This week has been a moment of reflection for this Chiefs team and the fans that have been following its Cinderella rollercoaster. Some of the pieces on this team that had been the rocks of its 2013 success have started to falter. Hali and Houston were hobbled, the defense looked beatable, and the combination of HC Andy Reid’s genius and QB Alex Smith’s arm were not able to make up for it.
Barring some major disaster in Denver, this three-week stretch will be remembered as the period where the Chiefs’ dreams of the #1 seed, home field advantage in the playoffs and a first-round bye were lost. That reality added extra sting on Sunday as the Broncos came back from a deep deficit to win in Arrowhead.
But, at some point I realized something very simple: A wild card spot is not a consolation prize, it’s a damn good achievement not just for a team that was the worst in the league a year ago, but any team.
The Chiefs in particular have only made it to the post season five times since Joe Montana retired 19 years
ago, and this is probably the best team Kansas City has taken to the playoffs since then. If nothing else, this is the team most likely to break the franchise’s playoff-win drought.
Paradoxically, in its three costly losses, the Chiefs have shown themselves to be a more resilient and well-rounded team than we have seen in years. Even when the team made its improbable 2010 playoff run it had a point differential just +40 and a soft schedule. It was a season that featured few statement wins and some blowout losses.
By contrast, the Chiefs currently sit with a differential of +84 after playing two games against a team that has scored 124 points more than anyone else in the league. Although the Chiefs have a reputation for low scoring, KC is tied for the 8th most touchdowns so far this year. Meanwhile, only three teams have allowed fewer points and they are all in the Super Bowl discussion – San Francisco, Carolina and Seattle.
This Chiefs team would have run away with the division most years, but just had the dubious luck this year of sharing the division with a tough team on a historic streak. But, now is not the time to hang your heads, Chiefs fans. The Kingdom has the #5 seed all but locked up and could potentially still vie for #1 if the Broncos stumble.
The road ahead is clear. There’s nothing left to do but win.
First up, an unbalanced Washington team on the league’s second-longest losing streak. By the way, the Redskins have yet to beat the Chiefs in this millennium.
Next, KC is traveling to Oakland to face it’s two-quarterback team led by a training camp walk-on and a “mobile” QB whom the Chiefs sacked 10 times in Arrowhead this year.
Next, it’s the reeling Colts who can barely get on the board lately. Interestingly, this game could be a preview of the Chiefs first playoff matchup as they appear set to play either Indianapolis or Cincinnati in the first round.
Finally, it’s payback for the Bolts in San Diego. Like every other year, the overhyped Chargers will be once again desperately battling for a playoff spot in this final game most likely. With the Chiefs’ postseason berth clinched at that point, they really could loosen their grip and look ahead to Wild Card Weekend. I hope they don’t.