Thursday, October 6

Chiefs playoff photo: NFL ranking chaos restores Kansas City as a Super Bowl favorite

The Chiefs are once again those Bosses with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Kansas City improved to 7-4 on Sunday after beating NFC East powerhouse Dallas 19-9 in the NFL Week 11 afternoon game.

After a yo-yo start to the season through their Week 7 loss to the Titans, the Chiefs have won four straight games to make it a perfect November before a Week 12 break on Thanksgiving weekend. Thanks.

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The two-time reigning AFC champions had faded as favorites to reach a third straight Super Bowl. Now, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Chiefs have the second best odds (+700) to win it all. They are only behind the team that defeated them in Super Bowl 55, the reigning NFC champions, Buccaneers (+500).

SN looks at whether the Chiefs need to worry about further setbacks after their midseason change to season, as well as their position in the AFC West and the race for the conference’s No. 1 seed:

What is the Chiefs’ current position in the AFC playoffs in the NFL standings?

The Chiefs are again first in the AFC West. They have come out of last place beating the Chargers (5-4 with their Sunday night result pending), Raiders (5-5) and Broncos (5-5). As division leaders over the past two weeks, the Chiefs are now the fourth seed in the AFC playoff photo.

They have the same track record as the new AFC East leaders, the Patriots. But the Patriots are No. 3 because they have a superior record in conference games (5-1 to 2-4 for the Chiefs).

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PATRIOTS PICTURE: New England sitting pretty in the AFC East

The Titans (8-3), who lost in Week 11 to the Texans, are one game ahead of the Patriots (who they play with in Week 12) and the Chiefs. The Ravens (7-3), who beat the Bears without Lamar Jackson, remained half a game ahead of New England and Kansas City.

How tough is the Chiefs’ remaining schedule and what key games do they have left?

The Chiefs have had a tough schedule and that won’t change much in December and January before the playoffs. The combined winning percentage of the Chiefs’ remaining opponents is .543, a list that lags behind in degree of difficulty only behind teams from the AFC North and the Raiders.

With his goodbye in Week 12, the Chiefs have just six games left. They return with back-to-back home division games against the Broncos and Raiders. They play for the Chargers in a short week in Week 15, but the toughest test will possibly be a home game against the Steelers in Week 16. Playing for the Bengals in Week 17 could be a bit of a cheat before ending up in Denver. in Week 18..

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Although all of those opponents are .500 or higher right now, the Raiders and Broncos are on their way to losing records. Yet Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are alive and well in the AFC playoff landscape and have versatile offenses and inspired defenses. The division heavy finish is a nice break given the Chiefs haven’t fared well (1-3) in inter-division games.

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What are the Chiefs’ chances of winning the AFC West?

The Chiefs have four divisional games left. They are built to avenge their loss to the Chargers, beat the Raiders a second time and sweep the Broncos. Despite the apparent closeness in qualifying, there has been enough regression to the mean by the other division contenders to the point that it was only a matter of time before the Chiefs took control again.

That momentum will only increase in the last two months. This is the time of year the Chiefs play their best complementary football, with the running game and defense lifting Mahomes and the passing game. Consider the West already won by Kansas City for the sixth time in a row with Andy Reid.

What are the Chiefs’ chances of winning No. 1 in the AFC playoffs?

With the division looking to be well controlled, the Chiefs cannot finish below their current No. 4 position.

The No. 1 seemed out of reach not long ago after they lost to three fellow contenders: the Ravens, Bills and Titans. But the look of the AFC playoff image has changed. The Bills are no longer in first place and the Titans no longer have Derrick Henry. The Ravens are battling unusual problems on defense.

Titans and Patriots meet in Week 12; the result will help the Chiefs in any way. The Ravens have a brutal remaining schedule that includes the Packers, Rams, Bengals, Steelers (twice) and Browns (twice).

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The Chiefs should be the favorites in all their remaining games. They have the ability to win and finish the season with a 10-game winning streak. If they can’t do that, it still feels like they have a high floor, finishing with five wins in six games. The bottom line is to finish at least one game ahead of the Titans, Ravens and whoever wins the AFC East between the Patriots and the Bills.

Mahomes is on the right track and the team is finding new ways to win. A final record of 12-5 or 13-4 is a safe estimate.

The Titans, Ravens and Patriots are vulnerable from week to week, for different reasons. The Bills have proven to be that kind of team with great disappointment after beating the Chiefs.

Home advantage has been huge for Kansas City in its last two playoff races. Like last postseason, finishing No. 1 will come with the added bonus of receiving the only goodbye, rest and a free advance to the AFC divisional playoffs. Much to the chagrin of the rest of the AFC, the Chiefs appear headed for regular season supremacy and a return to the driver’s seat for the Super Bowl.

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