Footprints and Tiebreakers

by Ryan

Unless you are an actuary it is pretty hard to figure out the Bills’ playoff tiebreakers. Yeah, overall record, head to head, conference record… but after that it gets pretty fuzzy for most fans.

What is crystal clear about tomorrow is this: the Bills have to win.

Sure, some rocket scientist may be able to swing a way for a playoff birth with the aid of natural disasters and ancient runes, but the fact of the matter is that a win tomorrow is the reality of the situation.

It’s a tough match up to say the least. The Browns score a lot of points, and until recently we did not. Their defense is a bit lackluster, and so we may be able to match them if we execute properly. I look back to the early season Browns/Bengals game where they both scored 40+ and the way we put up points against the Bengals earlier this year for that stunning conclusion.

Still, I would rather have a match up against playoff caliber team in order to make the playoffs. It may sound a bit unorthodox, but think back to the last time we were in serious playoff contention.

In 2004 the Bills won six straight games against lackluster teams to give themselves a shot at a wild card spot with one game remaining. That last game was against the 14-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the last test of the season, and the Steelers even rested most of their starters for that game. What happened?

The Bills lost 29-24, eliminating them from the playoffs and proving they simply weren’t good enough to compete with playoff caliber teams, even with backups in.

This year the situation seems a bit similar. We have beaten the teams we are supposed to, and lost to the superior teams (Dallas, Pittsburgh, New England, etc.). The difference is that left on the schedule are good teams. The game of the year has become every game we still have a shot, including tomorrow, next week against a 9-4 Giants team, and a season ending match up against an underachieving Eagles team.

I guess what I’m saying mirrors what I said before the Jacksonville game, if the Bills win enough games to put them in the playoffs, based on who they have had to face they deserve to be there. Beating teams like Cleveland will erase the doubt early season match ups and crushing losses like Denver and Dallas have put in the minds of many fans. Sure, it may be wishful thinking, but the truth is once you make the postseason the standings no longer matter.

It’s common sense. I know it sounds stupid to say “if you win games and make the playoffs you deserve to be there.” But the difference is the teams you play. In 2004 we played who was in front of us and had a good record. The same thing can be said for this year with Miami and Cinci and such, but the next two games are the benchmark. You beat the Browns and Giants and not only are you in a position to make the playoffs but compete in postseason play. For all the times we’ve said “please just make the playoffs”, It would be nice to maybe win a game if we get there.

So are we a playoff team?

I guess we’ll find out in the snow tomorrow.