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Bills' playoff calculations will give you a migraine

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey should be forgiven for assuming his team was out of the playoff race this morning.

Turns out, he was wrong. The Bills are alive mathematically.

But in deciphering the permutations, it's easy to understand Gailey's mistake.

Remember on opening day when Gailey told us not to kick dirt on them yet? Well, feel free to grab a shovel.

To wit, the Browns and Chargers are ahead of the Bills in the standings.

This is the situation:

* The Bills, who haven't won consecutive games in nearly three months, must win their final three games to finish 8-8, with a 6-6 AFC record. They will be eliminated from the postseason race with any loss to the Seahawks in Toronto, at the Dolphins or against the Jets at home.

* The Bills cannot catch the Colts for the top wild-card slot. The Colts already have nine wins. That leaves only the second wild-card berth as an option for the Bills.

* The Steelers and Bengals are 7-6, and they meet each other in Week 16. If each fails to win another game, including a tie when they play, then they would finish at 7-8-1. That's why the Bills would be eliminated with any loss.

* The Steelers or the Bengals will be assured eight wins unless they tie. Because the Bills didn't play them this year, the first wild-card tiebreaker (head-to-head result) won't apply. The second tiebreaker is conference record. The third tiebreaker is record against common opponents. The fourth tiebreaker is strength of victory.

* For the Steelers to finish 8-8, they would need to go 1-2 over their final two games. With two AFC opponents remaining, they could not go 8-8 and finish with a conference record better than 5-7. The Bills would hold the conference tiebreaker over the Steelers in that case.

* The Bengals are in a similar situation with two AFC games left, but they already have five conference wins. If they lose two of their final three games and match the Bills' 8-8, 6-6 records (the Bengals specifically would have to lose to the Eagles and split with the Steelers and Ravens), then the tiebreaker would go to common opponents (Chiefs, Browns, Dolphins, Jaguars). The Bengals already have completed that circuit at 3-2. The Bills would be 5-0, assuming a victory over the Dolphins in Week 16.

* However, four other teams also can finish 8-8: the Jets, Browns, Chargers and Dolphins. The Bills play the Dolphins in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17, so they cannot finish in an 8-8 tie with the Bills. The Jets and Chargers play in Week 16, which will eliminate one of them from contention before the final week.

* The Bills would hold the tiebreaker over the Browns, having beaten them in Week Three.

* The Chargers would hold the tiebreaker over the Bills with a better conference record.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Record: 7-6
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .487
  • Opponents: Cowboys (7-6), Bengals (7-6), Browns (5-8)

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Record: 7-6
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .513
  • Opponents: Eagles (4-9), Steelers (7-6), Ravens (9-4)

New York Jets

  • Record: 6-7
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .359
  • Opponents: Titans (4-9), Chargers (5-8), Bills (5-8)

Cleveland Browns

  • Record: 5-8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .615
  • Opponents: Redskins (7-6), Broncos (10-3), Steelers (7-6)

San Diego Chargers

  • Record: 5-8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .333
  • Opponents: Panthers (4-9), Jets (6-7), Raiders (3-10)

Buffalo Bills

  • Record: 5-8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .487
  • Opponents: Seahawks (8-5), Dolphins (5-8), Jets (6-7)

Miami Dolphins

  • Record: 5-8
  • Strength of remaining schedule: .436
  • Opponents: Jaguars (2-11), Bills (5-8), Patriots (10-3)
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |