In-Depth Look at AFC Contenders

With 7 games to play, it looks like 2 of the following 4 teams will be grabbing the two Wild Card spots: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Indianapolis.  In this post I break down the remaining schedules for each of those four teams and look at a few scenarios of how the AFC Wild Card might play out:

First, the schedules:

playoffsarticle

Not the most promising look for the Bills.  Right off the chart, it looks like Pittsburgh and Oakland have the easiest paths to the playoffs based on their schedules the rest of the way.  Pittsburgh’s opponents have a .382 winning percentage, and the Raiders have a .364 winning percentage.  The Colts have a very difficult path and I would say they are least likely to be playing in January.  If I had to place a bet right now I think the 2 playoff teams come from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, or Oakland.

The second stat that is in that chart is the average adjusted DVOA ranking of each teams’ remaining opponents.  With DVOA, the higher score indicates the better teams.  As of now, the Steelers have the clear advantage with their opponents having an average DVOA ranking of 18.6.  Just to give an indication of where that is in the league, the Los Angeles Chargers are currently in the 19th spot of the DVOA rankings.  The Raiders’ opponents have an average of 15.8, which equates to the Detroit Lions.  The Bills have a 13.1, which is the Philadelphia Eagles.  And finally, the Colts have 11.1, which is the Los Angeles Rams.  I would recommend you take a look at the advanced stats over at Football Outsiders, if you haven’t yet.

Okay…so let’s take a look at the number of wins that may be needed to grab an AFC Wild Card spot.  Let’s assume it is 10.  Can the Bills get there?  Yes, but it will take them to most likely beat Pittsburgh.  Actually, it would be much better for the Bills to get to 10 by beating the Steelers than anyone else on their schedule, due to the tiebreak implications.

Here’s the problem for the Bills, and why this Browns loss may come back to haunt them.  The Raiders only have AFC games left, so if they finish 10-6 their conference record will be 8-4.  If the Bills get to 10-6 (and one of the losses must be to Dallas), then their conference record would be 8-4 as well.  Then it would go to the 2nd tiebreak, which is record in common games.  It is too early to predict that outcome right now.

If the Steelers get to 10-6 then there is a great chance that their conference record is…you guessed it, 8-4.  The Bills and Steelers control their own destiny with the game that they play against eachother in Week 15.  That game is nothing short of H.U.G.E.

So, there it is.  A lot of information above.  I am not one to overreact, but the Browns loss was massive.  No matter how you cut it, the Bills must beat the Steelers in Week 15.  Beating the Cowboys and then losing to the Steelers will actually hurt them.  So much can change in one week and for now, the Bills are clinging to a 1 game lead.  But, as the numbers indicate here…it might not be for long.

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