Travis Kelce ties Jerry Rice’s playoff record
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce enters this AFC Championship with seven-career playoff games of 100 or more receiving yards. That ranks No. 2 all-time by a pass catcher and trails Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice by just one for the NFL postseason record. So far, Kelce has been enjoying a strong playoff run, as he’s caught 13 of his 16 targets for 204 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks.
He now faces a Bengals team that has been very friendly to opposing tight ends, particularly those who are considered to be elite. Back in Week 11, Raiders tight end Darren Waller hauled in 116 yards receiving against the Bengals, San Francisco’s George Kittle totaled 151 yards in Week 14, and Mark Andrews of the Ravens posted 125 yards against this defense in Week 16.
Kelce had a rather quiet showing against the Bengals (25 yards receiving) in their regular season matchup in Week 17, but we don’t expect that to happen twice. Instead, he should find himself knotted with Rice by the time this AFC Championship ends.
In his first meeting with the media since his brother’s death, Sneed acknowledged Thursday what should be obvious: TQ Harrison remains on his mind often.
“It ain’t easy,” he said. Sneed returned to Minden — on a private jet that teammate Patrick Mahomes helped him procure — to be with his family and attend his brother’s funeral.
A woman has been charged in Harrison’s death.
The tragedy has understandably weighed on Sneed, even if that hasn’t been demonstrated in his play on the field. In fact, the weight is especially heavy everywhere except the football field.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hard to play football, because I would say football takes my mind off things like that,” Sneed said.
“That’s why I love the game of football. It takes my mind off what’s really going on in my life.”
1. Chiefs vs. Rams
Plain and simple, it’s got the most potential for fireworks. If the Bills-Chiefs shootout in the divisional round is the standard for playoff entertainment, this is probably our best chance at replicating the big-play back-and-forth. Stafford and Patrick Mahomes possess two of the game’s best arms, and the collective star power here would be abundant: Odell, Tyreek Hill, Cooper Kupp, Travis Kelce, Jalen Ramsey, Tyrann Mathieu, Aaron Donald, and so on. These are two of the NFL’s most athletic, talented rosters on paper, and so it’s only right they’d go head to head in the biggest game of the year — in shiny Los Angeles, no less.
The numbers don’t flatter the Bengals. The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown because they were a better team during a diminished season, and they are peaking now. The Chiefs are up to second in offensive EPA, and the Bengals are 11th. Patrick Mahomes has entered The Matrix again, and there’s not much reason to believe the Bengals’ defense will be any better at slowing him down than the Bills were.
I just don’t like the idea of spotting Joe Burrow seven points. The Week 17 matchup between these teams was a reminder that this Chiefs’ defense isn’t very good and may be worse than it’s been since 2018. They are down to 24th in defensive DVOA on the season and have looked overwhelmed against quality quarterbacks for over a month. Justin Herbert cut them up, just like Josh Allen did last week. The Broncos pushed them around. And Burrow had no problems dropping 34 points on them last time. In the Chiefs’ last four games against teams not piloted by the memory of Ben Roethlisberger, they’ve allowed 30.5 points and 422.3 yards on average.
Kansas City Chiefs
C · Rookie
Center is among the most important and difficult positions to play in the NFL, which makes Humphrey’s debut season that much more impressive. The second-round pick stepped into the role and manned it deftly from the start, earning Pro Football Focus’ highest grade among all pivots. He thrived in the run game, helping serve as a reliable road grader for the Chiefs’ rotating cast of runners, which gained +166 rushing yards over expected on attempts outside the numbers this season. Patrick Mahomes is the face of the franchise, but Chiefs fans can rest comfortably knowing their team has a stellar young center to snap it to the star quarterback and protect the franchise for years to come.
Reid, a noted “forkturian,” made a food analogy.
“If you like chocolate cake and you eat a piece, and then you have one dangling in front of your face, you’re probably going to want to eat that too,” Reid said. “Not much is going to stop you, so that’s how you feel about the Super Bowl. That is the chocolate cake with the ultimate frosting and you’re going to try to go get it if you can, the best you can.”
That dessert-centered comment has spurred sales of chocolate cake at a Kansas City bakery, as KMBC (Ch. 9) reported.
It also inspired Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge to pen a new song about her favorite team, the Chiefs. Etheridge, who grew up in Leavenworth, and has always been vocal about her support of the Chiefs, debuted her song Wednesday on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”
Around the NFL
“Big Ben” played in 249 regular-season games, 23 postseason games and three Super Bowls. He retires while sitting at No. 5 on the all-time passing list with 64,088 yards — one spot behind Brett Favre and right above Philip Rivers. The 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year made his mark on the Steelers immediately, as he led Pittsburgh to the most wins ever recorded by a rookie with 15. Later, he became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in the first 150 starts of his career. Roethlisberger also holds the NFL record for most career 500-yard passing games with four.
Hackett’s hire is the first of nine head coach openings to be filled this offseason.
“Nathaniel Hackett is a dynamic leader and coach whose intelligence, innovation and charisma impressed us from the very start of this process,” Broncos general manager George Paton said in a statement. “In addition to having a brilliant offensive mind, Nathaniel is an outstanding teacher and communicator with a strong vision for all three phases of our team.
Eberflus, 51, also was considered a candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head-coaching vacancy. He will join new general manager Ryan Poles in taking over a Bears team that went 6-11 in 2021 under Matt Nagy and has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 11 seasons.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have Matt become the next head coach of the Chicago Bears,” said Poles, whom the Bears hired Tuesday. “His experience, passion, character and attention to detail made him the right man for both the job and the culture we intend to establish here at Halas Hall. Throughout the search, Matt impressed me when detailing his vision and plan for our team. We look forward to getting to work and assembling a top-notch staff and roster that will help us consistently compete for championships.”
Ziegler has already completed an interview with the team for its vacant general manager spot.
McDaniels is considered a top candidate, per Rapoport. It wouldn’t be the first time this was the case.
McDaniels was, for a brief period of time, the new Indianapolis Colts head coach until he decided he didn’t want the job, instead electing to return to the Patriots early in 2018. The Colts ended up hiring Frank Reich instead, while McDaniels went back to the familiar territory of Bill Belichick’s staff, working with Tom Brady for two more seasons before the future Hall of Famer moved south to Tampa Bay.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
After missing practice entirely on Wednesday, Mathieu was listed as a full participant on Thursday on the game’s official injury report. Still, he is not out of the woods yet.
“Tyrann practiced [Thursday] and did a nice job; he’s not out of the protocol,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. “He’s got to test after the practice, that was the next step, but he was out there doing everything and did a nice job with it... He moved around well. He was fine [Thursday], so he’s just got to go through the rest of the protocol here and finish that up and make sure he’s OK as he goes through it.”
Without cornerback Rashad Fenton — whom the Chiefs like to bring in on the outside while pushing L’Jarius Sneed inside in nickel looks — the Chiefs positioned Mathieu at slot cornerback in three of the seven snaps.
“It took us a little by surprise obviously when Tyrann got hurt early,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “We did have a package we were going to do something a little different. Had to throw the thing completely out that we had — especially for Buffalo.”