How The Bills Can Make The Playoffs

Craig KanalleyContributor INovember 30, 2008

After their 10-3 letdown to the 49ers in Orchard Park this afternoon, the Buffalo Bills' chances of cracking the world's most prestigious football tournament for the first time since 1999 took a major hit.

But believe it or not, Buffalo isn't out of the playoff picture yet.

After combing through all of the possibilities—and dissecting the mind-boggling potential tiebreak scenarios—here's what it comes down to.

First, the margin of error is now zero. They must win their final four games: vs. Miami, at the Jets, at Denver, vs. New England.

The team that should be of most interest to Bills fans: the New York Jets.  Because...If the Bills win out and New York loses to Miami in its regular-season finale, the Bills would beat the Jets in a tiebreak.

That 10-6 Bills would hop that 10-6 Jets head-to-head for the AFC East Title or a wild card spot. Both teams would have a 3-3 division record and the Bills would win the tiebreak by virtue of record against common opponents (Bills 6-2, Jets 5-3).

That's their best way in, hands down. A tiebreak with the Jets for a playoff spot. A tiebreak with ONLY the Jets.

Barring a combination of collapses of epic proportions from Indianapolis, Baltimore, New England, and Miami, the rest of the scenarios are highly unlikely. New England and Miami would get tiebreaks over Buffalo. Baltimore would too, as long as they beat either Pittsburgh or Jacksonville (would have same conference record as Bills then, and would get in due to strength of victory).

Three words that Bills fans don't want to hear right now are "New England" and "Miami."

Due to the Bills' loss to San Francisco, they would lose a tiebreaker against either the Patriots or the Dolphins if the teams finish with the same record. That's because of their success against common opponents. The Patriots only loss to a common opponent is San Diego, the Dolphins' only one is Arizona, while the Bills lost to both Arizona and San Francisco.

Even if New England and Miami both pick up another common opponent loss, to also be 6-2 with the Bills, the next tiebreak is strength of victory. That goes to the Patriots and the Dolphins before it goes to the Bills.

Recap! Here are the scenarios for the Bills to make the playoffs...

(1) Win the AFC East. BUF wins its final four games (MIA, NYJ, DEN, NE).  NYJ goes 2-2, MIA 2-2, NE 2-2. BUF gets tiebreak over the Jets (both 10-6) by virtue of common games.  Miami and New England would be both 9-7.

(2) Wild Card.  BUF wins its final four games (MIA, NYJ, DEN, NE).  Either MIA or NE wins AFC East (one must go 3-1 or better, the other 2-2 or worse). NYJ go 2-2 or worse and BUF has the tiebreaker on them. BAL goes 2-2 with losses to both PIT and JAC and BUF wins the tiebreak over BAL due to conference record.

Remember, with just one single loss, the Bills are mathematically eliminated. End of story, fat lady has sung. Keep that in mind when they're up against Miami in Toronto next Sunday.