After the Kansas City Chiefs clinched the first playoff spot in the AFC, the question now is, can anybody catch the Chiefs?
Following the Chiefs’ 36-10 dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Chiefs are the first team in the AFC to clinch a playoff birth. They now seem to be in the driver’s seat in a crowded AFC conference where it will certainly come down to Week 18 to determine who’s in the playoffs. With one game separating the current three through ten seeds in the conference, there will be plenty of matchups to pay attention to down the stretch. There are a couple of teams that could present the Chiefs with some trouble if they meet in a potential playoff matchup.
Indianapolis Colts 9-6 2nd in AFC South
In my opinion, the Colts are the biggest threat to the Chiefs in the AFC. Jonathan Taylor is morphing into one of the best all-around running backs in the league. It helped that Titans’ star Derrick Henry went down with an injury, so the light has begun to shine on Taylor. Rightfully so as he’s making a case for Offensive Player of the Year. As a team, the Colts are second in the league in rushing yards per game.
Taylor is running behind one of the best offensive line units across the league. Handing the ball off to Taylor is Carson Wentz, who has been able to hide the ghosts of his past and just play football. It helps when you hand the ball off 25-30 times a game. Wentz has shown he can stay in the pocket and move the ball down the field when needed. Michael Pittman Jr. has turned into the clear-cut WR1 within the offense and Wentz has been able to get him the ball.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts present a physical defense that can give many offenses problems. Led by linebacker Darrius Leonard and cornerback Kenny Moore III. DeForest Buckner creates a problem up the middle as he leads the team in sacks (6.5) and quarterback hits (15) while being the heart and soul of the defensive line.
If the Chiefs were to meet the Colts in the playoffs, I think Kansas City would be forced to rely on their playmakers (Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire) and they would cause problems for the Indianapolis defense. While the Colts would lean on Taylor to do the heavy lifting on the offense, ultimately I think Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense would have the upper hand in a potential matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs 11-4 1st in AFC West
If you’re a Chiefs fan, you know that sometimes the Chiefs shoot themselves in the foot during games and that can impact the outlook of a game very quickly. Patrick Mahomes threw two interceptions in the Super Bowl last season against the Buccaneers after trying to mount a comeback in the second half. The offense was slow out of the gates, forcing them to play catchup after halftime. Dee Ford jumped offsides on a crucial 3rd and 10 setting up a little Tom Brady magic to get the Patriots into field goal range to tie the game. The Chiefs going on to lose in overtime. The list of miscues in previous playoff games goes on and on.
Kansas City needs to play Kansas City Chiefs football. Over the past eight games, the offense has started off hot and the defense has been rock solid. One thing that will play a factor in this postseason will be the Chiefs’ ability to keep players off the reserve/COVID-19 list. Something that could prove costly down the stretch is if a key player has to miss a playoff game due to a team outbreak. With recent stints on the list for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, it’s better to have lost them now than to lose them in January.
Wild Card Teams
There are a couple of teams that have tons of talent, but maybe don’t have all the pieces put together quite yet. One team that could get hot at the right time is the Cincinnati Bengals. They currently sit at 9-6 and are in 1st place in the AFC North. Joe Burrow has hit his stride after dismantling the Ravens defense last week. The Bengals have a few bad losses along with some strong wins. A lot of questions could be answered this weekend when Kansas City travels to Paul Brown Stadium. It will be interesting to see which Bengals team shows up against the Chiefs on Sunday.
Another team that could surprise people is the Tennessee Titans. A team that at one point was an afterthought in the AFC was derailed with injuries across the board. They showed quite a bit of life on Thursday night after the return of star wide receiver A.J. Brown. If Derrick Henry returns for Week 18 or for the playoffs, the Titans return to their full form behind the best running back in the league. They might bring him back early to let him knock off potential rust as they try and lock up the division from a surging Colts squad.
Tennessee got the best of Kansas City when the two teams faced off earlier this season. Since then the Chiefs have won eight straight and are a whole different team after adding Melvin Ingram to the defense.
Watch out for either of these wild card teams down the stretch. Kansas City hopes to embark on another journey that will seemingly run through Arrowhead and end at SoFi Stadium.