If the Chiefs are to have any realistic chance of winning the AFC West, they have to beat the Broncos on Sunday. That’s pretty straightforward.
To win the division, the Chiefs probably can’t lose another game. If they beat Denver, they would still need the Broncos to lose one more game. The tiebreakers are complicated, but as is pointed out here, if the Broncos lose to the Chargers (Dec. 14 at San Diego) or Raiders (hahahaha) the Chiefs could win the division by beating Denver and losing to EITHER Arizona or Pittsburgh.
So, the Chiefs can keep their division hopes alive and strengthen their case for the playoffs by beating Denver but the flip side is that if they lose this Sunday then even making the playoffs becomes much more complicated.
The AFC playoff picture is far too messy — 11 of the 16 teams are .500 or better right now — to say anything definitively but it’s hard to imagine anyone getting in at 9-7. Chances are decent that a 10-6 could be left out — Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego and Kansas City are all 7-4^ and not leading their divisions.
^ Baltimore becomes 7-4 if it can beat New Orleans tonight.
So if the Chiefs lose to Denver, they would need to win three of their last four — at Arizona (where nobody’s won), Raiders at home, at Steelers and Chargers at home — just to be 10-6. Doable, obviously, but more complicated than we all thought, oh, five days ago.
They would have the tiebreaker against the currently 6-5 Dolphins and 5-5 Bills. The games against the Steelers and Chargers would have tie breaking implications as well.
As it stands right now, the Chiefs would be the No. 6 seed and play a first-round game at Cincinnati^.
^ I’d like their chances there, actually.
But this whole thing is so volatile, that’s going to change every week. The Chiefs didn’t just embarrass themselves by becoming the Raiders’ first victory this year. They made it more difficult to win the division, and muddied their chances of just getting into the playoffs.
A lot of that can be wiped away by beating the Broncos on Sunday, the biggest game of their season.