Three weeks ago it seemed like the sky was falling for the Buffalo Bills. They had just lost back-to-back games to the Jets and Vikings, fallen to third place in the AFC East, and their franchise quarterback had suffered an injury to his throwing arm. Many wondered if their brief reign atop the division was over.
Not even a month later, the Bills are back as the number one seed in the entire AFC just in time for their rematch against the Jets.
Heading into Week 13, a lot had to break right for Buffalo to find itself back at the top of the conference. First, they had to earn their first division win of the season in Foxboro against the Patriots. They did that on Thursday pretty convincingly.
Then, they needed the Kansas City Chiefs to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins to lose to the San Francisco 49ers. Check and check.
The 49ers dominated the Dolphins, even with Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a broken foot, and the Bengals upset the Chiefs after a tremendous pass from Joe Burrow on 3rd-and-11 sealed the win with under two minutes left.
Thanks to their head-to-head win over the Chiefs, the Bills hold the tiebreaker and the lead in the conference. They also currently hold tiebreakers over the Baltimore Ravens, who are 8-4, and the Tennessee Titans, who are 7-5. All of which is to say that the path to the top seed in the AFC is firmly back in Buffalo’s hands.
However, they first need to take care of winning their own division, and the next two weeks will be crucial for that.
It starts on Sunday with a rematch against the Jets, this time in Buffalo.
The Jets will come into the game having lost two of their last three games, and three of their last five. Of course, one of those two wins was a 20-17 victory over the Bills in which the Jets’ offense totaled just 310 yards of offense but saw their defense completely stifle Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense.
The Jets have since turned to Mike White at quarterback and seen their offense find a new rhythm and efficiency, so they will head to Buffalo fully confident in their ability to pull off a season sweep. They also really need the win.
A loss to the Bills would put the Jets at 7-6 and potentially out of the playoff picture, depending on whether or not the Patriots and Chargers win. With three tough games still to come against a resurgent Lions team and then on the road against the Seahawks and Dolphins, the Jets will need to fight for every win in order to ensure their trip back to the postseason.
For Buffalo, their hopes of another AFC East title could come down to the next two weeks. A win over the Jets on Sunday would put them three games ahead of New York in the division with just four games to play. Wins over both the Jets and Dolphins would give the Bills at least a two games cushion with three games remaining, one of which would be against the 3-10 Chicago Bears, who may decide to rest injured quarterback Justin Fields by then.
Buffalo would then also need to go on the road after the New Year to take on the 8-4 Cincinnati Bengals in what could be a huge game to determine the number one seed in the AFC.
With so much at stake, this is when the NFL season heats up. Playoff births. Division crowns. Conference titles. All of it is on the line, and the quest for them all begins in earnest this Sunday in Buffalo when the Jets travel to take on the Bills.