Concerned that Tamba Hali and the rest of the Chiefs won’t reach the playoffs? Take heart in this: The Royals faced the same odds (3 percent) of winning their Wild Card game after seven innings against Oakland. David Eulitt The Kansas City Star
Concerned that Tamba Hali and the rest of the Chiefs won’t reach the playoffs? Take heart in this: The Royals faced the same odds (3 percent) of winning their Wild Card game after seven innings against Oakland. David Eulitt The Kansas City Star

Sam Mellinger

Odds aren’t great, but the Chiefs aren’t out of the playoff hunt just yet

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

December 23, 2014 02:00 PM

UPDATED December 23, 2014 05:26 PM

If the Chiefs do not make the playoffs, nobody will remember the events of this weekend as the reason. Nobody reasonable, anyway.

By now, you know everything that has to happen on Sunday for the Chiefs to make what would be — and this is a bad truth for a proud franchise — consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1995.

The Chiefs need to beat the Chargers, first. Lose to the Chargers at home, and the Chiefs are 8-8 and nothing else matters. But that’s not all. They need the Browns to win at Baltimore, and the Jaguars to win at Houston.

This is not, in other words, something you’d want to bet on.

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Not without some very good odds, at least.

But how good would they need to be?

Let’s take the three games in descending order of the likelihood of the outcomes falling the Chiefs’ way.

The Chiefs already beat the Chargers, of course, though that was back on Oct. 19. That was the sunny afternoon in San Diego, Alex Smith’s hometown, where the Chiefs quarterback led them down the field for Cairo Santos’ last-minute, game-winning field goal.

That was the first of three consecutive losses for the Chargers, the most alarming being a 37-0 blowout in Miami. But the Chargers have recovered, and an overtime win at the 49ers last weekend means San Diego can secure a playoff spot by beating the Chiefs. Basically, the Chargers are in the spot the Chiefs would’ve been in had they beaten the Steelers last weekend: win, and they’re in.

The Chargers have won two straight at Arrowhead, but are around a three-point underdog, which indicates the Chiefs have about a 60 percent chance of winning.

Sixty percent. Not bad, right?

The Browns lost to the Ravens back in September, and that was at home when the Browns were playing much better. They got off to a 6-3 start, you might remember, before losing five of their last six. The Browns are facing all sorts of problems, including the quarterback switch from Brian Hoyer to Johnny Manziel and now back to Hoyer after Manziel got hurt in last weekend’s loss in Carolina. They have scored a total of 47 points in their last four games.

The Chiefs’ position is also weakened by the Browns having nothing to play for, and the Ravens needing a win to stay alive in the playoff hunt. If the Ravens and Chiefs win, the Ravens make the playoffs.

The Ravens are around an 8½-point favorite, indicating the Browns have between a 20 and 25 percent chance of winning.

Combined with the Chiefs’ theoretical 60 percent odds, we’re down to about 13.5 percent.

The Jaguars lost by two touchdowns at home to the Texans three weeks ago, and are such a sorry franchise that they can’t even lose right — beating the Titans last week meant they won’t pick first in next year’s draft.

The Texans have an injury report that included 27 players last weekend, including two quarterbacks. They started Case Keenum, whose career highlight may be a solid showing at Arrowhead Stadium last year but who was released by the Texans earlier this season.

Somehow, they beat the Ravens, keeping alive faint playoff hopes that are about as likely as the Chiefs’ — Houston needs to win, and have the Chargers and Ravens lose, to make it.

The Texans are around a 9½-point favorite, indicating the Jaguars have about a 22 percent chance of winning.

So, at least by this theoretical equation, you are looking at a 3 percent chance of it all going in the Chiefs’ favor.

Chiefs fans may remember being in a similar situation eight years ago. The Chiefs were 8-7 going into their last game, and to make the playoffs needed to beat Jacksonville, have the 49ers beat the Broncos (who were a 10-point favorite, by the way), the Patriots beat the Titans, and the Steelers beat the Bengals.

Using the same theoretical math based on point spreads, the Chiefs had a 1.6 percent chance of getting in under those circumstances.

Also, you may be interested to know that after seven innings, the win probability formula used at Baseball Reference gave the Royals a 3 percent chance of winning the Wild Card game against Oakland.

So, obviously, the Chiefs are not out of it yet.

Actually, if you want to bet on it, Bovada.lv Sportsbook Manager Kevin Bradley says the odds should be 33:1.

Feeling lucky?

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.