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Chiefs’ Playoff Picture: the AFC West is still within their reach

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

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 9-6 after Monday’s 20-14 home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Two weeks remain in the NFL regular season, in which the Chiefs have a home game against the 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 have a 98% chance to make the playoffs (down slightly from greater than 99% last week), a 97% chance to win the AFC West (previously 99%), a less than 1% chance to win the single AFC bye (down from 11%) and a 5% chance (down from 8%) to win Super Bowl LVIII.

Four teams (up from two) now have a better chance to win the championship: the San Francisco 49ers (37%), the Baltimore Ravens (19%), Miami Dolphins (12%) and Philadelphia Eagles (7%).

Making the playoffs

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

A week ago, we knew that defeating the Raiders on Christmas Day would clinch a playoff berth. While that didn't happen, making it to the dance is still entirely within Kansas City’s control. The team can clinch a spot in the postseason by defeating the Bengals this Sunday or the Chargers in the season’s final week.

Even if the Chiefs lose both of their last two games, there’s a 61% chance that they’ll make the postseason. In other words, with two losses to end the season, the Chiefs could wind up missing the playoffs — but more than a few games over the last two weekends would have to line up the right way.

Winning the AFC West

Winning either of their final two games will also give the Chiefs their eighth straight division title. Even with two losses to end the season, the team would still have about a 47% chance to win the division; both the Raiders and Broncos could win the West, but each would have to win their final two games — and in Week 18, they play each other.

Getting a first-round bye

As far as the first seed is concerned, Kansas City didn’t help itself by losing to the Raiders. But neither the Dolphins or Ravens accommodated the Chiefs with a loss in Week 16, either. So even with a Christmas Day win, the Chiefs’ chance at the No. 1 seed was going to be lower today than it was a week ago.

And now with Monday’s loss on the books... well, all hope is gone. The Chiefs cannot win the AFC’s top seed.

As it now stands, two victories to end the season would almost certainly give Kansas City the third AFC seed — with a small chance at the second seed. Winning just one of the last two games would lock the Chiefs into the third spot. Should they lose both of their final games, their best chance (about 40%) would be for the fourth seed — but depending on how other games fall during the final two weeks, they could end up third, fourth or seventh.


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.

It's Game Time.

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