

Even if the Chargers win their last two to post 9-7, adding either Tennessee or Baltimore to the tie with Buffalo negates LA's win over the Bills. The next tiebreak is AFC record and the Chargers would have six losses, one more than everyone else in the tie. They'd be the first ones out. 

Whether the Bills are left with the Titans or Ravens after eliminating LA doesn't matter--Buffalo is a playoff team either way. A three-way Bills, Titans, Ravens 9-7 tie would still work with Baltimore and Buffalo in the postseason. 

What the Bills don't want in this scenario is one of Baltimore and Tennessee finishing 10-6 and the other finishing 8-8. That would leave the Bills and Chargers all alone in a tie for the final playoff spot and LA would advance thanks to their head to head win. 

If the Chargers win Saturday night, the Bills would get in if Baltimore and/or Tennessee finish 8-8. Otherwise, two of the following three would need to happen:

--Another loss by Kansas City (home for Miami, at Denver)

--Bills preferred 9-7 from Tennessee

--Ravens lose one of their last two

In this scenario, the Bills don't mind an 8-8 from the Titans or Ravens because Buffalo has the head to head win against Kansas City.

However, the Chiefs can bypass that head to head deficiency in a three-way tie. At 9-7, the Chiefs would be 7-5 in conference just like the Bills (and Titans or Ravens in the above scenario). 

The next tiebreak is common games, but there aren't enough of them among the tied teams.

That brings us to strength of victory. The Chiefs opened the season with wins over New England and Philly. It makes them unbeatable in any three-way tie. 

A Chiefs win Saturday leaves the Bills needing a specific, but very doable finish from Tennessee to make the playoffs. Baltimore tripping up late or a double 8-8 collapse by the Ravens and Titans are the backup plans. 

If LA snatches a road win Saturday, then Buffalo might be counting on an 8-8 collapse by Tennessee or Baltimore as the "A" plan. The only other way in is a reasonable, but more complex set of variables falling together properly. 

The Bills will have a solid playoff chance either way as long as they knock off Miami Sunday. The chance will require less games to go their way and, arguably, be more likely if the Chiefs can do Saturday what they couldn't do with Buffalo: win a big game at home. 


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