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Chiefs’ Playoff Picture: Time is running out

Let’s see how the Chiefs’ postseason possibilities line up following Week 14’s NFL action.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 8-5 after Sunday’s 20-17 home loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Four weeks remain in the 2023 NFL season, in which the Chiefs go against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, play back-to-back home games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals and then finish the season with a road matchup versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Let’s take a look at the team’s current playoff picture. We’ll once again 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 still have a 98% chance to make the playoffs (down from 99% last week), a 91% chance to win the AFC West (previously 96%), an 11% chance to win the single AFC bye (down from 24%) and an 8% chance (9%) to win Super Bowl LVIII.

Two AFC teams now have a better chance to win the championship: the Miami Dolphins (13%) and the Baltimore Ravens (13%). Over in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers (39%) have the best chance, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles (7%). Those two teams were at 24% and 11% a week ago.

UPDATE: After the Tennesee Titans defeated the Dolphins on “Monday Night Football,” Kansas City has a 99% chance to make the playoffs, a 92% chance to win the division, a 20% chance to win the AFC’s No. 1 seed and an 8% chance to win the championship.

Making the playoffs

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

Just like one week ago, any combination of three Kansas City wins will put the Chiefs in the postseason. It’s possible The Chiefs could make the postseason by winning the next two games — but to do so would require a bunch of other games to fall a certain way.

Winning the AFC West

Kansas City has only two division games left on its schedule — and to take the division, it will at least need to win both of those matchups. Beating the Raiders in Week 16 and the Chargers in Week 18 — plus one more win — will lock up the West.

Getting a first-round bye

UPDATE: This section has been substantially updated after the Dolphins’ loss on Monday night.

Sunday’s loss made things substantially more difficult to win the AFC’s top seed. The Chiefs are now two games behind the Ravens and one game behind the Dolphins. This means that if Kansas City can win the next four games, it would also need for the Ravens to lose two of their last four games and the Dolphins to drop one of their final four.

Remember: all Kansas City has to do is tie these two teams — because if the Chiefs win out, they’ll hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins and a conference record tiebreaker over the Ravens.

To put that another way, even if the Chiefs win their last four games, there’s about a 50% chance they’ll win the top seed. (Before Miami’s loss on Monday night, that chance was just 30%).

So while getting the top seed remains possible for Kansas City, we’re now past the point that it’s a realistic expectation. And now that the team has lost four of its last six games, it’s time to say the same thing about winning a championship in 2023.

Here’s what’s interesting, though: Sunday’s loss reduced the team’s chance to get the top seed from 24% to 11%. (After Miami lost to Tennessee, it jumped back to 20%). But the Chiefs’ chance to win the championship fell from 9% to 8%. So in tens of thousands of simulations, Kansas City’s chance to win it all didn’t change dramatically by getting the top seed.

Despite their recent losses, the Chiefs still have a strong chance to get a ticket to the dance — and even play at least one game at home. And if they can get their problems under control, it’s still possible for them to make some postseason noise.

So even though it’s no longer reasonable to expect the team will get the top seed or win it all, it’s not time to give up. Look what happened when the Titans upset the Dolphins on Monday night. If the Jaguars upset the Ravens on Sunday — and the Chiefs win out — Kansas City’s chance to get the top seed increases to 79%.

But here’s the part we can’t ignore: the time now available for Kansas City to solve its issues is growing shorter and shorter.


About the New York Times playoff calculator

The calculator begins with an Elo rating (and betting market information) for each NFL team. This data is used to determine the relative strength of every team. That, in turn, is used to figure out the probability that each team will win each of its remaining games. The remainder of the season is simulated tens of thousands of times — and the results of these projections give us the probabilities quoted in this article.

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