When the NFL owners passed the AFC Playoff seeding resolution on Friday, there was much debate as to whether or not the league got it right. Fans in Kansas City argued both that the Kansas City Chiefs made out like bandits and that they were getting the short end of the stick. Regardless of which side of the argument you found yourself on, the resolution did provide clarity on one thing: win on Saturday and secure the first-round bye.
This effectively turned the Chiefs’ regular-season finale against the Las Vegas Raiders into a playoff game, and they treated it as such, winning 31-13.
“We came in knowing what was at stake and what we were fighting for,” defensive tackle Chris Jones told reporters after the game. “And we were able to win the game, most importantly. We get a bye week [and] we get home-field advantage — everything we wanted going into the season. We’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
It’s not exactly shocking to reach the end of the regular season and see the Chiefs atop the conference standings, but nobody would blame you for being at least pleasantly surprised. While the rest of their AFC contemporaries went on offseason spending sprees, the Chiefs were relatively conservative this past summer, making a few shrewd free-agent acquisitions and loading up on draft capital.
Fast forward a few months, and the Chiefs finish the season with 14 wins — tied for the most in franchise history — something Patrick Mahomes credits to the culture at Arrowhead.
“It starts with the organization and the coaches,” Mahomes said on Saturday night. “They’ve set a culture here that started before I was even here. You get a lot of guys in here that learn how we do things. We’ve got a lot of veterans on our team, and when you bring in new guys, you just show them by the way you act.
“Luckily for us, Brett Veach and Coach Reid brought in a lot of guys who were ready to work and wanted to get out there as quickly as possible. I think you’ve seen as the season’s gone on those rookies are getting better, and the veterans are starting to hit at the right moment going into the playoffs.”
Any benefits that come with home-field advantage in the playoffs may be mitigated by the resolution passed on Friday. If the Buffalo Bills defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday, a Chiefs-Bills AFC Championship game will be played at a neutral site.
Nonetheless, the most significant advantage of earning the one seed was and still is the first-round bye. According to head coach Andy Reid, this allows players to recharge their batteries after a grueling four-plus months of football.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Reid explained. “You’ve still got to take care of business. Our guys understand that. We’ll give them a few days off next week and then get them back in towards the end of the week and get some practice in there. To just take a step back and get yourself where you feel stronger and healthier — mentally and physically — is a good thing.”
The Chiefs can now rest for the next week as they wait to find out who their opponent will be in the Divisional Round. That reality was far from a given before the season, let alone 72 hours ago. And while the players will undoubtedly enjoy the well-deserved time off, Mahomes knows that a tough matchup awaits them in two weeks.
“We’ll get a home game at Arrowhead and try to handle business there against what will be another great football team,” Mahomes said. “If you look at the AFC in general, every single team one through eight or nine can make a run at the Super Bowl.
“We know we’re going to get a great test no matter who it is.”