Saturday’s 31-13 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders to close out the regular season clinched the AFC’s top seed for 14-3 Kansas City Chiefs. The seeding is marred in controversy after the NFL declined to resume Week 17’s contest between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals in the wake of safety Damar Hamlin’s hospitalization.
While the Chiefs will enjoy the conference’s only bye week for the first round of the playoffs, this year’s AFC title will be decided on a neutral field should they face the Bills, whose record only accounts for 16 games.
In a Monday press conference, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid stressed that such decisions were not for him. He deferred to Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, team president Mark Donovan, and owner, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt. Per Peter King of NBC Sports, the Chiefs contingent abstained from voting on the proposal due to its direct ramifications.
“I was so tunneled in on the Raiders at that time when all this was going on,” Reid recalled. “I know Clark and Mark and Brett — I have full trust in them and what they were doing with it. My main focus was trying to make sure we stayed focused on that game on a short week.
“So I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about where we were playing — or not playing — down the road. We’ve got to work on getting there. That was more of a job for the people I mentioned to do — and I thought they did a good job of it.”
Speaking after his head coach, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes echoed the importance of actually advancing for the decision to matter. The face of the league turned the attention back to the most important matter: Hamlin’s reported progress in recovery.
“Nothing was going to be fair for anybody, I don’t think,” Mahomes explained. “It’s a situation that we’ve never encountered before. But at the end of the day, I was so happy that Damar was doing better. That’s the most important stuff — him doing better and him being in a better spot.
“We were ready to do whatever scenario was going to happen. If that was neutral site [or] if that was going there — whatever it was, we were just ready to go out there and play. But we have to win our first game first. So we’ll just worry about who we play in the first round for us.”