Chiefs Playoff Picture Week 12: Seventh AFC West title edition

The Kansas City Chiefs now stand 8-2 after claiming a 30-27 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.

Seven weeks remain in the 2022 NFL season, in which the Chiefs will host the Los Angeles Rams (3-7), go on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals (6-4), Denver Broncos (3-7) and Houston Texans ( 1-8-1), return home to play the Seattle Seahawks (6-4) and Denver Broncos (3-7) and then finish the regular season in Nevada against the Las Vegas Raiders (3-7).

Let’s take a look at the team’s current playoff picture. As usual, we’ll 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 greater than 99% chance to make the playoffs, a 99% luck to win their seventh consecutive AFC West championship, a 44% luck to win the single AFC bye and a 17% luck to win Super Bowl LV. No other team currently has a better chance to win the championship — although the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles are right behind the Chiefs at 15%.

Making the playoffs

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

Even though Kansas City is almost guaranteed to make the postseason right now, they can’t clinch the playoffs in Week 12. But winning the next two games — or any two of the next three — will give them a ticket to the dance.

Winning the AFC West

With Sunday’s win, the Chiefs have the division firmly in their hands; the Chargers are the only team with a reasonable chance to challenge for the title. The Chiefs can lock it down by simply winning its next three games — or any four of its last seven. Kansas City could also clinch by winning the next two games — as long as the Chargers lose to the Arizona Cardinals this weekend and to the Raiders in Week 13.

Getting a first-round bye

The Chiefs remain in control of their own destiny — but because of the head-to-head tiebreaker the Bills hold over them, there’s not a lot of room for error. Since Kansas City now holds the No. 1 seed, winning its last seven games will clinch the bye — but winning only six will make things more difficult.

As an example: suppose Kansas City loses to the Rams in Week 12. If the Chiefs then won the final six games, winning the bye would require the Jacksonville Jaguars to have beaten the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 — and then in Week 13, the New England Patriots would have to defeat the Bills and the San Francisco 49ers would need to win against the Miami Dolphins.

That’s not the only combination of games that would do the trick — but the key point is that if the Chiefs lose a game (or two) during the home stretch, the teams we’ll be watching will include the Bills, Ravens and Dolphins.


About the New York Times playoff calculator

The calculator begins with the Sagarin ratings for each NFL team. This rating system determines the relative strength of every team. These ratings are then used to figure the probability teams will win each of their remaining games. Using this data, the remainder of the season is simulated tens of thousands of times — and the results of these projections give us our answers. So — for example — in 99% of the simulations, the Chiefs make the playoffs.

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