As of week 16 of the 2015 NFL season, the top two AFC West teams are the Broncos and the Chiefs. Specifically:

Broncos 10-4, Chiefs 10-5

Notice the x next to the Chiefs indicates they have clinched the playoffs. So they could go 10-6 and still make the playoffs. But with two games left, the Broncos obviously could at worst wind up going 10-6. So both can go 10-6. Why is KC in but not Denver?

Additional Info:

Currently no other wild card team seems to have a chance of attaining a better record than 10-6. As you can see from this table,

Jets 10-5, Steelers 9-6, Bills & Colts 7-8

the Jets and the Steelers are the only two teams who have a chance to go 10-6. Also note, both of these teams have larger net total points than the Broncos.

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: the good divisional record (at worst 4-2) and excellent conference record for the Chiefs (at worst 9-3) means that they win the tiebreakers over the other relevant teams (Broncos, Jets and Steelers).

How the Broncos can miss the playoffs

The Broncos lose to both the Bengals and the Chargers, while the Chiefs beat the Raiders. The Chiefs win the AFC West with an 11-5 record, while the Broncos are in the wild card mix with a 10-6 record.

At this point, the other important teams are the Jets and the Steelers. The "worst case" scenario for the Broncos is both the Jets and the Steelers winning; in this case, the Jets have an 11-5 record and claim the first wild card spot. The Steelers have the same 10-6 record as the Broncos, but claim the second wild card spot on the basis of their better conference record (7-5 vs 6-6).

Why the Chiefs always make the playoffs

If the Chiefs win their final match, they are 11-5. At this point, they are either AFC West champions or guaranteed to have one of the two best records of non-champions (the only other non-champion which can possibly get to 11-5 is the Jets), so they are guaranteed a playoff spot.

If the Chiefs lose their final match against the Raiders, they have a 10-6 record. If the Broncos have lost their final two matches, the Chiefs are AFC West champions on the basis of their better divisional record (4-2 vs 3-3) as the Broncos and Chiefs split their two matches this year.

If the Broncos win one of their final two matches, they are 11-5 and AFC West champions, while the Chiefs are in the wild card mix. The important teams are once again the Jets and the Steelers - if they both win, the Jets again claim the first wild card spot at 11-5, and the Steelers are at 10-6. The Chiefs win the tiebreaker on the basis of their better conference record (9-3 vs 7-5). A similar analysis applies if the Jets lose.

  • So, if two teams are tied in their division, then conference record as opposed to head to head wins/loses vs each other takes precedence in determining who wins? Btw ur profile picture is super cool. Love the photography technique. Dec 28, 2015 at 10:11
  • @StanShunpike I'd view this list of tiebreakers to answer your question.
    – user527
    Dec 28, 2015 at 13:21

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