Skip to main content

Breaking Down Potential Chiefs AFC Championship Game Spots

The Chiefs have a number of different possibilities for the AFC Championship Game this year.

It's been a tumultuous week in the NFL following the on-field collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin during the first quarter of their Monday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Fortunately, the most important part of the league-wide equation is progressing well. As of Friday morning, Hamlin's breathing tube has been removed and he's been able to talk to his family, care team and even his teammates. 

In light of all of this, the league has been tasked with navigating truly uncharted territory. The aforementioned Week 17 game that has since been ruled a no-contest had serious playoff seeding implications for the AFC, with the Kansas City Chiefs even being impacted as a club not participating in the game. On Thursday evening, the NFL sent out a release detailing some subsequent seeding information, as well as what multiple AFC Championship Game scenarios could look like.

On Friday, a special league meeting was held and a vote was counted regarding the resolution that had previously been recommended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and approved by the league's Competition Committee. The vote has officially passed for possible home/away AFC Championship Game designations, so let's take a look from a Chiefs-specific lens at where Patrick Mahomes and company could be playing if they advance all the way to the conference final.

Note: The worst the Chiefs can do is earn the conference's two-seed, and that only happens with a Week 18 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders and a Bills win over the New England Patriots. Otherwise, Kansas City is the one-seed and has a first-round playoff bye. 

Paths to Chiefs having a home AFC Championship Game

There's one extremely simple path to the Chiefs hosting the AFC Championship Game on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. If they end up advancing to the conference's last round of the postseason and face any non-Bills or non-Bengals team, that contest is guaranteed to be hosted in Kansas City regardless of whether the Chiefs are the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. That means if Andy Reid's bunch is squaring off against the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and the like, it's happening in Kansas City.

All but one of the eight possible configurations calculating a Chiefs-Bengals AFC Championship Game results in that game being a home one for the Chiefs. Barring Chiefs and Bills losses coupled with a Bengals win in Week 18 (thus landing Cincinnati the No. 2 spot in the AFC), Joe Burrow and the Bengals would be traveling to Arrowhead for a 2021-22 AFC Championship Game rematch. The Chiefs' only path to hosting the Bills in a rematch of the previous year's AFC Championship Game would stem from a Kansas City win and a Buffalo loss to New England this week. 

Paths to Chiefs having a road AFC Championship Game

This is where things get a bit dicey, but it ultimately still isn't the end of the world. If the Chiefs lose and the Bills win in Week 18, an AFC Championship Game between the two would be a Buffalo home contest due to Sean McDermott's squad being the one-seed. In any other event, though, regardless of what happens with the Bengals or any other team, Kansas City is guaranteed an absolute worst-case scenario of playing on a neutral site. Because the lowest the Chiefs can go is the two-seed, they don't face too great a risk of playing a "road" playoff game until the Super Bowl (if they make it that far).

Paths to Chiefs having AFC Championship Game at a neutral site

As previously mentioned, there is one possible outcome where a Chiefs-Bengals AFC Championship Game would be played on a neutral site. If both the Chiefs and Bills are losers this weekend and the Bengals defeat the Ravens, they could eventually play Kansas City in a neutral location. The Chiefs and Bills both coming out on the winning side in Week 18 results in Josh Allen and Mahomes hypothetically playing at a neutral site in the AFC Championship Game. If both teams lose and the Bengals lose or tie against the Ravens, that same matchup is also played at a neutral site.