Buffalo Bills Playoff Scenarios: What Is the Bills’ Path to the Postseason?

What does the Buffalo Bills' path to the playoffs look like for 2023, and could they still plot a path to the postseason by winning the AFC East?

The Buffalo Bills‘ season has not gone to plan this far, but they are very much still in the AFC playoff picture despite a 6-6 record. Heading out of Week 12, the Bills still have a chance of making the 2023 NFL postseason, but the mistakes need to end sooner rather than later.

With the assistance of PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor, let’s examine what the Bills need to happen between now and the end of the season to make the playoffs, whether that be as a Wild Card or the AFC East division winners.

How Do the Buffalo Bills Make the Playoffs in 2023?

At 6-6, the Bills are currently the AFC 10th seed, having played a game more than most of those around them in the AFC playoff race. As things stand, they are still only one loss outside of the current playoff spots. Unfortunately, that takes things out of their hands if they want to make the 2023 postseason.

While the teams above have games against each other, there is a path where if the top teams in the AFC win out and the games between them go a certain way, they can lock out the AFC playoff spots. Of course, as we saw in Week 12, things rarely go quite like that in the NFL, but there is a path where the Bills win out and still miss out on the playoffs.

Adding to the complication is Buffalo’s bye week in Week 13, which could mean the teams that are currently level with them, or one game ahead of them in the win column, could move further away in the next week. Of those three teams at 6-5 or 5-6, the Bills have lost to the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals while having a worse conference record than the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.

All of that further takes the Bills’ run to the playoffs out of their hands. While they face the two teams currently in the driving seat for the top seeds in both conferences in their next two games, they do not have enough games with playoff contenders to impact the picture without help. The Bills’ 3-5 conference record could prove to be a big hurdle to overcome in any NFL playoff tiebreaker scenarios.

The Bills getting to 11-6 would be an impressive finish, but amazingly, it could not be enough for a playoff spot with how the remaining games fall. In all likelihood, if they get to 11-6, you would still expect the Bills to make the playoffs. However, that alone will be challenging enough with the Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Dolphins remaining on their schedule.

The Bills almost have to win out at this point. Every loss they incur requires other teams to lose more games. It is worth pointing out that ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) still gave the Bills a 36.9% chance of making the playoffs before Week 12. By no means is Buffalo done, but the odds are against them right now, and this loss to the Eagles hurts their chances dramatically.

Can the Bills Still Win the AFC East?

The Bills can still win the AFC East logistically, but according to the ESPN FPI, their odds of doing so sat at 11.4% before Week 12. The Bills are three games behind the Dolphins after Week 12, but they have two crucial elements in their favor — already beating the Dolphins in Week 4 and facing them again in Week 18.

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That game in Week 18 accounts for one of the three games they need to have a chance at winning the division, and that game would have huge tiebreaker ramifications. The first NFL playoff tiebreaker within a division is the head-to-head record. If the Bills win in Week 18, they will have a 2-0 record against the Dolphins.

That 2-0 record would essentially add another 0.25 wins to the Bills when comparing their winning percentage to the Dolphins. Buffalo would still require another stumble from Miami down the stretch, but with games against the Cowboys and Ravens in Weeks 16 and 17, it is certainly still possible.

Of course, the Bills have to be as close to perfect as possible in the next five games. For every loss they have, the Dolphins would need another. As it stands, they need Miami to lose twice before Week 18. Asking for anything more than two would be greedy, to say the least. Games against the Washington Commanders, Tennessee Titans, and New York Jets in the next three weeks are all winnable.

It is reasonable to consider Miami losing their last three games, including Week 18 against the Bills. That really gives the Bills a one-game margin of error. Anything more than that, and they are likely hoping for a miracle. The NFL is a strange beast, but if Miami finishes 11-6 and the Bills do not take the AFC East from there, they will only have themselves to blame.

It is a tough ask for the Bills with the Chiefs and Cowboys on their schedule. But a 5-0 finish to the season would give them a real shot at the division. Before Week 12, 5-1 could have been enough, but they already have that one in the loss column.

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more! 

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