Now 9-1 on the season, the Kansas City Chiefs are in an excellent playoff position in the AFC. The stat geeks over at FiveThirtyEight.com now give the Chiefs a greater than 99 percent chance to make the playoffs, an 84 percent probability to win the AFC West, and a 79 percent chance to get a first-round bye in the playoffs.
If the playoffs were to begin today, here’s how the teams would line up.
AFC Playoff Picture
|Chiefs (1)||9||1||0||West Champion|
|Steelers (2)||6||2||1||North Champion|
|Patriots (3)||7||3||0||East Champion|
|Texans (4)||6||3||0||South Champion|
|Chargers (5)||7||2||0||Wild Card #1|
|Bengals (6)||5||4||0||Wild Card #2||conf win percentage|
|Ravens||4||5||0||conf win percentage|
|Jaguars||3||6||0||conf win percentage|
The Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers would sit out the first week, while the Cincinnati Bengals would travel to Foxborough to play the New England Patriots, and the Los Angeles Chargers would play the Houston Texans in Texas. The following week, the lowest remaining seed would travel to Kansas City, and the highest would play against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Provided the Chiefs win, the conference championship game would be played in Arrowhead.
With six games remaining, the Chiefs cannot finish worse than 9-7, which is usually enough to at least sneak into the playoffs. In this worst-case scenario, the Chiefs would hold head-to-head tiebreakers against the Steelers and Bengals — but not against the Chargers or Baltimore Ravens.
But we know this is unlikely to happen. The Chiefs will face the Los Angeles Rams on Monday
in Mexico City — excuse me, in Los Angeles. Then they will have home games against the Ravens, Chargers and Oakland Raiders, and road games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Raiders. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs losing to the Raiders in either stadium — which would give them a worst-case record of 11-5. It’s not unreasonable to think they could somehow split the other four games, which would bring them to 13-3.
The problem is that the Chargers are close behind — uncomfortably close. The Chargers have the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Bengals and Ravens at home, plus road games against the Steelers and Broncos — in addition to their game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
The Chargers could arrive in Kansas City on December 13 at 10-3 — or even 11-2 if they can eke out a win against the Steelers. Given the scenario I outlined above, the Chiefs could also come into that game with a record of 10-3 or 11-2. If it plays out that way, the game will matter not only in terms of overall record but also in terms of playoff tiebreakers.
In other words...
A victory against the Chargers in that Week 15 game could be critical in ensuring the Chiefs play at Arrowhead until February. But with each successive win — and Chargers loss — the Chiefs’ position will improve. So even though it is against an NFC opponent, the upcoming game against the Rams — which will now be played in Los Angeles instead of Mexico City — could end up being quite important, too.