NFL Wire News

Bills simplify playoff equation: Just win


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — While their chances of making the playoffs improved last week, the Buffalo Bills still need to win their last two games and get plenty of help in order to end their 14-year postseason drought.

“I haven’t looked at it because it’s all irrelevant if we don’t win,” running back Fred Jackson said of the myriad playoff scenarios. “That’s the No. 1 thing we’ve got to focus on is take care of our business. None of it matters if we don’t win and that’s what we have to focus on.”

Basically, this is what has to happen for the Bills to make it: They must win their two games, at Oakland, and at New England. Then, they have to hope that only two of the other five teams vying for the three remaining available playoff berths reach 10 victories.

Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore are all at nine wins and trying to win the AFC North, while AFC West rivals Kansas City and San Diego are at eight wins and trying to get a wild-card berth now that Denver has clinched the division. If one of the teams from the North loses twice, and both the Chargers and Chiefs lose at least once, two wins by the Bills gets them in.

Of course, that would mean the Bills would have to buck a long history of futility by winning at Gillette Stadium for the first time since the venue opened in 2002. And there’s also the matter of beating the 2-12 Raiders in a place where they haven’t won since 1966. That’s a seven-game losing streak in Oakland, though the Bills did win in 1991 in Los Angeles when the Raiders were located at the Coliseum.

One plausible scenario for the Bills, assuming they win their last two games, is as follows: They should root for the Steelers and Ravens to win their last two games to qualify.

That would mean Pittsburgh beats Kansas City and kills the Chiefs’ hopes of reaching 10 wins, and it would mean one loss for the Bengals.

Cincinnati then would have to lose to the Broncos this week in the Monday night game to remain stuck at nine wins. Beyond that, all it would take at this point would be one Chargers loss to end their hopes. The Chargers are at San Francisco Saturday, then at Kansas City in the season finale.

However, even if they beat Oakland, the Bills could be knocked out before they go to New England if Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore all win this week.

With the Steelers favored over the Chiefs at home, and the Ravens favored on the road at Houston, the key game may be the Bengals hosting the Broncos. Denver still has hopes of securing the No. 1 overall seed, so the game is just as big for the Broncos, but it is on the road, on a Monday night, always a tough task.

Ask coach Doug Marrone what he thinks about all this, and the answer is predictably succinct.

“I don’t (pay attention) because it doesn’t matter if you don’t take care of your own business,” Marrone said, echoing Jackson’s thought.

The Raiders have endured a miserable season, but they are 2-2 in their last four games with back-to-back victories at home over Kansas City and San Francisco.

The Bills are acutely aware of the fact that nothing is a guarantee in the NFL, and going out to the West Coast broadens the chore of winning.

“We’ve got a lot of improvement to do,” said Marrone, speaking specifically about his moribund offense. “I think that records really don’t mean a lot when you watch the film. Obviously, the Raiders are playing much better than they had been playing. They’re very physical. They’re a team that’s getting better each week. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”

What tips the field in the Bills’ favor is their defense. It was been superb lately, and in the last two weeks, it denied both Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers a touchdown pass while intercepting them a combined four times. Rookie Oakland quarterback Derek Carr figures to be under pressure all day, and even if he avoids being sacked, Buffalo’s secondary has been tough to beat.

SERIES HISTORY: 37th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 19-17. Bills haven’t won a game in Oakland since 1966, losing the last seven games. They did win in 1991 on the road against the Raiders when the team was located in Los Angeles. The last game at Oakland was in 2005, a 38-17 Raiders victory.

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