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Suddenly, the Chiefs’ 2022 expectations are back to ‘Super Bowl-or-bust’

It’s fun to remember preseason expectations at this stage of the season.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Let's be honest for a second: Kansas City Chiefs fans have had too much fun the last few weeks exposing old takes — finding the tweets calling for the Chiefs to finish third in the AFC West or a video clip saying the Chiefs would miss the playoffs. As much fun as it is to laugh at those opinions now, there is still some validity to those "freezing cold takes."

Even the most optimistic Chiefs fans expected a slight step back from the Chiefs this year.

Between letting three great players (Tyrann Mathieu, Charvarius Ward and Tyreek Hill) walk from the organization and the massive spending spree from the entire AFC, it was reasonable to expect the Chiefs to take a slight step back in 2022.

When the schedule was released, it was common to see the Chiefs projected for 10-7 or 11-6. And this made plenty of sense, given that the Chiefs dedicated this offseason to getting their cap in a better place and getting younger via the draft. However, much has changed since the Chargers' annual "March AFC West title."

This week, the Chiefs became the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Welcome to the "now."

Knowing what we know now, the entire plan from the offseason has shifted.

Yes, the Chiefs are still dedicated to getting younger and cheaper, but there's much more pressure now. Sitting atop the AFC, neck and neck with the Buffalo Bills for the top seed and facing a surging Cincinnati Bengals has increased the pressure this year. The Chiefs have gone from hopeful to make the playoffs back to Super Bowl-or-bust rather quickly.

Please make no mistake about it.

The top seed in the playoffs has never been more valuable than it will be in the AFC this year. Sure, an extra week of rest is great, but taking a week off and only having to face two teams to make it to the Super Bowl is monumental, especially when the playoff field is likely to feature Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson.

If the Chiefs do not clinch the top seed, there's a real chance they are hosting a formidable No. 7 seed at Arrowhead.

The Chiefs have a challenging task ahead to finish with the No. 1 seed, but the season is not all lost if they do not. If you found out the Chiefs wrapped up the division by December and were likely going to the second seed in the playoffs, you would have been thrilled.

If the Chiefs lose to the Bengals on Sunday, it's not all lost. The Chiefs are building toward a stronger future, and meanwhile, every other team in the AFC is all about the "right now." This is what separates the Los Angeles Rams from the Chiefs. As we saw last Sunday, the Rams don't have the resources to sustain long-term winning.

On the other hand, the Chiefs have to focus everything they can on winning the top seed. There cannot be any more developing Skyy Moore as a punt returner or sleepwalking through games against lesser teams. Kansas City is fortunate to have its playoff destiny in its own hands.

The Chiefs need to hold tight to the opportunity ahead of them, as the future may be bright, but it is never certain.

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