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Who To Root For

What Bills fans need to know about the 2021 AFC playoff race | Week 16


Welcome to AFC East Championship Week.

OK, so Sunday's game between the Bills and the New England Patriots isn't exactly for the division crown. While the Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Dolphins loss, the Bills would still need to win their final two games against the Falcons and Jets to guarantee a second straight title.

Still, there's no doubting the magnitude of the game. While the Bills enter Week 16 with a roughly 75-percent chance to make the playoffs (according to The New York Times playoff machine), winning the AFC East would guarantee at least one postseason game at Highmark Stadium.

Regardless of the outcome, there is plenty of scoreboard watching to be done this weekend. Here is your weekly rooting guide.

Cleveland (7-7) at Green Bay (11-3) – Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on FOX and NFL Network

The situation: The Browns are on the outside looking in following a heartbreaking last-minute loss to Las Vegas on Monday. They have a tall mountain to climb, but still have a feasible path in a crowded AFC North division.

What to root for: Cleveland is more of a factor in the race for the AFC North crown than the wild card, according to The Times. Still, root for a Green Bay win.

 Indianapolis (8-6) at Arizona (10-4) – Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on NFL Network

The situation: Indianapolis' surge for the AFC South lead hit a bump when Tennessee beat San Francisco on Thursday. Even so, the Colts enter their matchup with the Cardinals with an 86-percent chance to make the playoffs. 

What to root for: The Colts hold a head-to-head tie breaker over the Bills, giving them a potential edge in seeding be it as wild card teams or division champions. Root for a Cardinals win.

Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Houston (3-11) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS

The situation: The Chargers are part of a five-way tie in the AFC at 8-6, along with Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Buffalo, and Baltimore. They hold the tiebreaker over the Bills based on conference winning percentage.

What to root for: A win for the Texans, which – combined with a win by the Bills – would jolt Buffalo's odds to make the playoffs to 95 percent.

Baltimore (8-6) at Cincinnati (8-6) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS

The situation: This game will have massive implications in the AFC North. The Ravens – once the favorite to win the division – dropped all the way to the eighth seed with their loss to Green Bay on Sunday. The Bengals currently occupy the division lead based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

What to root for: In most scenarios – depending on the outcomes of Saturday's games – The Times gives a (very) slight edge toward rooting for the Ravens.

Pittsburgh (7-6-1) at Kansas City (10-4) – Sunday at 4:25 p.m. on CBS

The situation: The Steelers kept their hopes alive with a win last Sunday. They face a Chiefs team dealing with a litany of COVID-19 cases as they pursue the top seed in the AFC.

What to root for: Check back here after the Bills game. If the Bills win, root for a Steelers victory in the interest of catching the Chiefs atop the AFC standings. If the Bills lose, root for the Chiefs to further diminish the Steelers' wild card odds.

Denver (7-7) at Las Vegas (7-7) – Sunday at 4:25 p.m. on CBS

The situation: Two teams on the outside looking in will be playing for their playoff lives. The Broncos are coming off a loss to the Bengals. The Raiders eked out a win over a shorthanded Browns team.

What to root for: Should the Bills win on Sunday, this game will have little-to-no bearing on their chances. If the Bills lose to the Patriots, The Times says to root for the Broncos.

Miami (7-7) at New Orleans (7-7) – Monday at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN

The situation: Miami has forced its way back into the playoff picture with a six-game winning streak. Up next: a visit to face a New Orleans team coming off a shutout win over Tampa Bay.

What to root for: This is a column for Bills fans. Do we even need to say it?

Best-case scenario: Wins by the Bills and Texans would raise Buffalo's playoff odds to roughly 98 percent, regardless of other outcomes. In this scenario, root for a Steelers victory to move the Bills within one game of the conference's top seed.

Worst-case scenario: Wins by the Patriots, Browns, Colts, Bengals, Chargers, and Steelers would drop the Bills' playoff odds to roughly 44 percent.

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