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The teams most likely to face the Chiefs on January 12

What are the odds on the Wild Card teams that could travel to Kansas City?

Chiefs handle own business against Chargers, get gift-win via Dolphins to claim 2-seed Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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
Ravens (1) Bye --
Chiefs (2) Bye --
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 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.

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