Chiefs can still spoil No. 1 seed for Patriots ... by losing

From left-right: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson (Photo credits: Jasen Vinlove/Denny Medley/Jay Biggerstaff/Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports)
From left-right: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson (Photo credits: Jasen Vinlove/Denny Medley/Jay Biggerstaff/Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Chargers scored a huge win over the Chiefs on Thursday night, which gave the Patriots more hope for the No. 1 seed. But it also further complicated a weird stretch run in which the Patriots could end up anywhere from seeds 1-3, or even out of the playoffs entirely.

That last scenario is highly unlikely because the Patriots would have to lose at least two of their final three games and the Dolphins would have to win out. But the final three games for the Chargers, Chiefs, and Texans are all crucial to the Pats' hopes of getting the all-important home field throughout the AFC playoffs. It's especially weird for the Chiefs, who basically have to go exactly 1-1 in their final two games for the Pats to have a chance at No. 1.

An explanation...

Essentially, if the Patriots, Chargers, Chiefs, and Texans all finish 12-4, the Pats would end up with the No. 1 seed. Kansas City would finish No. 2, Houston No. 3, Los Angeles No. 5. The Chargers would be relegated to Wild Card tiebreakers, leaving a three-way tie between the Patriots, Chiefs, and Texans to determine No. 1. In this case, the head-to-head tiebreaker applies because one of the three teams beat each of the others. That would be the Patriots, who beat the Texans 27-20 in Week 1 and the Chiefs 43-40 in Week 6.

So while the Patriots still need help from other teams - the best hopes being the Ravens and Seahawks, who play the Chargers (on the road) and Chiefs (in Seattle) respectively in Week 16 - there's still a way for them to weave their way back to the top of the AFC. The Chargers also head to Denver in Week 17; you have to assume anything can happen in that one.

However! There's another strange scenario. If the Chiefs lose both of their final two games and the Patriots, Chargers and Texans all finish 12-4, then the standings completely change. Houston would get the No. 1 seed and L.A. jumps to No. 2 as the AFC West winners, with the Patriots stuck at No. 3. Since the head-to-head tiebreaker doesn't apply in this case, the Texans would beat out the Patriots and Chargers based on winning percentage in common games. This is where the Patriots' loss to the Titans, whom the Texans and Chargers both beat earlier this season, would really sting.

So there's a possibility that, if the Patriots, Chargers and Chiefs are all 11-4 entering Week 17, Patriots fans would suddenly have to become Chiefs fans as well. It would be some kind of meltdown if they lost to the Raiders at home, but stranger things have happened in this league.

Basically, New England? Continue to root for the Patriots as you were. Root for the Chargers and Texans to lose as much as possible. And root for the Chiefs finish exactly 12-4. Not too complicated but it's a little complicated.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].