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Patriots vs. Bills will have major implications on the AFC playoff picture

Related: #PostPulpit Mailbag: Can New England replicate Indianapolis’ success against Buffalo?

Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ primetime meeting with the Buffalo Bills on Monday night is a big one for both teams. Not only is the division lead in the AFC East on the line, the game also will have major implications on the current playoff picture — especially after Sunday’s slate of games, that included the Baltimore Ravens dropping from the top spot due to a loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Because of that game, the Patriots head into Monday as the number one team in the AFC:

  1. New England Patriots (8-4)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
  5. Buffalo Bills (7-4)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)

With all teams but the Bills having played 12 games, the Patriots reign supreme in the conference. Obviously, though, the game between the two division rivals has the potential to shake things up quite a bit: a New England victory would confirm the club’s standing as the best in the AFC, and further improve its odds as calculated by FiveThirtyEight.

At the moment, the Patriots have a 89 percent chance of making the playoffs. Their chances at winning the division and earning the top overall seed, meanwhile, are calculated at 45 and 25 percent, respectively.

A Buffalo win, on the other hand, would move the two teams around and introduce a new No. 1 seed. Before looking at that scenario, however, let’s dig deeper into a potential Patriots win:

If New England wins on Monday night

  1. New England Patriots (9-4)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
  6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
  7. Buffalo Bills (7-5)

As noted above, the Patriots leaving Buffalo with a win would help increase their chances of not just making the playoffs, but doing so as the top seed in the conference. According to FiveThirtyEight, New England’s playoff odds would increase to 98 percent (+9) in case of a win; the chances of the Patriots winning the division and earning the playoff bye associated with the No. 1 seed would jump to 77 (+32) and 47 percent (+22), respectively

The Patriots winning would not just be good news for themselves and their playoff outlook, though. Los Angeles and Cincinnati would both leapfrog the Bills in the standings due to superior conference records: Buffalo losing would drop its AFC record to 5-5 compared to the 5-3 currently owned by both the Chargers and the Bengals.

If Buffalo wins on Monday night

  1. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
  2. Buffalo Bills (8-4)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
  5. New England Patriots (8-5)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)

Losing in Buffalo would drop the Patriots from the top spot in the conference all the way down to the fifth seed. The Bills would take over as the new No. 2, with the Titans benefitting and jumping back into the driver’s seat. New England would still stay ahead of the Chargers and Bengals even after its Week 14 bye: the Patriots’ 6-2 AFC record in case of a loss to Buffalo would be best of the three, while the head-to-head advantage versus L.A. also works in the team’s favor.

As far as the odds are concerned, the Patriots’ would drop quite a bit. Their playoff chances would move to 82 percent (-7), while their AFC East and No. 1 seed numbers would decrease to 19 (-26) and 9 (-16).

Long story short, there is a lot on the line for both New England and Buffalo.