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Who To Root For

What Bills fans need to know about the 2021 AFC playoff race | Week 15


We'll start with the good news: The Bills' playoff destiny is still very much in their own hands with four games remaining.

The No. 1 seed in the AFC is all but off the table. But the Bills still have a 64-percent chance to make the playoffs, according to The New York Times playoff machine. They'll have over an 80-percent chance to make it if they win even three of their final four games.

The AFC East is still very much in play. If the Bills win out – which would include a Week 16 victory over the Patriots – they would have a 70-percent chance at a second straight division title.

Now, the more nerve-wracking news: Those odds hinge largely on what happens Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. A loss could drop the Bills' playoff odds to as low as 32 percent, which would put a whole lot of added pressure on their trip to Foxborough next weekend.

Of course, what happens around the NFL this weekend will have an impact as well. Here is your rooting guide for Week 15.

New England (9-4) at Indianapolis (7-6) – Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on NFL Network

The situation: So, here's the whopper. On one side is the Patriots, the Bills' sole competition in the AFC East. On the other, the Colts, one of the Bills' main opponents in the wild card field. Either outcome would help the Bills in one respect and hurt in another. 

What to root for: This comes down to a matter of personal philosophy. As we mentioned up top, the AFC East is still very much in play – but it might require winning out and getting a little bit of help. An Indianapolis win would be that help. But when it comes to Buffalo's best odds of simply getting into the playoffs, a New England win is the preferred outcome according to The Times. 

Tennessee (9-4) at Pittsburgh (6-6-1) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS

The situation: The Titans took care of business against the Texans last weekend, maintaining a two-game lead over the Colts in the AFC South. They travel to meet a desperate Steelers team facing long odds after falling to the Vikings. 

What to root for: A victory for Tennessee, which would all but eliminate one of the wild card hopefuls chasing the Bills. 

Cincinnati (7-6) at Denver (7-6) – Sunday at 4:05 p.m. on CBS

The situation: The Bengals and Broncos are two of five teams in the AFC currently tied at 7-6, along with the Bills, Browns, and Colts. 

What to root for: The Times gives a slight edge toward rooting for the Broncos, whom the Bills would hold a two-way tiebreaker over based on conference winning percentage (Buffalo is 5-5; Denver is 3-5). The Bengals are 5-3 in AFC play.

Green Bay at Baltimore (8-5) – Sunday at 4:25 p.m. on FOX

The situation: The Ravens host one of the NFC's premier teams with the status of quarterback Lamar Jackson in question. Jackson sustained an injury during a loss to the Browns last Sunday but has not been ruled out. 

What to root for: It would take a skid for the Ravens to fall out of the playoff field, but a difficult remaining schedule – including meetings with the Bengals, Rams, and Steelers – makes it possible. Root for the Packers to make the Ravens sweat a bit more. 

Las Vegas (6-7) at Cleveland (7-6) – Monday at 5 p.m. on NFL Network

The situation: This game was postponed from Saturday due to COVID-19 concerns. The Browns placed 14 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week, including quarterback Baker Mayfield. The stakes are high for two teams in the thick of the AFC wild card race. 

What to root for: A win for the Raiders, which would boost the Bills' playoff odds by up to five percent combined with a win over the Panthers.

Best-case scenarios:

To make the playoffs: Wins by the Bills, Raiders, Patriots, Titans, Broncos, and Packers would increase Buffalo's odds to roughly 82 percent. 

To win the AFC East: A win for the Bills combined with a win for the Colts would increase the Bills' odds to 34 percent with a trip to Foxborough looming next week. 

Worst-case scenario:

To make the playoffs: Wins by the Panthers, Colts, Browns, Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens would drop Buffalo's odds to roughly 32 percent.

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