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Chiefs’ Playoff Picture: Wild Card opponent determined by season’s last game

Let’s see how the Chiefs’ postseason possibilities line up following Week 17’s NFL action.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 10-6 after Sunday’s 25-17 home victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Just one week remains in the NFL regular season. The Chiefs will finish 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

Sunday’s victory gave Kansas City its ninth consecutive playoff berth (the 10th of head coach Andy Reid’s 11-season tenure) and its eighth straight AFC West title. The Chiefs have now won 16 division crowns. The Las Vegas Raiders have also won the division 16 times, while the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers have both won 15 AFC West titles — but none of those teams have ever won eight in a row. The longest streak of division championships still belongs to the New England Patriots, who won 11 straight from 2009 through 2019.

The Chiefs now have a 4% chance (down from 5%) to win the Super Bowl. Five teams (up from four) now have a better chance to win the championship: the San Francisco 49ers (41%), the Baltimore Ravens (26%), the Dallas Cowboys (8%), Buffalo Bills (7%) and Miami Dolphins (5%).

The Wild Card round

The Chiefs are now locked in as the third seed in the AFC playoffs; nothing that happens in the game against the Chargers (or any other Week 18 game) can change that.

So while the Baltimore Ravens (who clinched the AFC’s top seed on Sunday) watch on television, the AFC’s Wild Card Weekend will include three games: the second seed hosting the seventh seed, the third seed hosting the sixth seed and the fourth seed hosting the fifth seed.

This means that in the Wild Card round, the Chiefs could host the Dolphins (a 47% chance), Bills (18%), Indianapolis Colts (17%), Houston Texans (14%) or Pittsburgh Steelers (4%).

Miami has the best chance to face Kansas City because just one thing has to happen for it to become the sixth seed: losing to the Bills in the season’s final game on Sunday night. That would give Buffalo the second seed, while Miami would fall to the sixth spot. But if the Dolphins win, the Bills will come to Kansas City only if the Tennessee Titans also beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Ravens defeat the Steelers.

Similar kinds of things have to happen for the Colts, Texans or Steelers to be tapped to travel to Kansas City in Week 19 — but all of those things will have happened by the time the Bills and Dolphins kick off in Miami for “Sunday Night Football.” So enjoy Saturday and Sunday’s other Week 18 games — but we won’t know which team will be playing the Chiefs in the postseason until the final whistle in Miami.


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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