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Chiefs’ Playoff Picture: Kansas City still alive in race for the top AFC seed

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

Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 8-4 after Sunday’s 27-19 road loss against the Green Bay Packers.

Five weeks remain in the 2023 NFL season, in which the Chiefs face the Buffalo Bills at home, go against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, play back-to-back home games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals and 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 99% chance to make the playoffs, a 96% chance to win the AFC West (down from 99% a week ago), a 24% chance to win the single AFC bye (down from 46%) and a 9% chance to win Super Bowl LVIII. Two AFC teams now have a better chance to win the championship: the Miami Dolphins (15%) and the Baltimore Ravens (14%). Over in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers (24%) have the best chance, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles (11%). Those two teams were at 22% and 15% a week ago.

Making the playoffs

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

The Chiefs’ remaining opponents are all AFC teams. Since most of the AFC contenders still have at least one game remaining against an NFC team (among them, only the Chargers and Denver Broncos have finished their NFC schedules), every Kansas City victory counts more. So if Kansas City wins the next three games (or any combination of three games) the team will make the playoffs.

It might not take even three wins. Here’s a convoluted example: let’s say that this weekend, the Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jacksonville Jaguars defeat the Cleveland Browns and the Chargers beat the Broncos — and in Week 15, the Tennessee Titans beat the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Bills. If all of that happens, the Chiefs could get in by winning their next two games.

Winning the AFC West

Kansas City has only two division games left on its schedule. So beating the Raiders in Week 16 and the Chargers in Week 18 — plus one more win — will lock up the West. Winning any three of their remaining games (as long as one of them is against the Raiders or Chargers) will also give the Chiefs their eighth consecutive division title.

Getting a first-round bye

If they had defeated the Packers Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs would be sitting pretty in the race for the top seed; they would have needed only to win their last five games to clinch it.

Since they didn’t, they’re going to need some help. They got some in the very next game: the Bengals defeated the Jaguars 34-31 on Monday night. So now, Kansas City simply needs for the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens to each lose one of their remaining games. Should that happen, Kansas City is back in the driver’s seat: the team can lock up the top seed by winning out.

This weekend, the Ravens host the Los Angeles Rams and the Dolphins host the Tennessee Titans. Both of the home teams are heavily favored to win. But in Week 15, the New York Jets will play the Dolphins and the Jaguars will host the Ravens. After that, the Dallas Cowboys travel to Miami and Baltimore goes on the road against the 49ers — and in Week 17, the Dolphins and Ravens play each other!

So while there’s still hope the Chiefs can get the help they need, they will still need to focus on the main job: winning the next five games. That starts with the Bills matchup this Sunday.

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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