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Shawn’s Staturday: How this year’s holiday game could yield good playoff tidings

With KC’s #1 seed just one win away, this week’s holiday game against Atlanta could give starters a well-deserved break next week.

Week 16 has arrived and it could be the week that Chiefs fans can see their team clinch a bye-week for the third consecutive year, essentially forcing AFC teams to try and escape the red sea that is Arrowhead Stadium.

Week 16 not only houses the Chiefs’ bye-week clinching game, but it also houses four straight days of NFL football (Friday – Monday). With the Vikings-Saints Christmas special yesterday, the 2020 season has become the first season to have a game on all seven days of the week.

The Atlanta Falcons, a team that has seemed extremely mediocre at points of the season, are coming into KC on Sunday to try and sour the reigning Super Bowl champs’ chances at their precious bye week…and if the Chiefs aren’t careful, they could be in for another shootout.

That shouldn’t scare Mahomes and KC, considering the Chiefs have just completed a six-game win streak where every game was won within one score, becoming the first team to complete such a streak. Even though every one of those games was close for their own reasons, it shows that the Chiefs can survive any shootout, no matter the stadium or the talent on the other team.

When it comes to the Chiefs’ close wins, the 4th quarters are where statistics would say the Chiefs become lackadaisical, but that is largely due to the Chiefs coasting on their double-digit leads that they typically carry into the last half of the game. In fact, KC has only trailed once during the six-game streak (at Las Vegas) in the 4th quarters and the Chiefs defense has held strong–keeping opponents from taking the lead on 14 of the 15 drives during the final 15 minutes in each of the past six games.

So what is Sunday’s game going to look like when it’s all said and done? For starters, Mahomes and his favorite weapons are all looking for their own personal accolades which can all be achieved within the next game:

  • Travis Kelce needs only 60 yards to break George Kittle’s single-season NFL record for a TE (1,377) and is only two receptions short of becoming the first TE in NFL history to reach 100+ receptions in multiple seasons. It’s also important to realize that Kelce is still in the hunt to become the first TE to lead the league in receiving yards, currently second with 1,318 yards in a tight race behind Deandre Hopkins (1,324) and ahead of Stefon Diggs (1,314).
  • Tyreek Hill is currently 5th on the receiving yards (1,211) list behind Hopkins, Kelce, Diggs & D.K. Metcalf and is first in the league in overall touchdowns (17) which is already more than he’s ever had in a season. He’s also only 268 yards away from his own personal single-season record (1,479) which he surely would like to break after such a humongous season already in the books.
  • Patrick Mahomes is currently leading the league in passing yards (4,462) by a wide margin (328 yards) and, unless Reid and the coaching staff pull Mahomes early and/or sit him next week against the Chargers, he could reach 5,000 yards for the second time in his illustrious three years as a starter. If he were to pull a 538-yard passing game out of thin air–which wouldn’t be hard for Mahomes–against the Falcons secondary (ranked 31st in the league in passing yards allowed) it would be completely understandable to sit him and most of the offense next week.
  • This Chiefs team is looking to also keep breaking records of their own, owning a 22-1 record over their past 23 games. They are also looking to become the first Chiefs team to post a 14-win season in franchise history, with a 15th win being a real possibility against Los Angeles next week whether Mahomes and the starters play or not.

On top of the amazing offensive output, which shouldn’t surprise anyone in the NFL after watching Mahomes over the past three seasons, the Chiefs defense has been on fire as of late. With L’Jarius Sneed becoming a lockdown corner in the secondary, the pass rush finding their stride, and Tyrann Mathieu playing his best season ever this could easily be ripe pickings for this recently regenerated defense.

With LB Damien Wilson likely not playing Sunday it should open some room for rookie Willie Gay Jr. to get some serious snaps in before riding into the postseason. Overall Gay Jr. has put up a plethora of good stats over the past two weeks with his limited role on the defense, posting a 88.2 overall grade (according to PFF) over the past two weeks.

Up to this point, the Chiefs are 6-3 all-time against Atlanta, spanning all the way back to the first game between the two in 1972. If KC doesn’t play up to their potential–or at least play to a level that can sustain an aging Matt Ryan and a flawed offensive line–then the Chiefs should come out of Sunday’s game with a bye-week waiting for them in a couple of weeks.

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