Bills playoff picture: Breaking down Buffalo’s seeding scenarios in NFL bracket for Week 17

If the NFL playoffs hadn’t expanded in 2020, there’d be a lot on the line for the Bills in Week 17. But as is, Buffalo is only playing for a small difference in seeding when it hosts the Dolphins.

The Bills (12-3) enter Week 17 as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, tied in record with the Steelers but holding the tiebreaker on Pittsburgh thanks to a Buffalo win against the Steelers earlier this season. The Chiefs have already locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so Buffalo can’t move up, and the Bills can only drop one spot depending on Sunday’s results.

In the old playoff format, the top two seeds in both conferences received a first-round bye, but now it’s only the top seed as seven teams from the AFC make the postseason. That means the Bills have no path to a bye and will play at home in the wild card round regardless. 

Here’s how the Bills wind up with the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the AFC on Sunday. 

How Bills can get No. 2 seed in AFC

The simplest way for the Bills to get the No. 2 seed is to beat the Dolphins on Sunday. That would give Buffalo a 13-3 record, and the best Pittsburgh could do would be to win and match that. 

Since the Bills beat the Steelers on Sunday Night Football earlier this season, they’ll hold the head-to-head tiebreaker on Pittsburgh in any instance where they have the same record. A Bills win against the Dolphins guarantees that scenario and gives Buffalo the No. 2 seed.

The Bills also get the No. 2 seed if they lose to the Dolphins while Pittsburgh loses to the Browns. In that case, they’d both be 12-4 with the Bills holding the tiebreaker.

Getting the No. 2 seed guarantees that Buffalo has two home games in the playoffs (assuming a win in game one). The No. 3 seed would travel on the road in the divisional round if the No. 2 seed also won.

How Bills can get No. 3 seed in AFC

There’s only one way this happens: The Bills lose to the Dolphins and the Steelers beat the Browns. That would give Pittsburgh a better record than Buffalo.

The Bills can’t drop below the No. 3 seed because the fourth-best record in the AFC won’t feature more than 11 wins. Buffalo has already won 12 games. 

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