After a rough start to the season, the Chiefs are looking to get back into playoff form. How close can they get to home field advantage the rest of the way?
Kansas City fans are in unfamiliar territory right now. We’ve been so accustomed to starting fast out the gates as soon as the season starts. Now we sit at 6-4 ten games through the season. In 2018 and 2020, through 10 games the Chiefs had only lost one game. The 2019 season? They started 6-4 as well and we all know how that season ended for us.
The NFL season typically brings lots of chaos, especially coming down the stretch of the season. The Chiefs are not out of the playoff picture at all. They have a clearer path to the top overall seed than people might think. But it’s going to take some help from a couple of other teams. If the Chiefs want to catapult to the top of the AFC standings.
AFC East Race
At the beginning of the season, the AFC East title seemed to be a one-way ticket to Buffalo. After the strong finish to the season that saw Josh Allen begin morphing into one of the top young stars in this league. Poised to continue that into this season, the Bills haven’t been bad by any means. But the young quarterback in Foxborough is gonna have something to say about it.
Following a 45-7 beatdown of the shorthanded Cleveland Browns on Sunday and a 25-0 win on TNF, the Nick Saban product is growing into his own for the Patriots. Granted the man he’s being compared to is one of the greatest to ever throw the pigskin. It won’t be easy for Mac Jones to live up to the legacy 12 left behind. But he’s off to a fast start in his rookie campaign.
Both teams sit near the top-10 in the remaining strength of schedule. Granted, they still have to play each other twice. Other than that the Patriots face a couple of struggling teams, as well as the Titans and Colts to finish out their 2021 slate. Buffalo, on the other hand, has to face all four NFC South teams. Who each present strengths and weaknesses of their own.
The Chiefs will need to hope that Buffalo gets tripped up in their next four games. That includes vs Colts, @ Saints, vs Patriots, and @ Buccaneers, before they take a trip to New England in Week 16.
AFC North Race
This division boasts four teams that are all capable of getting hot at the right time and being able to make a run to the playoffs. Baltimore has proved this season that they’re never out of a game. Lamar Jackson has led his squad to four come-from-behind wins where the margin was a touchdown or less. The Ravens have two matchups left with the Browns and a pair of games vs division winners from a year ago.
Pittsburgh might end up being the odd man out in a division they claimed last season. They have the toughest remaining schedule left in the NFL. Their eight opponents have combined for a .600 winning percentage. The only team they have on their schedule that isn’t above .500 is the Vikings, who have shown they have enough offensive firepower to hang with anybody on any given Sunday. TJ Watt’s health down the stretch will be something to monitor.
Up until a few weeks ago, Zac Taylor had his squad playing with the best of them. Since then, the Bengals have lost a heartbreaker to the Jets and a reality check to the Browns. The Bengals also rank in the top five of the toughest remaining schedules. As they still have to take on three of the four AFC West teams. They’re a team to watch that could get hot quick or start piling up losses quickly.
That leaves the Cleveland Browns, who have had to deal with a dog pound full of injuries this season. Which gives them quite a few question marks. Is Baker Mayfield 100%? What effect will OBJ leaving have on the team? Will Hunt return to his dominant form once he returns from IR? The Browns don’t have a cakewalk to the playoffs either. They also have two primetime games where the lights will be on Kevin Stefanski’s squad.
Kansas City will have to hope for chaos across this division. At least enough that hands Baltimore a couple of losses and prevents anyone team from going on a run.
AFC South Race
The Carson Wentz-led Colts have been a team to watch. With Jonathan Taylor taking his sophomore season by storm. As he looks to lead the league in rushing with Derrick Henry out presumably for the rest of the season. Indianapolis doesn’t have it easy by any means. They still have dates with Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Los Angeles, and New England left on the schedule. A potential wildcard push shouldn’t be any harm to the Chiefs.
The current conference leaders, on the other hand, could give the Chiefs the most trouble, as they look to jump up the standings. The Titans have just found ways to win, with or without their star running back. Tannehill has shown he doesn’t need big names to throw the ball too. Tennessee also has the easiest remaining schedule left in the NFL. With two matchups against a spiraling Houston team, along with meetings with the Dolphins and Jaguars.
If the Titans are going to fall in the standings it could be at the hands of Mac Jones and the Patriots. Or Ben Roethlisberger and the furious Steelers defense. Although the Jaguars have shown some life after beating the Bills in a field goal matchup in Week 9.
The Chiefs don’t have a walk in the park to win out either. As they come into Week 11 with the third hardest remaining schedule. But things have changed since the Chiefs’ three-game stretch where they scored a measly 12 points per contest. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire potentially making his return this week. Patrick Mahomes will only continue to gain comfort playing behind the rebuilt offensive line.
They will have to fully gain control of the AFC West en route to the top overall seed. They still have two matchups with the Broncos. Going to SoFi Stadium won’t ever be easy. But the Chiefs have proved they like playing in newly built stadiums within the division.
Kansas City might not win out, but they can make an argument for every game. Especially if they can get back to the form of last year’s team who finished the year 14-2. This could be a year where the final game of the season means something to the Chiefs.