Any hope for the Kansas City Chiefs to rebound from a slow start to the season and roar back up the standings to capture the No. 1 seed in the AFC is all but gone. Following their 38-20 drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City is 2-3 and sits a full three games back of Buffalo, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Los Angeles Chargers for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Sure, the Chiefs are not out of contention mathematically for the coveted top seed, particularly now with only one team receiving a first-round bye due to the expansion of the playoff format. However, they’ve already lost to all three of those aforementioned teams. Catching up to all of them would be a daunting task in itself, even more so now when you peek at the remaining schedules for all four teams.
Buffalo currently has the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. We call this the “AFC East Effect” in the business, something we all came to understand during Tom Brady’s time with the New England Patriots. There seems to be a football law stating that only one good team can reside in the AFC East at any time; all other teams must be hot garbage.
Baltimore’s final 12 games may not be the cakewalk the Bills have, but Lamar Jackson and Co. still face the 13th-weakest remaining schedule in the NFL. With Jackson playing like an MVP candidate to start the season, there is little doubt the Ravens will be favored in nearly every matchup.
The Chargers have been a trendy pre-season pick to finally break through and challenge the Chiefs for the AFC West the past couple of years, and it seems their time has finally come. At 4-1, they have the ninth-easiest schedule remaining, so the Chargers should have no problem racking up the wins. Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert is playing at an elite level, and their coaching staff is no longer holding back their potential with mind-boggling time management mistakes. New head coach Brandon Staley has brought stability to a franchise that had become an easy punching bag for fans around the league at times.
The Chiefs are still an excellent team and have demonstrated an ability to go on long winning streaks. They could theoretically still challenge the contenders they are chasing for the No. 1 seed. Still, they also find themselves with the third-most difficult remaining schedule, ahead of only the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.
There are six games where the Chiefs should be the heavy favorites based on their play so far, which would give them six more wins on top of their current 2-3 record. In the remaining six games, even if they outperform current expectations and win more than they lose — say a 4-2 record against their toughest opponents — they would finish the season with a 12-5 record, which is pretty optimistic.
For the Chiefs to earn the lone playoff bye in the AFC with 12 wins, the Bills, Ravens, and Chargers would all need to conclude the remainder of their schedules with a 7-5 record. That’s highly unlikely given the strength of schedule remaining for all three.
Sunday night’s loss to Buffalo all but closed the door on Kansas City’s chances for a third-straight first-round bye. The Chiefs are still more than capable of turning their season around and qualifying for the playoffs. However, even if they advance to games in January, they will have to do something they’ve never done before in the Patrick Mahomes era: play a postseason game on the road en route to the Super Bowl.