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2019 NFL playoff schedule: Patriots have the best odds of reaching the AFC Championship Game

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Not even the Chiefs have that big a chance.

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The NFL’s regular season is over and only 12 teams remain in contention for the Vince Lombardi Trophy — among them the New England Patriots, who have finished the year with an 11-5 record and the number two seed in the AFC. The Patriots will join the Kansas City Chiefs on a first-round bye next week, while the rest of the AFC’s playoff field will have to suit up on wild card weekend.

The first slate of games involving AFC teams looks as follows:

Wild Card Round: Saturday, January 5 (4:35 p.m. ET): #6 Indianapolis Colts at #3 Houston Texans

Wild Card Round: Sunday, January 6 (1:05 p.m. ET): #5 Los Angeles Chargers at #4 Baltimore Ravens

As the number two seed in the conference, the Patriots will face the highest-ranked team coming out of wild card round. Therefore, we already know that either the Texans, Chargers, or Ravens will have to make the trip to Foxboro on January 13. Meanwhile, the lowest seed left standing will have to travel to Kansas City one day earlier to take on the league’s best offense in one of the toughest environments:

Divisional round: Saturday, January 12 (4:35 p.m. ET): AFC #4/#5/#6 at #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Divisional round: Sunday, January 13 (1:05 p.m. ET): AFC #3/#4/#5 at #2 New England Patriots

But despite this constellation, it appears as if the Patriots have the easier path to advance to the AFC title game. According to calculations made by FiveThirtyEight.com, New England has a 64% chance of surviving the divisional round. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are only 63% favorites to make it out the first round:

NFL playoff predictions

Team Make divisional round Make conference round Make Super Bowl Win Super Bowl
Team Make divisional round Make conference round Make Super Bowl Win Super Bowl
Chiefs Clinched 63% 39% 20%
Patriots Clinched 64% 29% 14%
Texans 56% 18% 7% 3%
Ravens 60% 24% 11% 6%
Chargers 40% 17% 8% 4%
Colts 44% 15% 5% 3%
FiveThirtyEight.com

While the Chiefs have consistently higher odds than the Patriots when it comes to reaching and winning the Super Bowl, the team’s chances of even making it to the conference championship game look worse. The reason for that is that the potential opponents — the Colts instead of the Texans plus the Ravens and Chargers — are tougher as a whole than what New England will have to face.

What is certainly not be part of the calculation but might also come into play, at least when it comes to pressure put on the team, is the Chiefs’ relative playoff inexperience combined with their history: going back to the early 1990s, the team lost its last five divisional round games. In general, Kansas City has won just one playoff game since 1993. Chances are, of course, that this will change in 2018 — but the chances of winning in the divisional round are apparently not as good as the Patriots’.


The NFC’s upcoming playoff schedule, meanwhile, looks as follows:

Wild Card Round: Saturday, January 5 (8:15 p.m. ET): #5 Seattle Seahawks at #4 Dallas Cowboys

Wild Card Round: Sunday, January 6 (4:40 p.m. ET): #6 Philadelphia Eagles at #3 Chicago Bears

Divisional round: Saturday, January 12 (8:15 p.m. ET): NFC #3/#4/#5 at #2 Los Angeles Rams

Divisional round: Sunday, January 13 (4:40 p.m. ET): NFC #4/#5/#6 at #1 New Orleans Saints