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The teams most likely to face the Chiefs on January 12

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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 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.