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Bills could be playoff team without proving much

The Buffalo Bills didn’t reach the playoffs from 1999-2016. If things go as expected the balance of this season, they’ll be making it for the second time in three years.

Buffalo is 5-2 and even after losing at home to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, 34-13, has to be feeling good about where it is. The AFC East has the mighty New England Patriots but is also saddled with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Those two teams are currently sporting a combined 1-13 record.

The Bills also have the good fortune of playing a third-place schedule and drawing the NFC East as their interconference matchup. In short, Buffalo has a very easy slate both in the rearview mirror and out ahead.

This is no knock on Buffalo. Teams can only play who they are given, and the Bills are taking advantage. To this juncture, Sean McDermott’s group is yet to beat a single team over .500, in part because the only team it has opposed above that threshold is the aforementioned Patriots. New England was able to hold Buffalo off in an ugly game at New Era Field, 16-10, back in Week 4.

The five wins for the Bills have come against the Dolphins and Jets, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals. Those five teams combine to sport a 6-32 record. That’s not a typo.

Going forward, Buffalo continues to see easier opponents. The AFC North will provide the Bills with a tough home date against the Baltimore Ravens, but soft road foes in the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. Then there are the looming rematches with the Jets and Dolphins, with Buffalo getting the former at home and the latter on South Beach. Finally, dates with the Dallas Cowboys (away), Denver Broncos (home) and Patriots round out the rest of the schedule.

Even without beating a single team over .500, the Bills can rack up another five victories. If they do that, they’ll be making the playoffs at 10 wins without having a single impressive win on their resume.

Of course, Buffalo won’t be — and shouldn’t be — apologizing. The Bills are beating bad teams. It’s not their fault they happen to see a ton of them.

Ultimately, though, it could make for intrigue in the AFC Wild Card round. Buffalo will likely see either the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs or Ravens on the road. Can it stand up to those powerful foes and prove its mettle, or does it get exposed against better competition?

We won’t know for a few months, but it’s something to ponder as the playoff pictures come into focus.

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