NFL playoff picture: How Chiefs vs. Chargers outcome will impact AFC West, wild-card races

The Chiefs and Chargers are kicking off a critical Week 15 for the NFL playoff image on “Thursday Night Football.”

The team that wins the game will be in first place in the AFC West with three games left by the end of the 2021 regular season. Losers will be trapped battling for wild-card position in front of a difficult field.

Kansas City entered the game with a one-game lead at 9-4, with Los Angeles just one game behind at 8-5. For now, the Chargers have the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to leading the Chiefs on the road back in Week 3.

Below is a breakdown of what each result would mean, except for a tie:

If the Chiefs win …

The Chiefs would improve their record to 10-4 and get a little closer to their sixth straight AFC West title. They would have a two-game lead over Los Angeles, which fell to 8-6, while Denver (7-6) and Las Vegas (6-7) already blew their big losing chances at Kansas City in the previous two games.

The Chiefs could then clinch the division with one more win and one more loss from the Chargers in the last three weeks.

The Chargers would still be ranked No. 5 and the first wild card position in the AFC, but they would be just half a game ahead of the Colts (7-6), Bills (7-6), Browns (7-6), Bengals ( 7-6) and Broncos (7-6), opening the door for a general shakeup after Week 15 is complete. However, they have key playoffs against the Browns and Bengals and still have one more game left with the Broncos. to divide that series.

While the Chiefs finish with the Steelers, Bengals and Broncos with the last two games on the road, the Chargers close with the Texans and consecutive divisional games against the Broncos and Raiders. There’s no question that Kansas City would end the business in the division, but Los Angeles also has a good chance of sweeping the rest of its games to secure at least the seventh seed.

Kansas City would also improve above .500 in the AFC game at 5-4. They still need help from the losing Patriots (9-4) and / or Titans (9-4) to rise from No. 3 after Week 15, but the Chiefs would be well seated to at least stay put and host. a wild -card game. Winning the division is the only real question for the Chiefs, as their playoff probability is already 96 percent.

If the Chargers win …

The Chargers and Chiefs would have identical records at 9-5. The Chargers would own the tiebreaker with the sweep of the season series. The Chiefs’ remaining schedule would suddenly look a bit more daunting, knowing the Chargers look better positioned to run the table.

The Chargers would rise from No. 5 to the Chiefs’ current spot at No. 3, half a game ahead of the AFC North leaders Ravens, who host the Packers in Week 15. Los Angeles would create some distance from them. and the full group 7-6 behind before either team takes the field on Saturday and Sunday.

The No. 1 Patriots beat the Chargers head to head and have a 7-1 conference record. The Chargers would match the No. 2 Titans improving to 6-3 in conference play,

Los Angeles would become a close to the playoffs point (over 96 percent) along with Kansas City, with a win, given there are several solid ways to enter the AFC postseason. Even if they let the Chiefs jump them again for a game, the wild card becomes a strong backup.