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What Bills fans need to know about the 2021 AFC playoff race | Week 18


The most important thing Bills fans need to know entering Week 18: The Bills will clinch a second straight AFC East title with a win over the Jets or a Patriots loss to the Dolphins.

Beyond that fact, the AFC playoff picture is a puzzle in which most of the pieces have been identified but have yet to be placed. The Bills – who clinched their playoff berth last week – still have a chance to finish as high as third in the conference. They can also finish as low as seventh.

Plus, there are potential matchups to consider. You can use the chart below to find the various outcomes. Or keep reading, and we'll do it for you.

Here is you playoff guide for Week 18, including how the Bills could face each team next weekend.

Kansas City (12-5) beat Denver (7-10)

The situation: The Chiefs defeated the Broncos on Saturday 28-24.

Seeding implications: With a win in Week 18, the Chiefs will most like land with the No. 2 seed. If Tennessee loses to Houston, Kansas City would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

How the Bills could play the Chiefs: A Bills loss combined with wins by the Colts and Patriots would make the Bills the seventh seed. In that scenario, the Bills would head back to Arrowhead for a playoff game.

Cincinnati (10-6) at Cleveland (7-9) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX

The situation: The Bengals will rest quarterback Joe Burrow after locking up the AFC North title last week. The Browns, who are eliminated, will also be without quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Seeding implications: If the Bengals lose, it would allow the Bills to leapfrog the Bengals into the No. 3 seed with a win over the Jets.

Indianapolis (9-7) at Jacksonville (2-14) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS

The situation: The Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Jaguars, who were blown out 50-10 by the Patriots last week.

Seeding implications: The Colts hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills, meaning they would pull ahead with a win and a Bills loss.

How the Bills could play the Colts: It would take the Bills winning the AFC East and hosting the Colts as one of the three wild card seeds. Here are a few examples:

· Wins for TEN+KC+CIN+BUF+IND+MIA+LAC, which would set up a 4 vs. 5 matchup.

· Wins for TEN+KC+CLE+BUF+IND+NE+LAC, which would set up a 3 vs. 6 matchup.

Tennessee (11-5) at Houston (4-12) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS

The situation: The Titans can lock up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye with a win over the Texans, who already upset them once in Week 11.

Seeding implications: The Bills cannot leapfrog the Titans due to tiebreakers. The Titans can, however, fall as far as fourth in the AFC by getting passed by Kansas City, Cincinnati, and New England.

Pittsburgh (8-7-1) at Baltimore (8-8) – Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS

The situation: Two AFC North rivals meet with slim playoff hopes, each needing a win and some help to get into the dance.

Seeding implications: Neither the Ravens nor the Steelers can catch the Bills in the standings.

New England (10-6) at Miami (8-8) – Sunday at 4:25 p.m. on CBS

The situation: While the Dolphins' playoff hopes ended in Week 17, they have a chance to play spoiler against a Patriots team that can still win the AFC East and finish as high as first in the conference.

Seeding implications: The Bills need a win or a Patriots loss to win the AFC East. Otherwise, the Patriots leapfrog them for the division title.

How the Bills could play the Patriots: This is perhaps the most likely first-round matchup for the Bills. It could take different forms – there's a scenario where the No. 7 Bills head to Foxborough to play the No. 2 Patriots – but the most common is No. 5 Patriots and No. 4 Bills.

What would it take? Wins by Kansas City, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Tennessee and New England. Not so farfetched.

Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas (9-7) – Sunday at 8:20 p.m. on NBC

The situation: It's win and in for these two AFC West rivals, who will fight for the final playoff seed on Sunday Night Football.

Seeding implications: Both teams can finish as high as fifth.

How the Bills could play the Chargers: It would be a scenario in which the Bills finish third and the Chargers finish sixth. One example: Wins by TEN+KC+CLE+BUF+JAX+LAC would bring the Chargers to Highmark Stadium.

How the Bills could play the Raiders: The same scenario mentioned above, but with Las Vegas beating Los Angeles, would bring the Raiders to Orchard Park as the sixth seed. There are others, including one that seems particularly feasible:

·      Wins by KC+TEN+CIN+BUF+MIA+LV would set up No. 5 Raiders at No. 4 Bills.

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