Leeds are in third position, twelve points behind second-placed Sheffield United, with a game in hand and ten points ahead of seventh-place Cardiff, also with a game in hand.
Bates, who has been in charge 12 months at Elland Road, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "I didn't think we would be here. I thought the play-offs might be a possibility, but you have to say they are now a probability.
"We have to be realistic and it'd take a massive collapse for us to go up automatically. The play-offs are a lottery, but if that's where we are, we'll take our chances."