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What if the Chiefs needed to win Week 17 against the Broncos last year?

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Kansas City’s version of SB Nation’s NFL What-If Week is here.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s NFL What-If Week at SB Nation, where sites across our network are coming up with alternate universes for each of their NFL teams.


What if the Kansas City Chiefs needed the win against the Denver Broncos last season?

One scenario I keep finding myself going back is Week 17 of the Chiefs’ 2017 season.

Heading into that week (away at the Denver Broncos), Alex Smith and the Chiefs had compiled a 9-6 record and were locked into the No. 4 playoff spot in the AFC.

Because of no longer being able to improve the Chiefs’ playoff standing, head coach Andy Reid opted to bench most of the team’s starters, including Smith.

This gave Reid the ability to work for a dummy week with Patrick Mahomes, and Mahomes’ preparation and performance played a big role in Reid’s confidence to move on from Smith.

Former Chiefs offensive coordinator (and now Bears head coach) Matt Nagy, Brad Childress and Smith studied the playoff teams, while Reid and (now Chiefs quarterbacks coach) Mike Kafka worked directly with Mahomes.

“I had the honor of working with [Mahomes] this past season, in particular, in a closer relationship for the Denver game, almost like a dress rehearsal, not knowing that we were going to make this move with Alex,” Reid later said. “I also had the opportunity to call for him during that game and get a feel there on how he operates. It was a smooth transition.”

Mahomes finished 22 of 35 for 284 yards and an interception. He led the Chiefs down the field on a game-winning drive as they won, 27-24.

“They played their starters, Denver did, their starting defense, and I went into that game feeling like we could score any time and once we got in there I felt the same thing,” Reid later added. “[Mahomes] gave you that confidence and he made some plays. You saw him do these no-look throws that he does in practice and you go, ‘Ah. It’s practice.’ He starts doing those in the game, I said, ‘Whoa, OK. That’s something special.’”


If the Chiefs need to win to make the playoffs or improve their position, Smith plays this game and Reid may not feel comfortable enough trading him to the Washington Redskins this offseason.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

That could have feasibly meant that:

  • Mahomes would have had another year at the team’s backup, and Chad Henne is not signed
  • Smith’s $17 million cap hit would have stayed on the books
  • CB Kendall Fuller may not be a Chief (making you wonder if they keep Marcus Peters)
  • The Chiefs still strapped for cash, WR Sammy Watkins and LB Anthony Hitchens may not be here.
  • And without Hitchens, perhaps the Chiefs bring back LB Derrick Johnson on a cheap deal, as he is on the record saying he would have taken less to stay.
  • To continue saving money, the Chiefs likely do not bring on as many running backs and potentially move on from P Dustin Colquitt.

The bottom line

Week 17 was crucial to the short and long-term future of the Chiefs, the alternate universe a bit murkier.

What Chiefs’ what-if scenario still burns in your heart?