Not many expected the Buffalo Bills to be in the playoff hunt at this stage in the season, but if the Buffalo Bills are going to make a push for the postseason, there is next to no margin for error.
It's a stretch, and it's almost entirely out of the question, but there's still a slim possibility that the Bills could not only make the playoffs, but even win their division—and that small chance is all head coach Doug Marrone needed to make a bold statement in an appearance on WGR 550 Sports Radio in Buffalo on Friday.
Doug Marrone: "I know this is going to happen: it's going to be January and the snow will be coming down for a home playoff game" #Bills— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 29, 2013
He could be just trying to instill some confidence in his players, he could be just making sure they continue to play hard through the remainder of the season, he could be making sure the fans show up for the final five games, or he could be completely bananas.
Whatever the case, at the bear minimum, the Bills would need to win the rest of their games.
|vs. Atlanta Falcons||2-9|
|at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3-8|
|at Jacksonville Jaguars||2-9|
|vs. Miami Dolphins||5-6|
|at New England Patriots||8-3|
Winning out would give them a 4-2 record in the division, which would likely be among the better division records for any team that would finish 9-7.
They would also need to get some help from six other teams: the Jets, Dolphins, Chargers, Ravens, Steelers and Titans, who would all need to finish 8-8 or worse while the Bills finish 9-7. The Jets and Dolphins would also have to split their series to ensure that no team finishes with a division record of better than 4-2.
Outside the AFC East, the Chargers would also need to lose at least one of their remaining three games against AFC West rivals. The Ravens would need to lose their season finale with the Bengals; the Steelers would need to lose one of their remaining two games against AFC North rivals.
The Bills have head-to-head wins over the Ravens and Dolphins, which gives them a leg-up should they end in a tie with either team.
If the Bills lose to either the Dolphins or the Patriots, they can pretty much kiss the playoffs goodbye; that being said, Buffalo's next four opponents are a combined 12-32, so winning those games seems reasonable enough.
However, Marrone wasn't just guaranteeing a playoff spot: he was guaranteeing a home game, which means he either has a lot of confidence in his team and no confidence in the Patriots whatsoever, or he is just acting foolish.
|at Houston Texans||2-9|
|vs. Cleveland Browns||4-7|
|at Miami Dolphins||5-6|
|at Baltimore Ravens||6-6|
|vs. Buffalo Bills||4-7|
The Patriots' remaining schedule isn't a cakewalk, but it's most certainly not murderous. You'd be hard-pressed to convince me there isn't at least one win left in their future. Even if the Patriots somehow drop their next four straight—and they've never lost more than two straight with Tom Brady as the quarterback—the Bills would still have to win in Foxborough, Mass., where they have not won since 2000.
Before it even gets to that point, though, the Bills have to get through this week's opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Fortunately for them, it looks like they might get a little help in the form of a team that's playing for the future instead of for this year.
Quote from #Falcons HC Mike Smith: “We need to get some of these young guys some experience and see how they handle playing in live action."— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) November 29, 2013
As Sal Capaccio of WGR pointed out, that sounds like something a coach would say prior to a preseason game. The Falcons want to get a look at the younger players on the roster, to begin evaluating for the future.
In theory, Sunday's game should be a layup for the Bills.
Although the game is listed as a home game, it takes place at Toronto's Rogers Centre, where the Bills are an underwhelming 1-4. Their last win was in 2011, a 23-0 shutout of the Washington Redskins. Even Bills center Eric Wood thinks the Toronto series is a "joke," but the real joke would be losing to a Falcons team that is 2-9 and already playing for next year.
On a scale of 1-5, how likely are the Bills to make the postseason?
So, aside from the assistance the Bills will need from the other six teams in the hunt for the playoffs, they'll also need to find some kind of road magic if they want to play any games in January, much less a home game.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.