If any of the following things happen in Week 16, the Buffalo Bills will miss the playoffs for the 17th straight season, the longest active drought in the league:
1. They lose to the Dolphins at home on Christmas Eve.
2. The Ravens beat the Steelers on Christmas Day.
3. The Titans beat the Jaguars and the Texans beat the Bengals.
Even if Buffalo beats Miami and all that other stuff doesn’t happen, the Bills’ road to the playoffs in Week 17 remains nearly impossible: FiveThirtyEight pegs their chances of making the playoffs at 1 percent.
But yes, I’m saying there’s a chance, one that would seemingly throw a wrench into the narrative surrounding Bills Coach Rex Ryan: Namely, that he’s about to be fired.
It all started before Buffalo’s Week 14 loss the Steelers on Dec. 11, when Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Ryan could be out of a job as soon as the following day. That didn’t happen, and Ryan was on the sideline Sunday when the Bills beat the Cleveland Browns at home. This time, however, he was greeted with a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that said Ryan “is probably approaching his final games as the Bills’ head coach.”
Said Ryan, in response to questions about the most recent report: “I don’t know what my future holds. I just know that I’m gonna get this team ready to play on Saturday, on Christmas Eve, and I’m excited about that.”
The reports by La Canfora and Schefter go beyond mere speculation. La Canfora cited “sources with knowledge of the situation” and Schefter is going off “league sources,” so these are people who would either know what’s going on or have ulterior motives in getting this news out there. But what if these sources felt comfortable saying such things — yes, even if they’re staying anonymous — simply because the Bills’ playoff chances are so slim? What if they turn out to be wrong? Now you have a coach who led a long-downtrodden franchise back to the playoffs for the first time in forever, even in the face of rumors about his job status that very well could have come from inside his own front office?
The mess would be even bigger than the one in which the Bills usually find themselves, with a coach who believes he was being set up to fail.
Chances are that doesn’t happen, but just imagine for a minute if it does.