The Kansas City Chiefs have wont he AFC West and the only thing they have left to control is whether they are the #3 or #4 seed in the playoffs.
We talked earlier in the week about the possibility of the Chiefs being able to decide their playoff path. By intentionally resting their starters and thus likely losing to the Raiders, the Chiefs could “chose” to play the Ravens at home and then Patriots on the road if they wanted to.
Most AA readers agreed that the Chiefs’ easiest playoff path was likely to win vs. Oakland and host the Jets in the first round of the playoffs. Locking up the #3 seed would give the Chiefs a chance to host the AFC Championship game should the New England Patriots lose in the divisional round.
There is one possibility, however, that we haven’t discussed. If the Cleveland Browns manage to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday and the Baltimore Ravens win, the Ravens would win the AFC North, the Jets would get the #5 seed (because of a victory over the Steelers) and Pittsburgh would be coming to Kansas City.
And that might be in KC’s best interest.
I explain, after the jump.
Most AA readers agreed earlier int he week that they would rather face the NY Jets than any other AFC playoff team in round one. Still, I got to thinking and hosting the Steelers might be the ideal situation for the Chiefs.
You see, regardless of what happens, the Chiefs will have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers if they wish to get to the Super Bowl. The only situation where the two teams wouldn’t play is if KC and Pittsburgh both lose this weekend. That would make the Chiefs the #4 seed and the Steelers would be the #6. Pittsburgh would go to Indi or Jacksonville and the Chiefs would host the Jets with the winner going to New England.
In the scenario that most of our readers favored, however, the Chiefs would play and hopefully defeat the Jets at Arrowhead as the #3 seed. That would mean the Chiefs would travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in the divisional round.
Since the Chiefs would have to play the Steelers anyway, wouldn’t it be better to play them at home? As an added bonus, the Steelers are a little banged up right now, including an injury to All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Polamalu has not practice all week with an ankle injury. He will likely sit out Week 17 and there is a good chance his status could be called in to question if the Steelers had to play in the first round of the playoffs. As many have noted, the Steelers are a different team without Polamalu.
I guess it depends on what your goals are for the Chiefs. If you will be content with KC simply winning a playoff game then the Jets are probably the ideal opponent.
If your goals are for the Chiefs to potentially make a surprise Super Bowl run, then wouldn’t you rather KC play a Polamalu-less (or a less than 100% Polamalu) Steelers team at Arrowhead rather than a closer to full strength Polamalu-led Steelers team in Pittsburgh?
What happens if the Steelers end up at Arrowhead in two weeks?
Well if the Chiefs were to take advantage of a weakened Steelers team at Arrowhead as the #3 seed, they would travel to Baltimore for the Divisional Round. While beating the Ravens in Baltimore in the playoffs will be almost as hard as winning in Pittsburgh, I would say the Palamalu-factor makes the Baltimore game more attractive to the Chiefs.
The other Divisional Round game would feature either the Colts or the Jets traveling to New England. If there are two teams in the playoffs that I would say have the best shot of upsetting the Patriots, it is the Jets and the Colts. The Jets are a division opponent and know New England well. There is no love lost between those two teams so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets pulled of an upset.
As for the Colts, you can never count them out in any scenario and as the Colts and Patriots have played each other about a million times over the last decade, a Colts, Pats game is practically a division rivalry in itself.
In either case, a Jets or Colts win over New England would send the AFC Championship to Kansas City.
So it comes down to these options for the Chiefs:
vs. Jets, @Steelers(full strength Polamalu)
vs. Steelers (possibly no Polamalu) @ Baltimore
vs. Ravens, @Steelers (full strength Polamalu)
In my opinion, other than going to New England, going to Pittsburgh to face a rested Steelers team is as difficult a task as I can think of for KC in the playoffs.
Before you decide, keep this in mind; the Jets, who many of you want the Chiefs to play in the first round, went to Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago and beat the Steelers…in a game in which Troy Polamalu did not play.
There is a part of me that feels like it is unlikely the Chiefs have the firepower to make it all the way to the Super Bowl and that the best thing for the team would be to win a playoff game to teach the young players what it takes to win in the post-season. In that case, I think the Jets would probably be the best option.
The other part of me looks at it and says, “Hey, the season is almost over. After Sunday, it is one more loss and the Chiefs are done. They played the whole season for a shot at making the big dance. Why not get the Steelers at home in the first round instead of on the road? This is the playoffs. All in!”
What do you think Addicts? There is, of course, no guarantee that Polamalu would miss a first round playoff game and even if he did, the Steelers are still capable of winning without him. Still, the prospect is interesting.
All that being said, will you be rooting for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday?