Playoff Odds: Denver Broncos Still Division Favorites Over Kansas City Chiefs (Barely)


What a difference a win over the defending Super Bowl champions can make.

Football Outsiders’ update on the playoff odds are out and the Chiefs are in a really good position to not only make the playoffs but also earn a first round bye. Now would be a wonderful time to thank your fellow St. Louis Rams fans for the work they did on Sunday against the Broncos. Let’s take a look at where the Chiefs are heading into Thursday’s game against the Oakland Raiders.

Denver is still the slight favorite – 51.2% to 47.4% – over the Chiefs to win the AFC West, but the Chiefs actually have better odds to make the playoffs than the Broncos – 87.6% to 85.6%. This is based mostly on the fact the Chiefs carry tie-breakers over teams like the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and (for now) San Diego Chargers.

Also, take a look at the projected wins. KC has only 0.1 less projected win than the Broncos. FO determines their projected win totals based on how each team has played through the season through the prism of their efficiency metrics. What those metrics don’t account for are potential games missed for Julius Thomas and He Who Shall Not Be Named (Emmanuel Sanders). Losing those two guys for Sunday’s matchup against the Miami Dolphins, who have had extra time to prepare because they are coming off the Thursday night game, could be the difference between a 0.1 win advantage and a 0.1 game disadvantage. That Miami game definitely doesn’t look as much of a lock as it did a few days ago.

In short, the Chiefs may be able to lose a game to Arizona or Pittsburgh and still win the division if Thomas and HWSNBN are forced to miss a game or two.

Then there is the case of the number one seed. Yes, the one seed. I can’t believe we are talking about this.

The Chiefs are third in the AFC in terms of adds to lock up the top seed in the conference. Here’s how the odds break down for the Chiefs according to FO.

Patriots – 31.9%

Broncos – 26.9%

Chiefs – 21.8%

Ravens – 8%

Colts – 3.6%

The key here is the Chiefs, unlike the Broncos, have a tie-breaker over the Patriots. KC needs only to tie New England in the standings to top them either for a one seed or for a first round bye. And there is a serious chance the Chiefs could make that happen even if they finish the season with a 5-1 record because New England still has some tough games left on their schedule.


vs. Detroit Lions

at Green Bay Packers

at San Diego Chargers

vs. Miami Dolphins

at New York Jets

vs. Buffalo Bills

It isn’t unthinkable that even with the Patriots playing at an extremely high level that they could lose two of their last six games. Detroit’s is a very good team fighting for a division title, Green Bay is the best team in football, the Chargers will still be in the wild card hunt, and the Dolphins will be able to take a giant leap forward towards making the playoffs with a win. All of those games will be extremely tough, and two of those games will be on the road. Hell, the Patriots could go 3-3 in the final six weeks and it wouldn’t surprise me.

Of course, none of this matters if the Chiefs don’t continue their winning ways. KC has to go at least 5-1 in their final six, and that one loss would probably be best served if it happened in Arizona in a few weeks. Losing a division game and losing to the Steelers would be a big blow to Kansas City’s chances of earning the one seed and home field advantage.

Good news here is that few teams in the NFL control their destiny the way the Chiefs do at this stage of the season. Beat Oakland and Denver in the next two weeks and KC will head into December in incredible shape.