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Chiefs Playoff Picture: in Week 17, three teams fight for the AFC’s bye

Let’s show how the Chiefs’ postseason possibilities line up following Week 16’s NFL action.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 12-3 after their 24-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve.

Two games remain in the 2022 NFL season, in which the Chiefs play at home against the Denver Broncos (4-11) and then finish the regular season in Nevada against the Las Vegas Raiders (6-9).

Let's take a look at the team's current playoff picture. As always, 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

As it stands right now, the Chiefs have clinched a playoff berth and locked up the AFC West. They have a 31% chance to win the single AFC bye and a 14% chance to win Super Bowl LVII. The Philadelphia Eagles’ chance now stands at 21% and the Buffalo Bills have a 19% chance. The San Francisco 49ers (12%) and Cincinnati Bengals (11%) trail the Chiefs.

Getting a first-round bye

The only regular-season question remaining is whether Kansas City can earn the AFC’s single postseason bye. The Chiefs remain tied with the Bills for the AFC’s best record at 12-3, so Kansas City’s 24-20 home loss to Buffalo in Week 6 gives the men from upstate New York the first tiebreaker — and since the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins have both accumulated recent losses, the Bills and Bengals are the only teams that can deny Kansas City the top seed.

So here’s where we are: if the Bills win their final two games (on the road against the Bengals and against the Patriots at home) they’ll claim the top seed. If the Chiefs beat the Broncos and Raiders, a single Buffalo loss confers the bye to Kansas City.

The Bengals have the hardest path to the top seed. By winning their last two games (at home against the Bills and at home against the Ravens), they can claim the No. 1 seed — but only if the Chiefs lose one of their final two games. There are scenarios where the Bengals can win the top seed by losing to the Ravens in Week 18 — but there is no scenario where Cincinnati can get the No. 1 seed without defeating Buffalo.

This means that Week 17’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Bills and Bengals will have enormous stakes for all three teams. DraftKings currently has Buffalo favored by a single point on the road — and FiveThirtyEight.com favors Cincinnati by half a point.

But as always... it starts with Kansas City taking care of its business against Denver on Sunday and Las Vegas a week after that — because if the Chiefs lose either game, their chance at the top seed drops below 10%.


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 99% of the simulations, the Chiefs make the playoffs.

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