In the NFL, a lot can change in two weeks — and no one knows that better than the Kansas City Chiefs do right now. Less than 14 days ago, the team and its fans were fully prepared to land the AFC’s first postseason seed. All the team had to do was win the final two games.
It wasn’t just their record that made them look ready. It was also the four-game winning streak out of the Week 12 bye — where the Chiefs outscored opponents 140-56 and took control of the division with a thrilling victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Heading into the playoffs, the team seemed to be in a prime position.
Then, the last six quarters of the regular season happened — in which the Cincinnati Bengals came back on the Chiefs to win with a 17-3 second-half advantage and the injury-riddled Denver Broncos gave Kansas City all they could handle down to the final minutes of Week 18’s 28-24 battle — which the Chiefs finally won.
Even with one of these games being a victory, the two-game stretch featured flaws that were present during earlier, rougher patches of the season — including poor tackling on defense and missed opportunities on offense.
Speaking after Saturday’s win over Denver, quarterback Patrick Mahomes admitted that he can feel the inconsistency of the team’s recent performances.
“I just feel like we haven’t had that complete game yet,” Mahomes told reporters. “We have the players — you see it week-in and week-out: the offense has a great game, the defense has a great game, the special teams have a great game. When we all come together and have that run of games, we’re a team that can win as much as we want to win.”
Considering the Chiefs had two separate victories in December that ended with at least a 26-point margin, you may think that sounds inaccurate. But the team’s leader isn’t looking at the final scores; he has his finger on the team’s pulse — and his words indicate that it still hasn’t all clicked together for the team. And the players know that there are a lot of good teams ready to take them down in the postseason.
“We’re going into the playoffs, into a tough [conference] in the AFC, it’s going to be tough games every week we play,” noted Mahomes. “We have to find a way to play our best football at the right time of the season.”
With the win, the Chiefs secured at least the AFC’s second seed — but they don’t yet know which team they’d play in the Wild Card round if it plays out that way. It’s most likely to be either the Chargers or Indianapolis Colts — but Sunday’s results will determine the exact matchups.
Head coach Andy Reid is champing at the bit to know which opponent his team will face. He knows the importance of the first seed — but with matters now out of his control, he’ll be going with the flow. Either way, he thinks that playing Week 18’s game on Saturday afternoon could be an advantage.
“We’re going to end up getting an extra day with this game — so if we don’t get the bye, we’ll be ready,” Reid pointed out. “And if we do, we’ll take advantage of that time there. Either way, we’re going to utilize whatever time we have to make sure we get ourselves right for the next game.”
Again, there’s nothing the Chiefs can do now — and the players and coaches have no choice but to accept that.
“It is what it is. We’re ready to go wherever — against whoever,” assured Mahomes. “We’re just going to go in with the mindset that we’re going to have to play each and every week to get back to that Super Bowl.”
All there is to do is sit back, rest up and watch the NFL’s Sunday games — where a particular few games are the most intriguing. The one at the top of that list is the Tennessee Titans at the Houston Texans; if the Texans win, the Chiefs will claim the first seed.
There is no doubt that Mahomes will be tuned in.
“Obviously I’ll have that game on the TV, checking it out — but I’ll have other games as well,” he said. “We have a couple of possible opponents we could be playing, so I’ll try to look at a little bit of that and see what they’re doing. They have big games as well.”
On Sunday, we’ll all be Texans fans — and depending on which opponent they’d rather see the Chiefs play, some might even be Las Vegas Raiders fans. For now, it’s all that we — or the Chiefs — can do.
The Chiefs had the chance to secure the postseason bye week, setting themselves up for the easiest path to the Super Bowl — just as in the last two seasons — while also riding a wave of positive momentum.
But they blew it. When Mahomes boils it down, it’s simply put: over the last two weeks, the Chiefs haven’t been playing complete football. Not only did it likely cost them the first seed, but also a chance to go into the playoffs with an impressive, confidence-building performance.