The Bills and the Patriots are meeting for the first time of the 2022 NFL season in Week 13, and the “Thursday Night Football” clash figures to be an important one in the AFC playoff race.
Buffalo and New England are in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions, the AFC East. It is one of two divisions in which all four teams have a winning record. As such, all four teams are in the hunt for one of the conference’s seven playoff spots.
Of course, the teams being bunched up in the division also means there is little room for error, as every division game can swing the race for the top spot. That will be especially true of Bills vs. Patriots, as Josh Allen and Buffalo can jump into first place, at least temporarily, with a win over Mac Jones and New England.
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Bill Belichick’s Patriots aren’t guaranteed of moving up with a victory, but they can put pressure on the teams in front of them in the wild-card race, including one of their biggest divisional rivals, the Jets.
So, what would a win mean for the Patriots and Bills? Here’s what to know about the AFC playoff picture and how the Week 13 “Thursday Night Football” matchup can change it.
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AFC East standings
The AFC East standings entering Week 13:
All four teams have a winning record entering the stretch run of the 2022 NFL season. That will make for an exciting finish to the divisional race.
The Dolphins hold the division lead thanks to their 21-19 win over the Bills in Week 3. Buffalo will look to push back ahead of Miami on Thursday. Miami begins one of the toughest stretches of its schedule Sunday with a Week 13 game vs. the 49ers.
The Patriots are two games off the pace in last place, but they can make up ground with a win over the Bills in Week 13. They also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the third-place Jets, so if they can make up a full game on New York, the Pats and Jets will switch places in the division. The Jets are playing the 9-2 Vikings in Week 13, and Minnesota is favored in that game.
The AFC East seems poised to be a fight until the bitter end. Every game will be important as teams jockey for position in the divisional and wild-card races.
AFC playoff picture Week 13
If the NFL season were to end today, these seven teams would advance to the AFC playoffs.
Three East teams would make the postseason if it began today. The biggest surprise is that the Dolphins would be the division champion, but that could change as early as this week. They still have one game remaining against the Bills, and that will go a long way toward deciding which team gets a home playoff game.
The Jets are clinging to the No. 7 seed with the Patriots and Chargers lurking behind them at 6-5, waiting for New York to falter.
As mentioned, the Patriots own a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets, and New England will have a chance to put more pressure on New York when it looks to upset the Bills in Week 13.
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AFC playoff picture, AFC East standings if Patriots win
If the Patriots pull off an unexpected win over the Bills, the playoff picture would remain unchanged heading into Sunday.
But such a result would put more pressure on the Dolphins and the Jets to win in Week 13.
A Bills loss would guarantee that Miami remains in first place for at least one more week, regardless of the outcome of its game against San Francisco or New York’s against Minnesota. If there is a three-way tie for first among the Dolphins, Bills and Jets, the Dolphins would come out on top given their 2-1 division record.
If the Dolphins win, they would lead the Bills or Jets by at least a game entering Week 14. That would put them in control of their destiny with games against Buffalo (Week 15) and New York (Week 18) to close the season.
If Buffalo loses, then the Jets would need to win to avoid falling out of the playoff picture. As mentioned, the Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker over them.
A Bills loss and a Jets win would put New York in second place regardless of what happens with the Dolphins.
Of course, those potential changes wouldn’t occur until Sunday. This is how the division would look after Thursday if the Patriots win.
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AFC playoff picture, AFC East standings if Bills win
The AFC playoff picture would be shaken up far more by a Bills win. Buffalo would overtake Miami for the No. 2 seed in the conference, with the Dolphins slipping to No. 5 as the top wild card.
The Dolphins would be able to retake the No. 2 seed with a win over the 49ers on Sunday, but a Bills win would put the Dolphins under more pressure than would a Patriots win.
A Buffalo win would be much better for the Jets. It would guarantee them staying out of last place regardless of their result against the Vikings. The Patriots would be 6-6.
That would give the Jets a much better chance of keeping a wild-card spot, but they’re not guaranteed a place. A two-way tie with the Chargers would knock them to the No. 8 seed. Still, staying ahead of the Patriots would be welcome news.
Even with a Bills win, the Jets could still move into second place. They would need to beat the Vikings and have the Dolphins lose to the 49ers, because, as mentioned, New York owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami.
Bottom line: A Bills win would do a lot to cement them as a playoff team, while the Patriots would have a lot of work to do in the final five weeks of the season. Here is how the AFC East standings would look after Thursday if the Bills win: