Everything you need to know about AFC West race moving forward

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 06: Willie Gay #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs out during introductions against the Tennessee Titans at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on November 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 06: Willie Gay #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs out during introductions against the Tennessee Titans at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on November 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Let’s unpack the reasons why so many people are saying that the Chiefs already secured the AFC West with that Week 11 win in Los Angeles.

After defeating the Chargers in Los Angeles in Week 11, the common talk around the Kansas City Chiefs was that they had “pretty much wrapped up the AFC West”. And while that’s true, you want to have a leg up in those water cooler conversations.

Let’s unpack exactly where the Chiefs stand in the division, what needs to happen in order to mathematically lock it up, and where the Chiefs stand in the conference race for the No. 1 seed (and the only bye week in the postseason).

AFC West race

The Chiefs are atop the West at 8-2. When they dispatched the Chargers, they dropped them to 5-5. The Raiders and Broncos are both mired at 3-7.

With 7 games remaining for each team, this means the best the Chargers can do is to win out and get to 12-5. Since they were swept by the Chiefs, the Chargers would have to finish a game ahead of the Chiefs in order to win the division; thus, in this scenario, they would need KC to finish 11-6 or worse.

The reason everyone is saying that the Chiefs basically sealed the division is that the Chargers would need 11 of the remaining 14 games (7 Chiefs games, 7 Chargers games) to go their way. Any combination of 11 Chargers wins and Chiefs losses would make the Chargers the division champs. The problem there is the mathematical unlikelihood of the Chargers winning out while the Chiefs go 3-4.

The Chiefs’ magic number is down to just 4, meaning that any combination of four Chiefs wins or Chargers losses will mathematically secure the Chiefs’ 7th-consecutive division championship.

This means that the Chiefs could secure a playoff spot as soon as Week 13 at Cincinnati, if they beat the Rams and Bengals while the Chargers lose to the Cardinals and Raiders. If that happened, the Chargers (5-7, hypothetically) would be unable to get a game ahead of the Chiefs (10-2, hypothetically) with just five games to go.

While it is possible that things go that way, it is much more likely that the Chiefs lock up the division in Week 14 against the Broncos. Which is great news for you, dear reader, because it means that you can celebrate the division championship with all of your Arrowhead Addict friends at Tanner’s Bar and Grill! Check the link for details about the live podcast and watch party on December 11.

The Chiefs became the first team in AFC West history to win six consecutive titles in 2021. Winning seven would put them in rarified air, as only the 1973-1979 Rams (seven titles) and the 2009-2019 Patriots (eleven titles) have ever won seven straight division championships. This is an especially impressive feat because of the difficulty of a first-place schedule. Every team that finishes first in the division is always slated to play the three other division winners from their conference in the next season. It’s the reason why the Chiefs were lined up to play the Bills and Bengals this season.

AFC race

The Chiefs currently are in the pole position in the AFC with a record of 8-2. The Bills are hot on their heels at 8-3 after their Thanksgiving Day win, and would hold a tiebreaker over the Chiefs because of their victory in Kansas City in Week 6. Right behind the Bills are the Titans, Dolphins, and Ravens, all at 7-3. The Chiefs hold a tiebreaker over the Titans by way of their win on November 6th, but would of course prefer to beat them outright in the standings.

Let’s be honest: the biggest reasons to have hope in the conference race are Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. But while we’re unpacking the AFC playoff races, the truth is that the remaining schedule is also extremely favorable for the Chiefs. Here’s a glance at the remaining foes for each of the contenders in the AFC race:

  • Chiefs (8-2): Rams, at Bengals, at Broncos, at Texans, Seahawks, Broncos, and at Raiders
  • Bills (8-3): at Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, at Bears, at Bengals, Patriots
  • Dolphins (7-3): Texans, at 49ers, at Chargers, at Bills, Packers, at Patriots, Jets
  • Titans (7-3): Bengals, at Eagles, Jaguars, at Chargers, Texans, Cowboys, at Jaguars
  • Ravens (7-3): at Jaguars, Broncos, at Steelers, at Browns, Falcons, Steelers, at Bengals

All in all, the Chiefs are poised to make a run in the playoffs and have a leg up toward the No. 1 seed in the conference. This is a huge advantage because it would mean that the Chiefs would have a bye week during Wild Card weekend and would once again host all playoff games until the Super Bowl.

Next. Top five draft classes in Chiefs history. dark