Playoff Scenarios: Teams most likely to face Chiefs in Divisional round
The 2022 NFL regular season has ended. The AFC playoff division has now been decided.
Kansas City Chiefs Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals Jacksonville Jaguars Los Angeles Chargers Baltimore Ravens Miami Dolphins What happens next?
As the top seed, the Chiefs get a bye into Wild Card weekend. Among the remaining teams, the division winners play at home. The highest seed plays the lowest seed, the second highest plays the second lowest seed… and so on. That means in Week 19, the Bills will host the Dolphins, the Ravens will be on the road against the Bengals and the Jaguars will be at home against the Chargers.
The same rules apply to AFL Divisional Round games in Week 20. The Chiefs will play at home against the lowest remaining seed. Since only three teams will survive the Wild Card round, we know the second and third seeds — the Bills and Bengals — can’t play the Chiefs until the conference championship round in Week 21.
So all we need to do is figure out the probability that each of the remaining four teams will advance to the Wild Card round and also be placed in the lowest tier. That’s easier for the seventh-seeded team — because it only needs to win its Wild Card game to be the seed with the lowest survival.
After that, it gets more complicated, but it’s still straightforward. The sixth seed will play the first seed if it wins and the seventh seed loses. So the probability that this happens is equal to the probability that the sixth seed wins multiplied by the probability that the seventh seed loses. And then we continue that series of calculations for the rest of the teams.
The FiveThirtyEight model
According to FiveThirtyEight’s ELO model, the Bills have an 89% chance of beating the Dolphins. The Bengals would have a 78% chance of beating the Ravens, while the Jaguars would win 59% of the time against the Chargers.
After doing the math, here’s what we get:
Opponent Chance Jaguars 41% Chargers 28% Ravens 20% Dolphins 11%
That suggests the Jaguars are more likely to face the Chiefs in Kansas City.
Model betting odds
Of course, it all depends on the model from which these calculations are built. What if we base them on a different model – such as the actual betting odds for Wild Card games?
Just remember: betting odds are built as a way to get equal amounts of money on both sides of a bet. So we can think of ELO as a way of predicting how things will go – while the betting odds tell us how the betting public thinks they will go.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bills are favored by 10.5 points over the Dolphins. That’s an 86% chance of winning. The Bengals are favored by 6.5 points over the Ravens (72%), while the Chargers have a 1.5-point advantage over the Jaguars (53%). Using these probabilities, here’s how the math works:
Opponent Chance Chargers 33% Jaguars 29% Ravens 24% Dolphins 14%
Because the betting odds favor the Chargers over the Jaguars (rather than the other way around), this changes the outcome substantially. The betting public thinks Los Angeles is the most likely team to travel to Kansas City for the Divisional round – but the difference between the odds of the Chargers and the Jaguars is much smaller.
But what do you think?
Poll Which team do you think is more likely to face the Chiefs in Week 20?