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What we learned about the Chiefs in Week 17

Taking a look at the week of December 28 on Arrowhead Pride...

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs-Falcons: three big takeaways from Week 16

After the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Atlanta Falcons 17-14 in an unlikely thriller that gave Kansas City the AFC’s first postseason seed, Matt Stagner toted up the game’s winners and losers, John Dixon wondered if the team should be considered the franchise’s best-ever squad — while Pete Sweeney wondered if it really is as good as its record — and the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad marveled at the performance of Kansas City’s young defensive players against Atlanta.

Given that by halftime, the defense was without three of its starting linebackers — Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson missed the game altogether and Ben Niemann was injured in the second quarter — the defense played a great game.

Willie Gay Jr. had a very up-and-down game but made some splash plays showing off the athleticism that the team (and its fans) find so exciting. Darius Harris did an admirable job taking on the play-calling duties when Niemann went out, doing his best to protect the team from constant coverage busts.

There are many other defensive topics, but the star of the defense — yet again — was rookie cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who turned another outstanding performance in coverage, run defense and rushing the passer. Simply put, Sneed rarely gives up big yardage — and he just makes plays. If he hadn’t missed time with an injury earlier in the season, he’d be a lock for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Chiefs-Chargers game moved to later time, different network

On Monday, the NFL moved a number of Week 17 games to different times so that fewer teams would have their games become meaningless before they can be played. The changes impacted the Chiefs.

The season’s final Kansas City Chiefs game — originally scheduled for Noon (Arrowhead Time) this Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers — will now be played at 3:25 p.m. In addition, the game broadcast is being moved from CBS to FOX. In Kansas City, that means the game will move from KCTV/5 to WDAF/4.

Chiefs playoff picture: projecting the AFC’s playoff bracket

We also considered the probabilities for the final week of the regular season, trying to get a too-early (and likely somewhat wrong) look at which team the Chiefs could play in the Divisional round.

So assuming that the most-likely paths are traveled, here’s how it would play out:

1. Kansas City Chiefs*
2. Buffalo Bills*
3. Pittsburgh Steelers*
4. Tennessee Titans*
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Indianapolis Colts
7. Miami Dolphins

In this scenario, the Bills would host the Dolphins (for the second straight week) the Colts would play the Steelers at Heinz Field and the Ravens would play Tennessee in Nashville. The Chiefs would then be likely to open the postseason against the Colts — or maybe the Ravens.

Tanoh Kpassagnon suggests he altered Falcons’ would-be game-tying field goal

No one had noticed it during Sunday’s Falcons game — but by Wednesday, speculation was mounting that Falcons placekicker Younghoe Koo’s game-tying field goal with seconds remaining had received a little help to go off-course.

Chiefs’ fans on Twitter began to suggest perhaps defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon might have altered the ball’s path by deflecting it.

Who better than to ask than the man himself?

Case closed — and bye week secured.

Andy Reid says Chad Henne will start at quarterback against Chargers

It wasn’t exactly a news flash that Patrick Mahomes would sit out a game with no playoff implications — but on Wednesday, the Chiefs head coach made it official anyway.

Henne is now in his 11th NFL season — and his third as a Kansas City backup quarterback. He has played a handful of snaps in three Chiefs games — two this season and one in 2018 — but he has never started a game for Kansas City. When Mahomes was injured in 2019, Henne himself was on injured reserve — so Matt Moore started the two games Mahomes missed.

Henne hasn’t had a start since September 21, 2014, when he took the opening snaps for the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts won that game 44-17.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has ‘attacked’ injury status, per Chiefs’ running backs coach

Kansas City’s first-round rookie running back had missed the Atlanta game after being injured in the Week 16 game against the New Orleans Saints. On New Year’s Eve, we learned he is working hard to make it back for the postseason.

Reid then explained Edwards-Helaire was “ahead of schedule” last week, and running backs coach Deland McCullough provided more optimism regarding his possible return on Thursday.

“Since he’s been injured, I mean he’s really attacked this circumstance,” said McCullough. “Seeing him walking around a couple of days after I said, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ He just dedicated himself to getting back at a high level. So really, just excited about what it appears to be as far as he’s going to be ready to come back here in a couple of weeks and we just continue to move forward.”

Chiefs vs. Chargers final injury report: five KC starters ruled out

The new year brought the week’s final injury report, giving a list of at least five Kansas City players who will sit out the Week 17 game against the Chargers.

Five Kansas City Chiefs starters have been ruled out for the game — wide receiver Tyreek Hill (hamstring), right tackle Mike Remmers (back), running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle), linebacker Ben Niemann (hamstring) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf).

Running back Le’Veon Bell (knee) returned to practice on Friday and is officially questionable for the game. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (knee) is also questionable — he hit his knee on Thursday.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on Nnadi: “I don’t think it’s that serious... He just kind of tweaked it, it wasn’t that big of a deal, so we’ll see. It was more precautionary.”

Linebacker Damien Wilson (knee) practiced all week with a limited status and should be available to the Chiefs on Sunday.

Steve Spagnuolo says Willie Gay is ‘going to see a lot of football now’

Then the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator rang in the new year with praise for his second-round rookie linebacker.

“What Willie does is he plays fast,” Spagnuolo noted. “He plays fast and he’s physical — and that’s what you want in your linebackers. [But] there’s still a learning curve here — I think that’s true of anybody that plays that particular position in year one. And again, I go back to not having the offseason and whatnot, but we’re getting him caught up. He’s certainly going to see a lot of football now — and that’s a good thing for him.”

Since Hitchens remains on the reserve/COVID list — and even if they’re ready to play, the Chiefs would be likely to rest both Wilson and Niemann against the Chargers — both Harris and Gay are expected to see plenty of playing time on Sunday. Since they participated in one of the defense’s better performances of the season against the Falcons, Spagnuolo should be happy to put them on the field against a Los Angeles team that nearly knocked the Chiefs down in Week 2.

Four Chiefs with something left to prove in Week 17

On Friday’s edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast, the Nerd Squad discussed players who could make their cases to the team against the Chargers — one of them a former first-round pick.

Deandre Baker

This is beyond just how he plays — it’s if he plays. The Chiefs have already called up Baker twice — including last week when they didn’t activate him on game day. He would be subject to waivers if they did it again. [Note: Baker was ultimately elevated with a COVID replacement designation, which negates this requirement]. Does he earn a spot on the 53 to lock up his services for 2021? Baker will be eligible to sign with anyone for 2021 if they don’t put him on the 53 this week. It will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do here before the game. Bringing him up to the 53 would be a good sign that he’s done well in his short stint in Kansas City. If he does play, can he show the Chiefs that they have another promising young corner in the building and don’t need to prioritize that position in the draft? Everything around Baker is interesting this week — and it starts with his status on the roster.