It’s a very simple assignment, folks. If the Kansas City Chiefs can beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers over the next two weeks, they’ll return to the postseason tournament. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, right? Not so fast. The Steelers have one of the six best scoring offenses in the league. The Chargers are a top 12 scoring defense. Andy Reid and company have their work cut out for them. Sunday’s 31-13 win over the Raiders was much needed, but the Chiefs will have to summon the best football they’ve played all year to complete the other two-thirds of this make-the-playoffs mission.
It’s mind-boggling to think that despite the roller coaster season the Chiefs have had, they’re still in control of their own postseason destiny. Winning out puts Kansas City at 10-6 (with an 8-4 conference record). The latter point is of particular note because conference record is how a wildcard tie-breaker is determined if two or more clubs finish with the same overall record. Beating two more AFC teams gives the Chiefs a head-to-head advantage over four clubs in the wildcard race. It also gives them a leg up on two teams they haven’t played in 2014 — Cleveland and Houston (neither of which can finish better than 9-7). There are scenarios where the Chiefs could split the last two games and still earn a wildcard berth, but they all require help from other teams.
I’ll spare you the algorithm I’d need to explain how the Chiefs can claim a playoff berth at 9-7. In short terms, it would require two losses by the Ravens, a blood sacrifice, an act of Congress, and the end of Taylor Swift’s music career. It’s not a pretty picture, trust me. If you’re interested though, you can visit Yahoo’s NFL Playoff Scenario Generator or ESPN’s Playoff Machine to figure it all out. That’s a job for smarter men than I, like our very own Ben Nielsen, who took a look at Kansas City’s playoff situation on Monday.
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So how exactly do the Chiefs go about winning these games? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to that question. My gut tells me that Kansas City’s best chance to win these contests rests in avoiding shootouts. Reid has weapons, but I’m not confident they’re reliable enough to suddenly constitute a high-powered offense. The offense as a whole has had flashes of brilliance, but they’ve been few and far in between. Pittsburgh’s hung 30 or more points on the board seven times in 2014. San Diego’s done it five times this year. Kansas City checks in at just four. The key to winning both games is likely keeping the Bolts and Steelers in the 20-point range.
I’m sure most of the Kingdom won’t want to hear this, but I think the Chiefs need to control the clock in these games. Sure, the offense will need balance, but they’ll also need to win the time of possession battle and keep Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger off the field as much as possible. Andy Reid can’t afford to forget about either Jamaal Charles or Knile Davis down the stretch. Davis’ two touchdown day this past weekend was a reminder of just how important to this offense he can be.
Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs have a shot to overcome what looked to be insurmountable odds three months ago. Since the 1990 NFL merger, only 12% of the teams that began the year 0-2 went on to make the postseason (23 of 198 teams). That’s a terribly small margin for error. Kansas City has virtually none today. They need to win out to play football in January.
What chance do you give the Chiefs to win these final two games? Between the Steelers and Chargers, which team is the tougher out? Can the Chiefs score enough points to keep pace with these two offenses? Can Bob Sutton’s defensive secondary hold up against two passing games ranked in the top-third of the league? Use the comment section below to weigh in on those questions. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!