The Buffalo Bills have put themselves in a position to end their 17-year playoff drought this year. They also put themselves in the same position in 2011 when they started 5-2, and in 2008 when they started 5-1. In both years, the Bills collapsed and missed the playoffs. If this year is going to be any different, getting to the 6 win mark on Thursday night would be the place to start. Since 1995, 80% of teams that start the season 6-2 make the playoffs, compared to 63% of teams that start 5-3. Win or lose on Thursday, the odds are still in the Bills favor, but we all know a division and inner-conference game is especially important, and a 6-2 mark at the halfway point would be excellent.
Here’s a look at how things currently stand before the big Thursday night matchup:
The Bills are still sitting in the 1st Wild Card spot, 5th overall seed in the AFC. You can see the teams around them have gathered some losses, which is great. A win on Thursday night and the Bills would tie the Patriots at 6-2, but the Bills would technically sit above them in the standings due to the 4th division tiebreaker which is winning percentage in conference games.
Important Week 9 games:
Buffalo @ NY Jets
A Bills win and they will have their best record at the halfway point of the season since 1993. There is a ton to look forward to in this one, including Kelvin Benjamin possibly making his Bills debut. The Jets are probably no longer in the discussion, but a loss here and a 3-6 record would effectively eliminate them from any playoff discussions going forward.
Baltimore @ Tennessee
This one is tough to call. Outside of winning the AFC East, the best way for the Bills to make the playoffs is to finish 2nd to the Patriots and hope that the teams in the crowded AFC South lose enough games for the Bills to sneak into one of the two remaining wild card positions. I would think it is better to get the Titans to 4-4 instead of at 5-3, since they are a contender. I would root for the Ravens in this one.
Denver @ Philadelphia
The Bills have the head-to-head tie breaker against Denver. A loss here and that would put the Broncos 3 games behind the Bills, and having the beat them outright in the standings really means that they would be 4 games back of the Bills with just 8 to play. That would be an ideal situation for the Bills. Go Eagles in this one!
Cincinnati @ Jacksonville
This one is all about how you like to approach the standings. If you think it better to have two 4-4 teams, then root for the Bengals. If you think it is better to have one of these two teams essentially eliminated, then root for the Jags. With the tiebreaker between the Bills and Bengals going to the Bengals in this one may persuade you to root for the Jags here. If that happens, then the Bengals would be 3-5, 3 games behind the Bills (if the Bills win). That’s pretty good. Due to the head to head loss against them, I am going to root for the Jaguars and Marcell Dareus in this one.
Indianapolis @ Houston
Houston is one of those jumbled teams in the AFC South that we should always keep an eye on. If Houston losses, they will be 3-5 and 3 games behind the Bills. Root for the Colts here.
Oakland @ Miami
Miami is right behind the Bills in the division. Since the Bills still control their own destiny against the Fins, I wouldn’t worry too much about them. But it would be best to make those games against them less meaningful in case something terrible happens and the Bills lose one of those games to them. Root for the Raiders here.
The Bills have done a great job of setting themselves up to control their own destiny when it comes to the postseason. While it would be nice for all these games to go their way, it is not a necessity. Not as long as the Bills keep on winning. That feels nice to say. Go Bills!