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Bills vs. Dolphins: Could Bills be playing for AFC playoff lives on Sunday Night Football?

The Miami Dolphins could win the AFC East and eliminate the Buffalo Bills in Week 18.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are facing the Buffalo Bills in a Week 18 AFC East title game on Sunday Night Football this weekend. The winner claims the division title and the second seed in the AFC playoff picture. If the Dolphins lose, they fall back to the sixth seed as a wild card team as the playoffs begin. If the Bills lose, they could find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

Both the Dolphins and Bills will be looking to win on Sunday, preferring to likely land two home playoff games rather than having to head out on the road for the postseason. Both teams want to claim the title as division champion, the Bills for the fourth-straight season, and Miami for the first time since 2008. But, the Bills may have the added motivation of not missing the playoffs completely.

The first domino that needs to fall for the Bills to be in a win-or-out scenario is the Saturday afternoon game featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is the top team in the AFC this year, and they are coming off an absolutely dominating performance against the Dolphins, winning 56-19. Yet, they find themselves home underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Steelers favored by 3.5 points. Baltimore has locked up everything they can this year, earning the top spot in the playoffs to give them a bye week and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have nothing for which to play and likely will sit their starters for a large portion of the game, if not the entire contest. The Steelers, meanwhile, need a win and some help to claim their spot in the playoffs. Pittsburgh will be coming to play while the Ravens will be looking to just not get hurt - making it possible the Steelers sneak out a win against their AFC North rivals.

The next game on the schedule, Saturday night’s Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts game, also matters to the Bills’ postseason chances. As long as this game is not a tie, the results could assist in putting Buffalo in a precarious situation, with either the Texans or Colts claiming a playoff berth with the win. Houston is a one-point favorite for the game.

Finally, the 1 p.m. ET Sunday game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans comes into play. A Jaguars win gives them in the AFC South division title for the year. Jacksonville is a 5.5-point favorite for the game.

The Cleveland Browns have already clinched their spot in the playoffs and are locked into the fifth seed. That leaves the loser of the Bills at Dolphins game to fight with the winner of the Texans at Colts game and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the final two positions in the wild card seeding. The Dolphins cannot finish worse than sixth, guaranteeing them their spot in the playoffs. The Bills do not have that safety net. Three games that will be completed before the Buffalo and Miami kickoff could turn Sunday Night Football into a pseudo-playoff game for the Bills.

Here is the breakdown of how Buffalo is eliminated from the playoffs:

  • Steelers beat Ravens, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Texans and Colts do not tie, 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Jaguars beat Titans, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
  • Dolphins beat Bills, 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday