Since the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 on Sunday — while the Miami Dolphins simultaneously upset the New England Patriots — the Chiefs enter the postseason with the AFC’s second seed and a first-round bye.
This means the Chiefs are guaranteed a chance to play in the Divisional round — and as a division winner, they get to host their first postseason game, which will be played at 2:05 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Sunday, January 12.
But which team will they play?
For this, we need to understand exactly how the playoffs work. At each step, the highest-seeded team hosts the lowest-seeded team. The next highest-seeded team then hosts the next-lowest seeded team.
This is how that looks in Week 18 — also known as the Wild Card round.
|Team||Week 18||Win Pct|
|Patriots (3)||vs. Titans||68%|
|Texans (4)||vs. Bills||62%|
|Bills (5)||at Texans||38%|
|Titans (6)||at Patriots||32%|
The third column shows the probability each team will win their Wild Card matchup, according to FiveThirtyEight.com Elo ratings.
So the first team in line to play the Chiefs — who will have the lowest seed in the Divisional round — will be the highest-seeded team without a bye. In this case, that’s the Patriots, who are seeded third. If the Patriots win — Elo says there is a 68% chance of that — they’ll travel to Arrowhead a week from Sunday.
But should the Tennessee Titans win — a 32% chance — they’ll go on the road to play the Baltimore Ravens; we know this because the Titans will have the lowest-remaining seed and the Ravens will have the highest-remaining seed.
Should that happen, the next team in line to play the Chiefs will be the Houston Texans, who have a 62% chance to win their game against the Buffalo Bills. This means the chance the Chiefs will face the Texans is 32% (the chance the Titans win) multiplied by 62% (the chance the Texans win). That’s 19.8%, which we’ll round to 20%.
Otherwise, the Bills will be coming to Arrowhead in the divisional round. We can calculate the chance that happens in the same way: 32% (the chance the Titans win) multiplied by 38% (the chance the Bills win). That’s 12.2%, which we’ll round to 12%.
So here are the chances each of the four teams playing this weekend will face the Chiefs in the Divisional round:
- New England Patriots: 68%
- Houston Texans: 20%
- Buffalo Bills: 12%
- Tennessee Titans 0%
This shows us that the Chiefs are 3-5 times more likely to face the Patriots than any other team.
We can work the math the same way for which team will face the Ravens in Baltimore — a game that will be played at 7:15 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Saturday, January 11.
- New England Patriots: 0%
- Houston Texans: 42%
- Buffalo Bills: 26%
- Tennessee Titans 32%
Note that in the scenarios for both the Chiefs’ and Ravens’ Divisional round games, the percentages add up to 100%. That’s how we know we’ve done the math right.
Both AFC games will be played on Saturday. Houston will host Buffalo at 3:35 p.m. Arrowhead Time. New England will host Tennessee at 7:15 p.m. Arrowhead Time.