1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3, AFC No. 1 Seed)
Last Postseason Appearance: 2021 (Lost AFC Championship Game vs. Cincinnati 27-24 (OT))
The Kansas City Chiefs are rolling as they head back into the postseason as the top seed in the AFC. After dispatching the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, the Chiefs have won five straight and nine of 10 since their bye week.
The Chiefs enter the playoffs with the NFL’s No. 1 offense in terms of both yards per game (413.6) and points per game (29.2). They have the NFL’s leading passer in Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 5,250 yards this season. And the Chiefs possess all kinds of playoff experience, having advanced at least as far as the AFC Championship Game in each of the past four seasons.
Head coach Andy Reid told reporters after the win that the Chiefs will welcome a week of rest before their postseason quest begins, but the team knows what the ultimate goal is.
“Just take a step back and get yourself where you feel stronger and healthier,’’ Reid said. “You still gotta take care of business. Our guys understand that.’’
Sobleski believes the Chiefs may well realize that goal, because in his opinion, Kansas City is the team to beat in the AFC.
“What the Chiefs accomplished in 2022 is simply staggering,” he said. “Yes, they already had the best quarterback in the game. Yes, Andy Reid is also the game’s best offensive play-caller. Yes, they already represented the AFC in two of the past three Super Bowls. The organization made the daring choice to trade away football’s biggest threat at wide receiver this past offseason and got better in doing so. Patrick Mahomes deserves so much more than the league MVP, because he’s so far and beyond any other quarterback. The offense is more balanced. The defense is holding up its end of the bargain, for the most part. Kansas City is the team to beat as the postseason begins.”
Chiefs 32.9% chance to make the Super Bowl
Mock’s model sees Kansas City as the team to beat in the AFC as it’s projected to make the Super Bowl about a third of the time despite losing outright during the regular season to both Buffalo and Cincinnati. The Chargers have been banged up this season, but heading to Jacksonville is a very winnable game. In fact, Mock has them winning the AFC just two percent less than the Bengals. This model does not factor Lamar Jackson being 100-percent certain to play for the Ravens in the wild-card round.
Travis Kelce dominated fantasy football once again
The gap between the highest and 2nd highest scoring player by position in fantasy this year:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 9, 2023
Patrick Mahomes ➡️ Josh Allen: 21.88 points
Austin Ekeler ➡️ Christian McCaffrey: 16.34 points
Justin Jefferson ➡️ Tyreek Hill: 21.46 points
Travis Kelce ➡️ Mark Andrews: 100.9 points pic.twitter.com/Sa1tmW2srD
Round 1 - Pick 31
Blake Freeland OT
Blake Freeland hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz with the draft media, but he’s been one of the most consistent college offensive linemen over the last three years — and over that time he’s given up exactly one sack. He might be more likely to go in Round 2, but don’t be surprised if you hear his name a lot in the coming months.
8. Punter Tommy Townsend compiled another strong performance.
Townsend was tremendous on Saturday, dropping three of his four punts inside the Raiders’ 20-yard line. He dropped a 37-yard punt to the Raiders’ 5-yard line, a 61-yard punt to Las Vegas’ 4-yard line and a 39-yard punt to their 10-yard line. Additionally, Townsend blasted a 59-yard punt from the Chiefs’ 13-yard line to flip the field.
The third-year punter finished the regular season by leading the NFL in net punting average (45.6 yards) while ranking second in total average (50.4 yards). Both figures were the highest single-season marks in franchise history.
Around the NFL
After declaring that he intends to return, Belichick said of the Patriots’ 8-9 season: “Nobody’s satisfied with that. That’s not our goal. We need to improve on that. So that’s all of us — accountability everywhere, starting with me, the coaching staff, players, each unit. They are all things that we will address, and that process will start probably later today.”
Belichick said that will include a standard-operating-procedure meeting with owner Robert Kraft, who in March had said he wasn’t happy that the franchise hadn’t won a playoff game since Super Bowl LIII over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019.
Belichick has 329 career victories as a head coach (including playoffs), which is second in NFL history behind Don Shula (347).
4 - Denver Broncos
2022 record: 5-12
This job is not the most attractive, because the Broncos exist in the same division as Patrick Mahomes. But this will be the most fascinating search nonetheless. Start with the fact that Denver is expected to interview Payton and Harbaugh. And then layer on the obvious: Whoever gets this job has to fix quarterback Russell Wilson, whose shocking decline led to Hackett’s early exit after less than one full season and intrateam friction on the sideline. Wilson’s contract makes it prohibitive to move on from him for at least one season, so it seems nearly certain the Broncos will pursue a coach from the offensive side of the ball or one who would bring a very strong offensive coordinator. (Basically, one who tells the Broncos what they want to hear: that Wilson can play at a high level once again.) Beyond Wilson, this roster has enough young talent that, when the quarterback was acquired last March, the assumption was Denver would challenge Kansas City for AFC West supremacy.
The Broncos got back some of the draft capital they sent to Seattle for Wilson when they traded Bradley Chubb to Miami, but they are still operating at a draft-pick deficit. NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reports that first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will interview for the job after leading the NFL’s seventh-ranked D, but if he doesn’t get the head gig, it would be a coup for a new head coach to convince him to stay. And finally, this is the first hire to be made by the new ownership group. Co-owner/CEO Greg Penner is in charge, and he has already said a new coach will report directly to him, not general manager George Paton. Not incidentally, it is hard to imagine the Walmart fortune will be outbid.
The Titans announced Monday that they parted ways with offensive coordinator Todd Downing, offensive line coach Keith Carter, secondary coach Anthony Midget and offensive skill assistant Erik Frazier.
It certainly didn’t seem like this is where the Titans would be the first day after the regular season ended when they had a 7-3 record and looked to be well on their way to a third consecutive AFC South crown.
However, they lost their final seven games as the offense in particular came under scrutiny.
The Cardinals fired Kingsbury on Monday after four seasons, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The team later confirmed the move.
Keim, who took an indefinite health-related absence last month, has also decided to step away from his position to focus on his health, the club announced.
“We have announced that head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been relieved of his duties,” the team said in a statement. “In addition, general manager Steve Keim has decided to step away from his position in order to focus on his health. The team wishes them well and thanks both of them for their contributions.”
Kingsbury went 28-37-1 in four seasons in the desert with a dismal 4-13 record in 2022. Kingsbury signed an extension through 2027 in March, but that didn’t stop owner Michael Bidwill from making a change.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
When Mahomes was asked about the probability of him winning a second NFL MVP award, he said that it was an honor that speaks to the talent around him.
“The MVP award is a special award that if you get it, I mean you’ll cherish it for the rest of your life,” he said. “it’s something I think that you look back at more at the end of the season or at the end of your career, and you think about those great times that you had.
“It’s a trophy that symbolizes the team that was around you. And so you think about those memories you had with those guys, how you went to battle with them and were able to win a lot of football games.”
But Mahomes also made it clear which trophy he’s focusing on now, and it’s not the MVP.
“I mean, we’re focused on the Super Bowl right now and trying to get there and win it. But obviously, it’ll still be a big moment in my life that I’ll be able to have forever remembered.”
A tweet to make you think
If you see 32, it's already too late.— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 8, 2023
Congrats on a record-breaking season, Bolt ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/eSq5JcmvgN