Heading out of Week 12, the Kansas City Chiefs‘ playoff destiny is fascinating after their victory against the Raiders. With the AFC playoff picture still tightly packed heading out of Thanksgiving, much can still happen between now and the end of the season.
With a two-game lead in the AFC West, what else is in play for the Chiefs this season? With the assistance of PFN’s free NFL Playoff Predictor, let’s examine the current scenarios for the Chiefs heading into their final seven games of the season.
What Are the Kansas City Chiefs’ Playoff Scenarios After Week 12?
At the end of Sunday of Week 12, the Chiefs are the second seed in the AFC side of the current NFL standings. However, Kansas City remains very much in control of its own destiny as things stand.
The Chiefs are half a game behind the Baltimore Ravens (9-3). A win in Week 12 for Kansas City saw them get to 8-3 and move into the top seed temporarily. The Ravens then jumped back ahead to 9-3 on Sunday Night Football when they defeated the Los Angeles Cardinals. However, the Chiefs will have the chance to get back ahead of them for the No. 1 seed next week when Baltimore has their bye.
Right now, Kansas City holds nearly all the NFL playoff tiebreaker advantages in the AFC. They have beaten the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, who lead the other two divisions after Week 12. Additionally, with a 6-1 conference record after Week 12, if Kansas City wins out, no team can match them. Their only AFC head-to-head loss thus far came against a Denver Broncos team with five losses already on its résumé.
That is as simple as it gets for Kansas City. If they finish 14-3, they are the top seeds in the conference, and nothing anyone else does can change that. Additionally, no one the Chiefs play down the stretch can impact that head-to-head advantage they have over the Jaguars and Dolphins.
However, Kansas City’s margin for error is slim. One loss and it all goes out of their hands.
The Jaguars, Dolphins, and Ravens all sit with just three losses. If the Chiefs lose a single game, they would need all of those three teams to also lose at least one game.
With Miami, Jacksonville, and Baltimore, things are simple because Kansas City either has a head-to-head advantage or a clear advantage in terms of conference record. Where things get more complicated is if the Browns, Texans, and Steelers get involved in a tiebreaker scenario. The Chiefs have not and will not face any of them this season, so it will come down to the other tiebreakers.
However, all of them have at least three conference losses after Week 12, so would need the Chiefs to lose at least two conference games for it to even matter if their records are tied.
Common opponents will be an interesting web to unwind if we have multiple four or five-loss teams. Additionally, there is still a lot that can happen with strength of victory and strength of schedule before the season ends.
When Can the Chiefs Potentially Clinch the AFC West?
Before the Chiefs can worry about any seeding, they need to lock down the division, which they could do as early as Week 15. Lose the division, however, and the best they can achieve is to finish as the fifth seed and potentially spend three weeks away from Arrowhead in order to reach the Super Bowl.
The good news is that clinching the division is potentially only a couple of weeks away. As mentioned, with a two-game lead over the Broncos after Week 13, the Chiefs could close out the division as early as Week 15.
Things would need to break their way, but with wins over the Chargers and Broncos already and a 3-1 division record, there is a path where the Chiefs can be four games ahead with three to play. Even with a loss against the Packers or Bills, the Chiefs could still have an unassailable lead in the tiebreakers.
Kansas City would need a lot to go their way to have things locked down by the end of Week 15. If the Chiefs and Denver continue to win out, Kansas City may need to wait for Week 17 to clinch for certain. Common game tiebreakers could allow them to be locked in by Week 16, but that will be an evolving situation in the coming weeks.