Necessary Roughness: Why the Chiefs shouldn’t be worried about any AFC playoff opponent

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To the national media, the Chiefs are old news. The sexy picks are teams like the Bills, the Browns, and the Ravens. However, those teams may not be as good as their record shows.

The NFL playoff picture is finally set. Teams like the Browns, the Washington Football Team, and the Bears were definitely surprising as they all clinched a spot as one of the 14 teams continuing their season. The Buffalo Bills are a bit of a surprise too.

Sure, I think most people believed that they would be an improved team, and with Tom Brady leaving New England, the division was certainly up for grabs. However, I don’t know if anyone saw them finishing with a 13-3 record. In fact, the AFC is a loaded playoff line-up with Tennessee, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Indianapolis all finishing with an 11-5 record. Miami, who finished the season 10-6, failed to grab one of the three wild card spots.

With all of these successful teams in the playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs look to have their hands full in getting back to the Super Bowl.  However, is the hype around these other teams warranted or is the need for another team to stop Patrick Mahomes so big, that it is clouding the judgment throughout the league?

Let’s take a look at each of these teams to see how great they really are and if they really pose a threat to the reigning Super Bowl champs. I’ll start with the teams that the Chiefs could see in the divisional round. Indianapolis, Cleveland, Baltimore, or Tennessee could all end up at Arrowhead to face Mahomes and company.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts finished the season 11-5 and were able to just get in with the seventh playoff spot (it should be noted that if this were last year, they would be watching the playoffs from the couch). They started off the season horribly by losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s the “picking first overall in next year’s draft” Jacksonville Jaguars. Indy picked things up by winning four of their next five games.

However, of their 11 wins, they only beat three playoff teams and one of those teams was the 8-8 Bears. The Colts are a good team, but they get beat consistently by better teams. They lost to Cleveland, Baltimore, and Tennessee. If they squared off against Kansas City, they would get beat then too.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns surprisingly finished the season 11-5 for the first time since 1994. It is also their first trip to the playoffs since 2002. They really are looking like an improved squad and Baker Mayfield has been playing his best football. They did lose a critical game against the Jets while they were still trying to get into the playoffs, though.

At the time, that was worse than losing to Jacksonville. They beat four playoff teams throughout the season, but one of them was the Washington Football Team and another was against the Steelers when they rested their starters in week 17. This would be the most surprising team to get to the divisional round since they have been hit hard with COVID-19 cases, including their head coach Kevin Stefanski, who will be missing the wild card game.

If they did happen to make it to Arrowhead, I would not see them as much of a threat. They run the ball well with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, but if the Chiefs got up on them early, I don’t think Baker could pull them out of it.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens finishing 11-5 is kind of a letdown since they were 14-2 the year before, but nonetheless, they are in the playoffs and they are playing good football as of late. They ended the regular season with a five-game win streak, but only one of those wins was against a playoff team. The Chiefs beat them for the third straight season, and it was a pretty convincing win.

The Chiefs won 34-20 and were the only team to beat Baltimore by multiple scores. The win proved that though the Ravens are a good football team, they still struggle to come back from a large deficit. Since the Chiefs have had their number the past three seasons, I don’t see the playoffs being any different.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans also finished the season 11-5. Unlike last year, they will get to actually host a playoff game this year. They are a similar team as last year’s, though. They still rely heavily on Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill still has his limitations. He was outplayed by rookie quarterback Joe Burrow when Cincinnati beat Tennessee by 11 points. The Titans’ defense is pretty rough, and I don’t think they would be able to stop Patrick Mahomes enough times to keep Henry involved.

Tennessee has only held four teams to 20 points or below and none of those teams had anywhere close to the offense that Kansas City has. The Chiefs beat them by double digits in the playoffs last year, I would expect the same this year.

Now I will breakdown the teams that the Chiefs could see in the AFC Championship game.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers looked like the team to beat early on when they started off the season 11-0. However, they only played three playoff teams in that span and they beat a Baltimore team that didn’t have Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, or J.K. Dobbins. They lost four of their last five games (the last one doesn’t really count as they rested their starters). They lost to Washington and Cincinnati during that time and let the one-seed slip away to Kansas City.

They are the worst team in rushing yards and towards the bottom in passing yards. They have struggled offensively as of late and have suffered several injuries on the defensive side of the ball. They could maybe hang with Kansas City in a sloppy Sunday at noon game, but not in the playoffs after a bye.

Buffalo Bills

This is the one that everyone wants to see. The so-called “best” team in football is the Buffalo Bills.

They finished the season 13-3 and have won six straight. However, of those six, the fraudulent Steelers were the only playoff team that they beat. In fact, the Steelers were the only playoff team from the AFC that the Bills had beat all season. The other two playoff teams, the Rams and Seahawks, are in the NFC.

Buffalo got blown out by Tennessee 42-16 in a game where Derrick Henry only had 57 yards and Ryan Tannehill threw for less than 200 yards. How do you get beat that bad with those numbers? Much like the Ravens, they already lost to the Chiefs earlier this year. The game wasn’t as close as the score would show. Kansas City was up 23-10 with nine minutes left in the game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 161 yards and Mahomes outplayed Josh Allen the whole game. The reigning Super Bowl MVP had a QBR of 128.4 and completed 81% of his passes, while Allen had a QBR of only 73.4 and completed only 52% of his passes.

I get that teams can change throughout the season. It’s the same thing Ravens fans would say all season after getting beat by the Chiefs just to go on and lose in the first round of the playoffs. Until you beat the champs, you’re not a threat to the champs.

So, there it is. All of these teams have flaws. I’m not saying that the Chiefs can’t lose to any of these teams. They’re not perfect, but they are closer to perfect than any of these teams. They went to Tampa Bay and New Orleans and won. They put up 33 points against the second-ranked defense in Miami. They won in Baltimore and in Buffalo handily.

There shouldn’t be any doubt from the national media who the best team in the league is. However, teams like Buffalo tend to get overhyped by the Colin Cowherds of the world because they are so ready for someone to dethrone Patrick Mahomes, and, unfortunately for them, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.