That’s right, the Chiefs clinched a playoff berth this week. With 11 wins, the worst record we can have is 11-5, while the first teams out all have 6 losses, so they can’t finish better than 10-6. Therefore, we’ll be playing in the postseason.
But that’s not what everybody cares about. We want a first round bye and the top seed. In that regard the Chiefs had a very good week.
Clinching the Division
Boy are the Chargers annoying. With a win over the Bengals they now have the second best record in the AFC. But it turns out that, for this week at least, that game didn’t matter.
Our magic number in the division is 2 (magic number is our wins plus chargers losses needed to clinch the division). If the Chargers had lost it would have been 1. Either way, a win Thursday clinches the division, while a loss continues the division race.
As I described last week, we have the tiebreaker no matter what, so a loss Thursday means we still have the division lead. As long as we have the same record as the Chargers or better in the last two games we win the division even with the loss.
Our last two games are at Seattle and at home against Oakland, while the Chargers have the Ravens at home and then Denver on the road. This is very favorable for us. Seattle on the road will be tough, but a home game against the Raiders is about as much of a sure thing as you’re going to get.
With it being very unlikely that we’ll go 0-2, the Chargers need to win out to have a realistic chance at winning the division. That would be a win at Arrowhead on a short week, a win against the Ravens at home, and a win at Denver. That would be an incredible 3-game stretch.
Overall, the Chargers do have a path to winning the division, but it’s incredibly narrow.
1st Seed and 1st Round Bye
Thank you Indianapolis and Miami. Because of them if we win Thursday we get a 1st round bye.
Just like last week the Patriots have, and will have, the tiebreaker over us, but now they need to make up 2 games in the last 3 weeks to catch us. So if we go 1-2, they need to go 3-0. This is not too hard to imagine, we have two tough games and if they can win in Pittsburgh they have home games against the Jets and Bills to finish out the season, but it’s still pretty unlikely. If they lose to Pittsburgh, or we beat either Seattle or LA, then it’s pretty much over with that game against Oakland on our schedule.
With that in mind, if we win Thursday and the Steelers beat the Patriots, we will clinch our spot over them and the 1st seed.
While the Patriots will remain in the hunt as long as they win or we lose, the Texans can’t pass us if we win this week, and even if we lose they are an extreme long shot.
There are two potential tiebreakers here, conference record and strength of victory. Conference record comes first and is more likely to favor us, and after this week it’s now very unlikely that it will go to strength of victory. Here’s why.
Like the Patriots, they need to make up 2 games to go to a tiebreaker. That means to tie they need a combination of either:
- Texans go 2-1 and Chiefs go 0-3, or
- Texans go 3-0 and Chiefs go 1-2
Then once they get the tie they need to tie the conference record. Since we have 2 more conference wins than them, and we both have 1 NFC game left, both of those bullets only go the Texans’ way if all 6 games go just he right way.
For the first one, that Texans loss would have to be against the Eagles. If they beat the Eagles but lose one of their AFC games to get to that 2-1 record, They won’t have enough conference wins for the tiebreaker.
For the second one, our win would have to be against Seattle. If that one win was an AFC team we would again have more conference wins and have the tiebreaker.
Putting that all together, the Texans have 3 specific paths to jumping us:
- Texans go 3-0 and Chiefs go 0-3, or
- Texans go 2-1 with the loss being against Philadelphia and Chiefs go 0-3, or
- Texans go 3-0 and Chiefs go 1-2 with the win being against Seattle
This is much more unlikely than it seams on the surface. There are 720 possible outcomes for those final 6 games. Of those, only 3 end with the Texans jumping the Chiefs in the standings. If every game was 50/50, that would be a 1/240 chance.
But it’s even more likely than that. For one, the games aren’t 50/50, and our home game against the Raiders is highly likely to be a win. Notice that in all 3 of those scenarios the Texans need the Chiefs to lose to the Raiders.
And secondly, even if they do end up getting past the conference record tiebreaker, we still have a shot at winning the strength of victory. Not a high one, but it adds yet another hurdle they need to clear.
To put it short, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where we both win the division and lose to the Texans in the standings. At this point I wouldn’t even be worried about them until they get closer to some of these scenarios actually happening.
But notice how none of those 3 scenarios involve a Chiefs win over LA. Because the Chargers are an AFC team, and the Texans have no AFC games to give to pass us, that means a win Thursday eliminates them from passing us. And since it also eliminates the Chargers, the worst seed we could have is the 2nd.
- Chiefs clinch a playoff spot.
- Chiefs clinch the division and a first round bye with a win Thursday, but even with a loss have a good chance at doing both.
- Chiefs clinch 1st seed with win Thursday plus Patriots loss.
- The Patriots have a chance to pass us, but it’s not very likely.
- The Texans are essentially not a concern anymore. They almost certainly won’t pass us, and if they do we’ve likely lost the division anyway.
- All together it’s highly unlikely we get a seed other than 1st or 5th.