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How can Bills clinch a playoff spot in Week 18?

We discuss the scenarios that could see the Bills clinching a playoff spot in Week 18.

Stefon Diggs #14 of the Buffalo Bills looks on from the field before a game against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills will take on the Miami Dolphins in Week 18 of the regular season. Buffalo has played its way into an interesting spot where, in certain scenarios, they can win the AFC East and earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC and, in others, miss the playoffs entirely. Let’s take a look at how Buffalo can clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Bills playoff clinching scenarios - Week 18

  • BUF win vs. MIA OR
  • BUF tie
  • PIT loss vs. BAL OR — Update:
  • JAX loss vs. TEN OR
  • IND tie vs. HOU

Sunday update: The Bills didn’t even need to wait until Sunday night to learn their fate. Buffalo clinched a playoff spot after the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans.

Saturday update: The Steelers beat the Ravens 17-10. The Bills can still lose and make the playoffs, but their odds just got longer.

If Buffalo beats Miami in the final Sunday Night Football matchup, it will win the AFC East and lock down the No. 2 seed in the AFC. This would bring them home-field advantage in the Wild Card round and the Divisional round if they were to win their first playoff game. Despite going on the road, the Bills are three-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook. Miami will be down some key starters on defense as Bradley Chubb tore his ACL in Week 17, and Xavien Howard suffered a foot injury that has him in question for this game. Tyreek Hill, Raheem Mostert and Jaylen Waddle are banged up. The Dolphins have already clinched a playoff spot, and while home-field advantage would be big, they could still rest some players with the hope of being at full strength for the playoffs. That’s unlikely, though, so I’d expect Miami to give Buffalo its best effort and keep this one close.

If the Bills lose to the Dolphins, they are not automatically out of the playoff picture. Buffalo could be in play for the No. 6 or No. 7 seeds, but it depends on what happens elsewhere. The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the mix for a playoff picture. The Baltimore Ravens have locked in the No. 1 seed in the AFC and are expected to rest the majority of their starters. The Steelers are 3.5-point favorites over Baltimore’s backups and should win on the road.

There is always something to be said about a team having nothing to play for. The Tennessee Titans are eliminated from playoff contention, and technically, a loss could help increase their draft position in the 2024 NFL Draft. Still, the Jacksonville Jaguars are five-point favorites despite quarterback Trevor Lawrence dealing with a shoulder injury. There has been some tension in the Jags’ locker room between players and head coach Doug Pederson. If it boils over, Tennessee could pull the upset, but for now, the Jaguars are expected to win, solidifying their AFC South title and No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

The NFL has averaged one tie a season since 2017, and there hasn’t been one so far in the 2023 season. A tie this week could be huge for playoff implications, especially if it happens to come between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts. They are vying for the AFC South title, but need a Jaguars loss to have a chance. The winner between the Colts and Texans clinches a playoff berth, but a tie could see both miss the playoffs.