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Predicting where the Chiefs will stand after the Wild Card round

Let’s see how the first round of the playoffs is most likely to play out — and what the Divisional round will look like.

NFL: AFC Championship Game-New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL postseason gets underway this weekend. In all, 14 of the NFL’s 32 teams will be lining up for their chance to go to — and win — Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. The No. 2-seeded Kansas City Chiefs open up their playoff campaign against the No. 7-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. Arrowhead Time.

Here are this season’s contestants. The top seeds in both the AFC and NFC will sit out this weekend. Every other team will play in Super Wild Card Weekend games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.



In the Wild Card round, division winners play at home. The highest seed plays the lowest seed, the second-highest plays the second-lowest ... and so on. This means that for the AFC in Week 19, the Chiefs will host the Steelers, the Patriots will be on the road against the Bills and the Bengals will be at home against the Raiders.

The same rules apply in the AFC’s Divisional round games in Week 20, so the Titans will play at home against the lowest remaining seed. Since only three teams will survive the Wild Card round, we know that the second and third seeds — the Chiefs and Bills — cannot play the Titans until the conference championship round in Week 20 — and then only if the Titans survive the Divisional round.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s ELO model, there is an 86 percent probability for the Chiefs to defeat the Steelers. The Bills have a 70 percent chance of beating the Patriots, while the Bengals would win 74 percent of the time against the Raiders.

With this information, we can predict which teams the first-seeded Titans are most likely to face in the Divisional round.

Titans Opponent Chance
Bengals 44.5%
Patriots 25.8%
Raiders 15.7%
Steelers 14.0%

We can do similar math to calculate where the second-seeded Chiefs are most likely to be after the Wild Card round.

Chiefs Opponent Chance
Bills 60.2%
Bengals 19.1%
OUT 14.0%
Raiders 6.7%

All the same procedures apply in the NFC — where in the Wild Card round, the Buccaneers have an 81 percent probability to beat the Eagles, the Cowboys are given a 69 percent chance to earn a win over the 49ers and the Rams are favored 70/30 against the Cardinals. Here are the teams the first-seeded Packers are likely to face in the Divisional round.

Packers Opponent Chance
Rams 39.1%
49ers 25.1%
Eagles 19.0%
Cardinals 16.8%

And here are the teams that the second-seeded Buccaneers are most likely to face after the Wild Card round.

Buccaneers Opponent Chance
Cowboys 55.9%
OUT 19.0%
Rams 17.6%
Cardinals 7.5%

Of course, all of these percentages would vary if we used a different model to predict the winner of each game. For example: if a different model predicted the Chiefs would have a 60 percent chance to beat the Steelers, there would be a 40 percent chance they’d be out of the Divisional round and a 42 percent probability they’d play the Bills ... and so on. But this exercise does allow you to see the most likely outcomes for the top two seeds in the Divisional round.

Let the postseason begin!

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