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What Bills-Broncos, Panthers-Packers means for playoff picture

Saturday’s Week 15 NFL games have a chance to reshape the playoff picture.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

It’s that time of year again, when the holiday calendar clears up and presents us with the wonderful gift of Saturday NFL games. This week we get the Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos for a matinee (4:30 PM ET), followed by the Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers (8:15 PM ET; both games are on NFL Network). Two of those teams are headed to the postseason, so that means there are playoff picture implications on the line on Saturday.

Buffalo Bills

Despite their 10-3 record and being in the driver’s seat in the AFC East, the Bills still haven’t officially clinched a postseason berth. That could change this week. Here’s how the playoff picture shapes up for them this week:

Division title

  1. BUF win, OR
  2. MIA loss, OR
  3. BUF tie + MIA tie

Playoff berth

  1. BUF tie + BAL loss or tie, OR
  2. BAL loss

The Bills are favored by six points in this one. They’re 4-2 on the road this season and 3-3 against the spread away from Buffalo. Only two of Denver’s five wins have been at home, so they’re not exactly getting much in the way of home-field advantage.

They also need the win to keep themselves locked into the third seed. And with the Steelers faltering lately, the Bills still have a chance to sneak into the second seed. The Steelers play the Bengals this week, followed by the Colts and Browns to close out the regular season. Buffalo’s on the road against the Patriots next week and at home against the Dolphins to close out the season.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers have clinched their postseason bid already as well as the NFC North title. That’s not to say they don’t have anything to play for, though. The Saints’ loss last week put the Packers into the NFC’s top seed. Both teams have a 10-3 record, but Green Bay wins the tiebreaker because of their Week 3 win over the Saints.

Green Bay is favored by eight points over the Panthers this week, and they’re 5-1 at home. The Saints have a much tougher task this week when they host the Chiefs. Even with Drew Brees making his return under center, the Saints are still three-point underdogs to Kansas City. A Packers win and a Saints loss would give Green Bay a leg up on New Orleans for the top seed.

Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos

While neither team has been officially eliminated from the playoff hunt, that could change this week. Carolina is tied with the Falcons for the worst record in the NFC. A loss or a tie this week would bury them officially. They could also be eliminated if the Cardinals win or tie the Eagles.

At 5-8, the math says the Broncos still technically have a shot at the AFC’s seventh playoff berth. Yay, math! A loss or tie to the Bills would officially remove them from the chase. Denver would also be eliminated with a Dolphins win or tie against the Patriots or if the Ravens win or tie against the Jaguars, which seems like a foregone conclusion.