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

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Week 15 welcomes far less scenarios that have to happen in order for the Buffalo Bills to clinch a spot in the playoffs. To extend their season, the Bills must beat the Steelers. Sounds simple, right?

Josh Allen will again face a team that loves to bring pressure to the quarterback as they lead the league in sacks. They have a lethal seven led by linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. The Bills offense completely understands that last week's performance will not cut it against a top-five defense. Allen has bounced back before after losses, he has the opportunity to do the same on Sunday.

Since the Bills only need a win to get into the party, I'll highlight a few AFC matchups that could matter down the road.

PATRIOTS (10-3, 5-2 Away) at BENGALS (1-12, 1-5 Home) 1:00 PM on CBS

3 things to note before kick

We've heard about the Patriots a lot on social media this week, but I'm not here to talk about video cameras. New England grabs a playoff berth with a win or a tie against Cincinnati.

1. The Patriots come into this game as a 10-point favorite, sounds like an easy win against a team who has just one win? Maybe. But New England's offense has been anything but great over the last few weeks. Over the last five games, the Patriots have lost three of five and rank 30th in the league averaging 17.6 points per game. Prior, they led the league in the first eight weeks of play averaging 31.3 points per game. Yikes. In the last five games, Tom Brady is completing just 54.5% of his passes which is third worst in the NFL. All this to say, Cincinnati has the second worst defense allowing almost 400 yards per game.

2. Here's something that hasn't changed much--the Patriots still have a strong defense. They lead the league with 21 interceptions and allow just 12.9 points per game. New England gave up a combined 51 points over the last two weeks which is uncharacteristic. But, Cincinnati has the 25th ranked offense who averages 15.2 points per game. I don't see New England struggling to slow this offense.

3. Could the Bengals be trending in the right direction in the final few weeks of the regular season? Cincinnati won its first game of the season in Week 13 and put up 451 yards of offense in a loss to the Browns last week. Joe Mixon had a career day with 186 scrimmage yards and one touchdown. That's two straight weeks where the offense has looked productive.

1 guess on how it will plays out

I know the Patriots haven't looked the same as of late losing the last two games, but taking on a 1-12 Bengals team who has had a rough go at putting points on the board, I just don't see New England losing.

TEXANS (8-5, 3-3 Away) at TITANS (8-5, 4-2 Home) 1:00 PM on CBS

3 things to note before kick

The battle for the AFC South heats up the next few weeks as these two opponents will see each other again in Week 17. The winner of this matchup will have a one-game lead in the AFC South race. The loser can still battle for the division or the second wild card spot.

1. We all know the Texans can be a threat on offense at any time and they can do it in dramatic fashion — hint, hint Deandre Hopkins lining up at quarterback. They have won the last four of six games and come into this game as a three-point underdog. The Texans have the ninth-best offense and are great when it comes to extending drives. Houston averages 22.2 first downs per game which is fifth best in the league and converts 49% of their third downs, fourth best in the NFL. Yeah, the Titans have a talented defense but don't count Houston's offense out yet.

2. The Titans are favored in this game thanks to everyone's second-favorite quarterback next to Josh Allen named Ryan Tannehill. Did Tennessee strike gold in this guy or will their love fade when it gets rocky? If it ever does? The Titans are on a four-game win streak. In the last five weeks they lead the league averaging 37.5 points per game as well as total yards per game with 421.5. This is not a drill. Tannehill also leads the league over the last four games with a completion percentage of 75.6% and is averaging 11.8 yards per attempt. Um, what? By the way Derrick Henry is doing crazy things. Over the last six weeks, he is first averaging 132.4 rushing yards per game. The next best is Lamar Jackson and he is averaging 60 rushing yards less per game. I mean come on.

3. So with two offenses that can go off, does that mean this one comes down to defense? I think it could. Ryan Tannehill has been great on defense for the Titans too averaging 15 tackles a game, just kidding. He's not THAT amazing. Over the last four games Tennessee has the 13th ranked defense when it comes to total yards allowed. Their passing defense, not so great. Rushing defense, pretty great. Tennessee allows an average of 101.6 rushing yards per game. Houston's defense, not the best, especially last week giving up 38 points to the Broncos. They have the 27th ranked pass defense and 18th ranked rush defense.

1 guess on how it plays out

I can't choose against the Tannehill Titans. They are playing out of their minds right now and their defense is playing better than Houston's.

BRONCOS (5-8, 2-5 Away) at CHIEFS (9-4, 3-3 Home) 1:00 PM on CBS

3 things to note before kick

The Chiefs have already claimed the AFC West division while the Broncos don't really have a chance at making it to the postseason.

1. I'm telling you Drew Lock is the answer. He has won his first two starts as a rookie and is averaging 30.5 points per game over that span. In the last two weeks he is also sixth in the NFL completing 72.7% of his passes. The team rallies around him and loves the spark he has provided. He's also spreading the ball around, in his two games he hasn't latched onto one receiver as security blanket. This week the rookie will face a defense who has been playing at a high level the last few games.

2. Could the Chiefs be a little less motivated in this one since they already claimed the division? Possibly. They are a 9.5 point favorite, but the Broncos defense is no joke. These two have also already faced each other this season resulting in a 30 to 6 Chiefs win. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the fourth best passer in the league averaging 296.9 yards per game. Mahomes has three receivers averaging more than 12 yards per catch, one who is 11 yards away from a 1,000 yard season in Travis Kelce. They will find a way to score, shoot Kansas City found a way to score 23 points against the Patriots defense and earn a win.  

3. This game could be low scoring, lower than usual for a Chiefs team that likes to run up the scoreboard. Kansas City hasn't had a top ten defense all year, but they are sure playing like it now. In the last four games they rank tenth defensively in total yards allowed and have seven interceptions. Denver's defense has been stout the entire year ranking tenth overall with the sixth best pass defense. 

1 guess on how it plays out

Even though Drew Lock has sparked the offense in Denver, he will face a tough test against Kansas City. The Chiefs are too talented to drop this one.

These three games don't necessarily matter right now for the Bills, they just need to focus on taking down the Steelers on the big stage in order to make it to the postseason. When playoff seeding comes into focus, these games can play a part. It's always fun to play the what if game, especially in Week 15. The Texans-Titans game will be an absolute dog fight. Definitely worth watching with a rematch in Week 17.

Hopefully Sunday night is one to remember for Buffalo.

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