AFC playoff picture: Chiefs benefit greatly during bye week

The Kansas City Chiefs had a very nice Sunday afternoon despite not even playing since several of their AFC rivals lost.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) reacts as the Houston Texans move in field goal range
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) reacts as the Houston Texans move in field goal range / Cara Owsley/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Even though the Kansas City Chiefs did not play a single snap this weekend, Week 10 on the NFL schedule has turned out just about as well as it possibly could have for their position in the AFC playoff picture.

Entering the week, the Chiefs were tied for the best record in the AFC, but held the #1 seed due to the tiebreaking procedure. The Chiefs and Ravens were both 7-2, the Jaguars were 6-2, and the Dolphins were 6-3.

The absolute worst scenario this week for the Chiefs would have been falling to the #2 seed, by virtue of a Ravens victory over Cleveland, while a few of the fellow AFC contenders behind them gained some ground. Instead, it turned out to be a glorious weekend for the Chiefs and a frustrating one for many of their fellow contenders.

On Sunday afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens blew a 31-17 4th quarter lead to the Cleveland Browns and lost an important AFC North game. The Jacksonville Jaguars were utterly embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers at home. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals fell victim to C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans to end their four-game winning streak. In addition, the Chargers lost another close game (shocker), this time against Detroit.

Earlier on Sunday, everyone watching the game believed that Baltimore had Cleveland down, dead, and out, but a Lamar Jackson pick-six in the fourth quarter completely changed the game. Many assumed that Jacksonville had begun to hit its stride after a rough beginning of the season, but then they were humbled by the Niners. After Houston mismanaged a couple of 3rd-and-short scenarios, Cincinnati was a Tyler Boyd drop away from taking a lead late in the game. The Chargers moved the ball against the Lions, but their defense surrendered over 500 yards and 8 yards per play.

Sunday afternoon could not have gone realistically better for the Chiefs. Two of their top competitors for home-field advantage in the AFC lost at home and the Chargers and Bengals hype trains were halted. Though fellow AFC playoff competitors, like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, won, the real threats to Kansas City in January stumbled. The Bills still have a game to play against the Broncos tomorrow night, which they'll probably win, to be honest, but they would still have two more losses than the Chiefs.

The AFC Playoff Picture, Week 11:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

2. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3)

4. Miami Dolphins (6-3)

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)

6. Cleveland Browns (6-3)

7. Houston Texans (5-4)

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (5-4), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Indianapolis Colts (5-5), Las Vegas Raiders (5-5), Los Angeles Chargers (4-5), New York Jets (4-5), and Denver Broncos (3-5).

As of this moment, the Bills, Bengals, and Chargers are all out of the playoff picture and the Chiefs have fewer losses than anyone else in the AFC. To make it even sweeter, they hold the head-to-head tiebreakers over two of the other divisional leaders, the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens were thought to be a freight train, but are now firmly behind the Chiefs.

This is ideal since the Chiefs now control their destiny. If they can win out and finish 15-2, there's nothing stopping from the #1 seed. They now can afford to lose exactly one more game and be okay. They hold the head-to-head tiebreakers over the Jaguars and Dolphins and the conference record tiebreaker over the Ravens, due to them having three AFC losses and the Chiefs having one.

As of this moment, according to the New York Times' NFL Projections ($), the Chiefs are the strong favorites to land the #1 seed at 59%. After them are the Ravens at 12%, the Dolphins at 10%, and the Browns at 9%. The Chiefs are the favorites in the AFC to win Super Bowl LVIII at 17%. Right behind them are the Ravens (8%), Dolphins (7%), and Browns (4%).

This was an excellent for the Chiefs. No question about it. They get a much-needed break before the stretch run and several of their AFC rivals suffered significant defeats. Kansas City still has work to do, but Sunday afternoon was about as good as it could have been for a team that didn't even play.

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