The Buffalo Bills return from the bye week and are set to take on the 5-3 Kansas City Chiefs in Orchard Park on Sunday. After that, the team faces a quick turnaround as they travel to Miami for a Thursday night game against the Dolphins. The Chiefs and Dolphins are both 5-3 and are both direct competitors for one of the two wild card playoff spots. Depending on how next week goes against both teams; this week could make or break the Bills playoff dreams.
Considering that the both teams currently stand at 5-3, which is the same as the Bills, a victory against either, or both, opponents would keep the Bills current position in the standings, or possibly improve it.
If the Bills beat both the Chiefs and Dolphins their record would move to 7-3, and they would then own the first level of tiebreakers against both teams, which is head to head.
In determining playoff positions the NFL considers overall record, head to head competition, and then conference victories. A Bills win over the Chiefs would push their overall record to 6-3 and drops the Chiefs to 5-4. The Bills would then own three wins in the AFC, in addition to the head to head, which would leave the Chiefs two games out of the wildcard picture.
As for the Dolphins they first have to play in Detroit against a 6-2 Lions team looking to separate themselves from the Packers in the NFC North. The Dolphins would either be 6-3 or 5-4, so possibly the same record as the Bills going into Thursday. A victory against the Dolphins puts the Bills at least two games up on them in the race for the playoffs, just like KC.
Because of this ability to create separation between both/either team these next two games could decide the fate of this team for the remainder of the season. Two victories puts the Bills two games ahead in the wild card position with then six games remaining; whereas two losses puts them two games back.
It’s still conceivable that the Bills can suffer a loss, or even two, next week and still make the playoffs, but the reality is that 10-6 is the record that is most likely needed. If the Bills split the two games they would stand at 6-4 with their remaining six games against the Jets, Browns, Broncos, Packers, Raiders, and Patriots. Now if they lost both there seems little chance they could gain five victories out of that slate.
Starting on Sunday the Bills playoff meddle will truly be tested. If they can survive the fire of the next two games then it will set the Bills up for a rousing December that could finally break the 14 year playoff less streak. If they crack and break then this team becomes another iteration of 2005, where the Bills held their destiny in their hands and let a great opportunity to extend their season slip away.