Breaking down Chiefs’ playoff scenarios for the wild-card round

·7 min read

The Chiefs made things a little more interesting for the rest of the AFC after falling to the Bengals in Week 17. With one week to go in the regular season, Kansas City currently holds the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff race with the potential to still get the No. 1 seed.

Given the Chiefs’ current situation, there are many potential opponents for them in the wild-card round should they fail to take the No. 1 seed in Week 18. Below we’re going to go over the scenarios for each one.

Games to watch

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Before diving into the scenarios, it’s important to highlight which games are important for the Chiefs in Week 18. There are eight games for Chiefs fans to keep an eye on (betting lines in parentheses via Tipico):

  • Chiefs (-10.5) vs. Broncos | 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jan. 8

  • Bengals vs. Browns (-2.5) | Noon CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

  • Steelers vs. Ravens (-4.5) | Noon CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

  • Colts (-15.5) vs. Jaguars | Noon CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

  • Titans (-10.5) vs. Texans | Noon CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

  • Jets vs. Bills (-16.5) | 3:25 p.m. CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

  • Patriots (-6.5) vs. Dolphins | 3:25 p.m. CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

  • Chargers (-2.5) vs. Raiders | 7:20 p.m. CT on Sunday, Jan. 9

Getting the No. 1 seed

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For the Chiefs to get the No. 1 seed, two things must happen:

  • Chiefs must beat the Broncos.

  • Texans must beat the Titans.

If that happens, the Chiefs will have a bye in the wild-card round. They would then play the lowest-remaining seed in the divisional round.

Getting the No. 2, 3 or 4 seed

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If the Chiefs do not get the No. 1 seed, they can clinch the No. 2 seed by defeating the Broncos. The Chiefs could get the No. 2 seed by losing as well, but they would need the Bengals, Bills and Patriots to lose.

The Chiefs would get the No. 3 or 4 seed with a loss to the Broncos and a win by either the Bengals, Bills or Patriots.

Potential Chiefs opponents in the wild-card round

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There are seven potential opponents for the Chiefs in the wild-card round. They are:

  • Baltimore Ravens

  • Buffalo Bills

  • Indianapolis Colts

  • Las Vegas Raiders

  • Los Angeles Chargers

  • New England Patriots

  • Pittsburgh Steelers

Since there are eight games that can affect who the Chiefs play in the wild-card round, there are 256 possible outcomes — not including ties. That’s a lot, obviously, but I have compiled all 256 possible outcomes in a sheet which you can view here.

For those who don’t want to go over such a daunting chart: we don’t blame you. Instead, let’s highlight some of the more likely scenarios that could happen.

Baltimore Ravens

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Odds: 4 out of 256 scenarios, or 1.56%

This is the rarest scenario for the Chiefs. The Chiefs could play the Ravens if:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

  • Ravens beat Steelers

  • Patriots beat Dolphins

  • Raiders beat Chargers

  • Jaguars beat Colts

This scenario requires two underdogs to win: the Jaguars and Raiders. It’s not impossible, but it seems like a long shot.

Buffalo Bills

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Odds: 16 out of 256 scenarios, or 6.25%

The Bills are the second-least likely opponent for the Chiefs mathematically. The Chiefs could play the Bills if:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

  • Patriots beat Dolphins

  • Jets beat Bills

  • Colts beat Jaguars

This scenario only requires one underdog to win, but it would be a big upset for the Jets to beat the Bills. For that reason it seems unlikely, but given the NFL’s parity it’s surely not impossible.

Indianapolis Colts

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Odds: 34 out of 256 scenarios, or 13.28%

The Colts are one of the more plausible opponents for the Chiefs mathematically, but there’s a catch: it’s much more likely for them to be K.C.’s opponent if the Chiefs lose to Denver.

There is, however, a scenario where the Chiefs and Colts could face-off following a Chiefs win in Week 18. That scenario is:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

  • Raiders beat Chargers

  • Patriots beat Dolphins

  • Bills beat Jets

  • Colts beat Jaguars

The above scenario only requires one underdog to win: the Raiders. Given the competitive nature between the Raiders and Chargers as division rivals, it doesn’t seem like a long shot for Vegas to get the win on Sunday Night Football.

Las Vegas Raiders

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Odds: 34 out of 256 scenarios, or 13.28%

The Raiders and Colts have pretty similar odds, numbers-wise. One scenario of note for the Raiders is:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

  • Chargers beat Raiders

  • Ravens beat Steelers

  • Jaguars beat Colts

The funny thing about this scenario is it would actually require the Raiders to lose in order to face the Chiefs. Of course, it would require a Jaguars win, too, which is a tough sell.

There’s also a funny scenario:

While true, it’s doubtful that two division rivals would agree to a tie. However, if their matchup did go deep into overtime, it wouldn’t be surprising to see either team play for the tie if things go sideways.

Los Angeles Chargers

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Odds: 36 out of 256 scenarios, or 14.06%

To me, the Chargers seem like the most likely scenario for the Chiefs in the wild-card round. Several scenarios exist to make this happen, but the most simple one is:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

  • Chargers beat Raiders

  • Colts beat Jaguars

  • Bills beat Jets OR Patriots beat Dolphins, but not both

All the winners in this scenario are favored to win — some heavily so. A third game between the Chiefs and Chargers this season would be an exciting one given that their other two matchups were each decided by six points.

New England Patriots

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Odds: 48 out of 256 scenarios, or 18.75%

Mathematically, this is the most likely scenario. Realistically, it’s not because most of its scenarios require the Chiefs to lose to Denver. Still, there is a notable scenario that includes a Chiefs win:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

  • Dolphins beat Patriots

  • Raiders beat Chargers

  • Colts beat Jaguars

This requires an underdog — the Dolphins — to win. That may seem like a long shot to some, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Dolphins took out the Patriots to close the season

Pittsburgh Steelers

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

Odds: 20 out of 256 scenarios, or 7.81%

Pittsburgh is probably the most preferred opponent for Chiefs fans after K.C. dominated the Steelers 36-10 in Week 16. This one is a tough sell, though, because it requires these two things to happen:

  • Steelers beat Ravens

  • Jaguars beat Colts

We’ve talked about this already, but the Jaguars beating the Colts seems unlikely. However, say the above happens. Then what? Well, the Chiefs would play the Steelers if:

  • Chiefs beat Broncos

  • Titans beat Texans

Or:

  • Broncos beat Chiefs

  • Dolphins beat Patriots

  • Jets beat Bills

  • Browns beat Bengals

So yeah. This one gets a little complex.

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