Bills’ playoff hopes looking good before Thanksgiving

Bills quarterback Josh Allen reaches out to pick-up a first down as Broncos defensive lineman Dre’Mont James makes the tackle in the first quarter during Sunday’s game at New Era Field.

This article has never appeared prior to Thanksgiving, but due to Buffalo’s current record ahead of tomorrow’s game at Dallas, it’s time to take an early look at the Bills’ playoff odds this season.

So far, so (pretty) good for Buffalo as it takes an 8-3 mark and a roughly 81-82 percent chance of making the playoffs into today’s game. Not bad, and certainly higher than it has been entering Week 13 in recent seasons.

According to the New York Times playoff simulator, Buffalo’s playoff odds currently stand at 82 percent. The Bills are currently locked into the No. 5 seed, two games ahead of the AFC’s sixth seed (currently Pittsburgh) yet two games behind New England for the AFC East division lead. That said, the Bills are in a good position for a Wild Card berth. They aren’t completely out of the division race yet, but we have all seen how that has gone in the past.

Now the Bills do have five pretty tough games remaining – at Dallas (6-5), vs. Baltimore (9-2), vs. Pittsburgh (6-5), at New England (10-1), vs. the New York Jets (4-7). They won’t be favored in many of them, but in all likelihood the Bills will have to win (a minimum) of two in order to play in January.

This week, a Buffalo win (irrespective of any other results from around the league) would increase the team’s odds to 93-94 percent even before any game on Sunday. Buffalo is the only AFC team playing tomorrow, and it would be benefited if most of the 6-5 teams in contention (Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Oakland) all lose their games. Because Tennessee plays at Indianapolis and both are 6-5, one of them (barring a tie) would get to 7-5. It would be better for Buffalo it that team is Tennessee, because the Bills beat the Titans head-to-head so Tennessee would not be a huge issue. New England losing to Houston would also help out, but again Buffalo winning the AFC East is not all that plausible.

Meanwhile, a Buffalo loss would drop their odds to somewhere between 73 and 76 percent. Even with a loss tomorrow, Buffalo would still have a three-in-four chance of qualifying for the playoffs. All the 6-5 teams winning would put them one game behind (in this case) 7-4 Buffalo.

In short, a win tomorrow would put the Bills in a prime spot to clinch a playoff spot, and they would be able to clinch a spot as early as Week 14 if they could beat Baltimore as well. A loss tomorrow would not be killer, but it would make life a little harder when one of the top teams in the AFC comes to Orchard Park on Dec. 8.

Call it an easy schedule, call it whatever you like. Buffalo has put itself in a good position to clinch a playoff spot this season for the second time in three seasons, and this time it wouldn’t take a miracle pass in another game for Buffalo to sneak in. At 82 percent odds, it would be disappointing at this point if Buffalo doesn’t get in despite the hard schedule to conclude the year. Buffalo needs two wins over its last five to be a certain playoff lock. One win may get the Bills in as well, but the odds are far less likely. Buffalo hasn’t won 10 games in a season since 1998 and doing that this season would put them in the playoffs. Enjoy your turkey and hope for a Bills win tomorrow as it would catapult Buffalo ever-so-closer to the postseason.

BEST CASE SCENARIO THIS WEEK

— Buffalo over Dallas

— Tennessee over Indianapolis

— Cleveland over Pittsburgh

— Kansas City over Oakland

— Houston over New England

Some combination of those would suit the Bills just perfectly. If all five happen, Buffalo’s odds improve to roughly 96 percent. Buffalo would be three games clear of the team in seventh place (Cleveland, though the Bills lost to the Browns head-to-head), and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over team in sixth place in this case, Tennessee. Also, the Bills would only be one game back of New England with a head-to-head meeting remaining.

WORST CASE SCENARIO THIS WEEK

— Dallas over Buffalo

— Indianapolis over Tennessee

— Pittsburgh over Cleveland

— Oakland over Kansas City

— New England over Houston

Buffalo’s odds would drop to roughly 72 percent, and the Bills would only be one game ahead of the team as far down as eighth-place (in this case, Kansas City). The Bills would also be three games back of New England with four games left, all but ending any hopes of possibly winning the division.

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