Both AFC South teams defeated the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this season and came into Thursday night’s game with 6-4 records. With a win, each team could take the lead in their division — and both would still hold the most important playoff tiebreaker against the Chiefs: head-to-head record.
But now that we no longer have to decide which team should get our support, let’s see how the 20-17 Texans victory changed the Chiefs’ playoff aspirations.
As before, the Chiefs still control their playoff destiny. Winning their last five games will clinch a playoff berth. In fact, winning just four of their last five will also clinch a spot in the playoffs; the Chiefs can afford a single loss to any of their five remaining opponents and still clinch a postseason berth. Even the worst-case scenario — losses to Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers will almost certainly (a 94% chance) land them in the playoffs — maybe (a 54% chance) hosting a Wild Card game in the first round.
Now that the outcome of the Colts-Texans game is in the books, let’s focus on what will be possible if the Chiefs win their last five games:
On Wednesday, we explained how the New York Times playoff calculator shows that given those five victories, the Chiefs had a very good chance (86%) for a bye. The Texans’ win on Thursday night actually reduced that probability to 81%, because with the win, the Texans themselves increased their own chance at a bye. But because the game was between teams tied for a division lead — each of which were holding tiebreakers against another division leader — it also removed quite a bit of the uncertainty in these probability forecasts.
Both of this Sunday’s games will be available to Kansas City television viewers. Should the Cowboys defeat the Patriots (3:25 Arrowhead Time on WDAF/4), the Chiefs’ chance of a bye week (after five straight wins of their own) jumps to 91%. Should the Rams defeat the Ravens on Monday Night Football (7:15 Arrowhead Time on ESPN), it rises to 93%.
The following Sunday, a 49ers victory over the Ravens in the early games will push that chance to 99%. So even before the Chiefs play their next game (now a 3:25 kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium) the stage could be set for the Chiefs to begin a five-game winning streak that would virtually guarantee a bye week. Any remaining uncertainty could end with the Sunday Night Football game that night; a Patriots victory against the Texans would mean a five-game winning streak would clinch a bye for the Chiefs.
These, of course, are all longshot chances; a successful bet placed on five straight Chiefs wins — combined with these outcomes in the other four other games over the next two weeks — would win you a lot of money.
But on the other hand, the Chiefs’ remaining schedule — with the exception of the game against the Patriots — is pretty favorable; the Chiefs are likely to be favored to win all four of the other games. A couple of the other four wins we’ve laid out here would be upsets — but using FiveThirtyEight’s Elo prediction model, no opposing team is favored by more than a touchdown.
So we wouldn’t recommend going out and placing a bet on the Chiefs securing a bye week. But even if this scenario doesn’t play out, others in later weeks could give the same result — providing that the Chiefs win those last five games.
So it’s your move, Chiefs.