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Chiefs Playoff Picture: Raiders and 49ers give Kansas City a hand

Let’s show how the Chiefs’ postseason possibilities line up following Week 13’s NFL action.

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NFL: DEC 04 Chiefs at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 9-3 after their a 27-24 road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

Five weeks remain in the 2022 NFL season, in which the Chiefs go on the road against the Denver Broncos (3-9) and Houston Texans (1-10-1), return home to play the Seattle Seahawks (7-5) and Denver Broncos (3-9) and then finish the regular season in Nevada against the Las Vegas Raiders (5-7).

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 a greater than 99% chance to make the playoffs, a greater than 99% chance to win the AFC West, a 34% chance to win the single AFC bye (down from 54% a week ago) and a 17% chance to win Super Bowl LVII (down from 18%). The Buffalo Bills also have a 17% chance to win the championship, while the Philadelphia Eagles‘ chance now stands at 15%.

Making the playoffs

The playoff calculator allows us to assume the outcome of any remaining games and then see how it changes things.

Despite Sunday’s loss, making the playoffs remains a simple proposition for Kansas City: with a win against the Broncos in Denver — along with the Miami Dolphins defeating the Los Angeles Chargers — the Chiefs will earn their eighth consecutive ticket to the dance.

If Kansas City loses, winning the next two games will be required.

The Chiefs could also make the playoffs with a single win against the Texans in Week 15 — but only if the Chargers and Raiders each lose at least one game in Weeks 14 and 15.

Winning the AFC West

Going into Sunday, Kansas City’s magic number to win the division was three. Any combination of Chiefs wins and Chargers losses would ensure Kansas City’s seventh consecutive division title, guaranteeing at least one home game in the postseason. Therefore, two Kansas City victories will guarantee the title.

The Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals didn’t help, but we can thank the Raiders for beating the Chargers 27-20 on Sunday. That means a win against Denver this weekend will also clinch the division — as long as the Dolphins beat the Chargers on Sunday Night Football. (But again, it might be better for the Chargers to win).

Getting a first-round bye

You probably already know that Kansas City no longer controls its own destiny to land the AFC’s single playoff bye. But thanks to the San Francisco 49ers’ 33-17 win over the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs’ main worry is now the Bills. Should Kansas City wins its final five games, getting the bye would require Buffalo to lose only one of its remaining matchups, which are against the New York Jets, Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Bengals and New England Patriots.

It’s still possible for the Chiefs to clinch the bye before its Week 18 game against the Raiders, too. Winning the next four games will go a long way toward that goal — by itself, that improves Kansas City’s chance to win the top seed to 72% — but the Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Dolphins and Bengals would all still be in the mix. Starting this weekend, Chiefs fans should be rooting for all four of those teams to lose at least one game.

For example: if the Bills lose to the Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Ravens, the Dolphins fall to the Chargers and the Cleveland Browns defeat the Bengals in Week 14, winning their next four games would give the Chiefs a 94% chance to clinch the bye.

It’s unlikely, of course, that all four of those games will fall that way — but we’ll take every one of them we can get. The key games to watch in Week 14 will be Jets-Bills and Dolphins-Chargers — because the following weekend, Buffalo and Miami will play each other.

But should the Bills, Ravens, Dolphins and Bengals all lose their games this weekend, we’ll be rooting for Miami to win the Week 15 matchup with Buffalo — because that would mean a fourth-straight win in Week 17 would clinch the bye for Kansas City.

So even with Sunday’s loss, a path to the AFC’s top seed remains open — and it’s still possible that Kansas City could wrap it up before the final weekend. But as always, it starts with a win against the Broncos this Sunday.

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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