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Chiefs playoff picture: The West has almost been won

The Chiefs are on the verge of their fifth-straight AFC West championship.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 10-1 after defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 on Sunday afternoon. Five weeks remain in the NFL season, in which the Chiefs will face the Denver Broncos (4-7) at home, the Miami Dolphins (7-4) and New Orleans Saints (9-2) on the road and the Atlanta Falcons (4-7) and Los Angeles Chargers (3-8) at home.

Let’s take a look at the team’s current playoff picture. As usual, we’ll use the New York Times playoff calculator to help us figure out what to expect. More details about how it works are included at the end of the article.

The big picture

With victories in the last two weeks, the Chiefs have a greater than 99% chance to make the playoffs, a greater than 99% chance to win their fifth-straight AFC West championship, a 44% chance to win the single AFC bye and a 19% chance to win Super Bowl LV. Right now, no other team has a better chance to win the championship — although the Saints (18%) and Pittsburgh Steelers (15%) are right behind the Chiefs.

Making the playoffs — and winning the West

We can use the playoff calculator to assume the outcome of any remaining game and then see how it changes things.

With the Chiefs’ win against Tampa Bay — and the handy Raiders loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday — the math is pretty simple: any combination of Chiefs wins and Raiders losses totaling two gives the Chiefs the division title — and a playoff berth. That could happen as soon as this Sunday with a Chiefs victory over the Broncos and a Raiders loss to the New York Jets.

But even if that doesn’t happen this weekend, the Chiefs are going to make the playoffs. Even if they were to lose their remaining five games — which itself would happen only about one time in 550 — they would still make the playoffs 98 or 99 times out of 100. So right now, their chance of missing the playoffs is about one in 54,000.

To put it another way: even if the Chiefs lose their next four games, they will still have playoff-clinching scenarios in every remaining week of the season. But I expect the division — and the playoffs — will be wrapped up no later than Week 15.

Getting a first-round bye

Here, the Chiefs have the same problem they had a week ago: those pesky Steelers keep on winning. A week ago, we at least thought there was a chance the Ravens would have beaten the Steelers by now. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, that game won’t be played until Wednesday — at the earliest — and the Ravens will likely be at a significant disadvantage.

The Chiefs can still give themselves a very good shot at the bye if they keep winning. Finishing the season 15-1 gives them an 86% chance at the AFC’s only postseason bye.

But to assure getting the bye with those five straight wins, the Chiefs will need for either the Ravens or Buffalo Bills to defeat the Steelers — or for the Steelers to lose any combination of two games.

Any Chiefs loss would make getting a bye significantly more difficult. In terms of the bye, the best-case Kansas City losses would be to NFC teams like the Saints and Falcons. With that 4-1 record to finish the season, the Chiefs would need this week’s Ravens win (or the Week 14 Bills win) and at least one more Steelers loss to clinch the bye.

About the New York Times playoff calculator

The calculator begins with the Sagarin ratings for each NFL team. This rating system determines the relative strength of every team. These ratings are then used to figure the probability teams will win each of their remaining games. Using this data, the remainder of the season is simulated tens of thousands of times — and the results of these projections give us our answers. So — for example — in greater than 99% of the simulations, the Chiefs make the playoffs.

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