Here is where it gets bizarre. They would need a combination of the vast majority of these outcomes to go their way for the Bills to pass Kansas City in Strength of Victory. The Chiefs’ victories over Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Buffalo loom large.
The Bills would need the NFC South to lose all their inter-divisional games except Atlanta vs. Kansas City: New Orleans vs Minnesota, Tampa Bay vs Detroit, Carolina vs Washington
The Baltimore Ravens lose both of their remaining games
The Indianapolis Colts lose one of their remaining games
The Arizona Cardinals lose both of their remaining two games
The Houston Texans losing to the Cincinnati Bengals
There are probably some more ways to do this, but you kind of get the idea here.
New Orleans had one more offensive series than Kansas City on Sunday (14 to 13) and averaged more yards per play (5.5 to 4.5), yet the Chiefs were much more successful offensively. Kansas City ran more plays (92 to 52), achieved more first downs (34 to 15), was better on third down (9-for-18 to 1-for-11) and significantly out-possessed the Saints (41:14 to 18:46) en route to picking up a victory that was more comfortable than the scoreline might have suggested. Brees finished 15-for-34 with 234 yards, three touchdowns and one pick; his 44.1 percent completion rate marked the third-lowest mark in his career. Mahomes, meanwhile, went 26-for-47 with 254 yards and three touchdowns in one of his bumpier outings of the year.
1. Andy Reid. Kansas City is 22-1 since mid-November 2019, following the 32-29 survival test at the Superdome against the Saints on Sunday. With Atlanta and the Chargers left at home, the Chiefs could be on a 24-1 run, with the AFC’s lone bye, heading into divisional play on the weekend of Jan. 16-17. Funny that they’ve won six straight by less than a touchdown, but I don’t put much stock into “the Chiefs are slipping;” four of those have come on the road against playoff contenders. I asked Reid why his team never had that Super Bowl slump that so many champions get lulled into the season after. “I know it’s a cliché,” Reid said from his office in the ‘Dome. “But our guys like each other. We have good leaders. They’re resilient.”
It’s tough to single out one play from a 61-point game, but I always look for the unusual play with Reid’s teams, often coming from some combination of Reid, Patrick Mahomes, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and QB coach Mike Kafka. This week, it was the two-handed basketball chest pass from Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce for a one-yard TD. “Where’d that come from?” I wondered. Reid said that sometimes, the shortest throws are the toughest throws. “One day in practice, Patrick did it and I said to him, ‘How’d that feel?’ He said good. So I said to him, ‘Good. Keep doing it.’ Not too complicated. We just try to do the things that make sense.”
A - Chiefs
Andy Reid dialed up some exotic play designs and Patrick Mahomes tossed some improbable passes. It is a glowing description of a game plan that Chiefs fans witness on a near weekly basis. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are on historic paces and the Kansas City defense made some crucial plays when called upon. The team appears to be hitting its stride at the absolute perfect time. The only concerns to emerge from this contest were late injuries to running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell.
5. The Chiefs found some success on the ground.
Kansas City racked up 179 rushing yards in Sunday’s victory, which were the second-most New Orleans has allowed all season. In fact, the Saints entered the matchup allowing the second-fewest rushing yards on average in the NFL, yielding just 3.7 yards-per-attempt.
Tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire (79), Bell (62) and Mahomes (37) each contributed to that effort on the ground.
Dominant pass attack set for more responsibility
Barring injury or a COVID-19 issue sidelining one of the Chiefs’ three offensive cornerstones, it will take an A-plus game to stop them from repeating as Super Bowl champs. The Saints disrupted Patrick Mahomes often Sunday, but the Chiefs (13-1) rediscovered their ground attack. Clyde Edwards-Helaire played a key role in Kansas City’s road win, rushing for 79 yards, but his late-game leg injury looked bad. Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill represent a historically formidable troika, but the Chiefs losing CEH may put too much on a declining Le’Veon Bell’s shoulders. Rich man’s problem, yes, but the rookie is by far K.C.’s best back.
CHIEFS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)
Creed Humphrey OL
Creed Humphrey would lock down that starting center position for a decade-plus. Kansas City has gone bargain hunting for interior offensive linemen in recent years and it would be a spectacle to see them actually invest in that unit.
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Why the Steelers lost
For the first time in three weeks, the Steelers can’t blame this loss on drops. They can blame it on their three turnovers, a 25% success rate on third down and a substandard run defense. A considerable amount of blame can be placed on Roethlisberger, who struggled with his consistency. He also failed to find the open receiver on numerous occasions.
The Steelers’ rushing attack also continues to be non-existent. Despite Benny Snell’s 84 rushing yards, Pittsburgh failed to rush for 100 yards as a team for the seventh time in its last eight games. The Steelers have not had a 100-yard rusher since James Conner did so against the Browns back in Week 6.
And while it’s hard to blame losses on bulletin board material, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s new pregame dance routine is not a good look, and it clearly fired up Vonn Bell, whose first quarter hit on Smith-Schuster set up the tone for the game.
Anyone who’s watched a second of football this year knows that the Jets aren’t just the worst team in the league, but the worst team we’ve seen since the Browns went winless in 2017. The only decent team capable of ruining this paradigm was the Rams, who have been so inconsistent in 2020 that losing to New York wasn’t met with utter shock. We’re conditioned to believe that when it comes to football the worst team should have the best chance to rebuild, and that categorically won’t happen if 2020 finishes where it stands now.
Jacksonville will now own the first overall pick if they lose their last two games, against the Bears and Colts. They are a bad team to be sure, but played competitively against the Colts, Titans, Packers, and Browns this season. All playoff teams, or just on the bubble. The Jets can’t boast the same. Fate is gifting Lawrence to Jacksonville, which is honestly best for him. We know the idea of losing out on endorsement money in small markets is a load of crap when it comes to the NFL, and the Clemson quarterback will have a far better chance to succeed with the Jaguars than trying to deal with the mess the Jets have.
“He led the team. He played mentally and physically tough, which was good to see,” Pederson said of Hurts’ performance against Arizona. “He extended plays with his legs. He had to throw probably more from the pocket because of the nature of the game and getting behind early in the football game. I guess the biggest thing is just leading the team and keeping the guys engaged for the entire game and gave us a chance there at the end.”
Tepper noted in a statement that after discussions with Hurney about the structure of the franchise, they differed on approach. The owner said he respected Hurney’s traditional style but wants a modern, data-driven process in his football operations office.
“I think sometimes you just need a restart, a refresh,” Tepper said. “We did it last year on the coaching side. Maybe you could say it should have been done before on the GM side. Maybe it should have been. I’m sure people may say that, or otherwise, on both sides.
“I think it’s just time, on both sides, to do that. It just seems like the right time to move forward.”
Roethlisberger, 38, has said as much in the past. But after this season, which has taken a physical toll on him, sources around Roethlisberger believe the two-time Super Bowl champion is having too much fun and likes his team too much to walk away from it after the 2020 season.
Unless Roethlisberger has an offseason change of heart that is not expected, his plan would be to return in 2021 for his 18th NFL season.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Le’Veon Bell: The veteran running back has been gradually working his way into the offense — and into a committee with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. This week was Bell’s most effective game so far, averaging over four yards per attempt and scoring a touchdown on an option play with Mahomes. The big headline from this game was a scary-looking injury to Edwards-Helaire, which immediately elevates Bell’s role. They’ll lean on Bell for the next few weeks — and he’s looking like to be up to the challenge.
The Chiefs have now faced a top-five defense on nine occasions with Patrick Mahomes as their starter, per @EliasSports.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 21, 2020
In those games, they are 9-0 and averaging 29.0 points per game. Pretty decent.