In the AFC, the New England Patriots at 10-1, Cincinnati Bengals at 9-2 and the Denver Broncos also at 9-2… are each entrenched in the catbird seat in their respective division as well as the playoffs. After those three teams, the next closest team in the conference, in terms of wins, is a 6-5 team and there are five of those teams including: division leading Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Houston Texans, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets. Right now it looks like either Houston or Indianapolis will win the AFC South and then the other four teams will be vying to fill in the two Wildcard playoff dance cards.
The Kansas City Chiefs are currently in the catbird seat to take one of those wildcard positions because…
Last Sunday it was a case of the offense to the rescue. Running back Spencer Ware was so impressive you couldn’t help but praise the offensive line… and thinking of the offensive line, they were amazing when you consider they kept playing medical-musical chairs with each other. Jeremy Maclin proved he was ready to match any team’s best wideout by hauling in 9 receptions for 160 yards and a TD… compared to Sammy Watkins 6 catches (all in the first half) for 158 yards and 2 TDs. Alex Smith showed he can: 1) throw the deep ball… and complete it, 2) lead the team to a comeback victory after being down by 10 in the first half and 3) avoiding any INTs. Although, he did have a couple passes sail through the hands of those who were not designed to touch the ball. Plus, you may recall that just one week ago my critique of Alex Smith said he has not shown that he could do two out of the three tasks mentioned above. Apparently, and happily so, I was wrong.
The next man up mantra in K.C. is nothing short of terrifico. In fact, we may not have seen another “next man up” performance by a team since the 2010 Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl on February 6, 2011 with a decimated starting roster earlier in their season. Not only did the Chiefs offensive linemen come on and off the field due to injuries but… after the Chiefs lost their best offensive player in Jamaal Charles a month ago… they then lost their best defensive player in Justin Houston last Sunday… but the defense didn’t miss a beat as they continued to pressure the Buffalo offense and hold them when necessary.
Superlatives aside, the 6-5 Kansas City Chiefs are about to face another test. The 5-6 Oakland Raiders are only one game behind the Chiefs and a loss to the Raiders would tie the two teams but give the Oakland the tiebreaker because of that loss. For the Raiders, this game is a playoff game and should be treated the same by the Chiefs.
In other action, the Indianapolis Colts are traveling to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night game tomorrow and in a couple of weeks they travel again to play Houston in Texas. Those two teams present their most difficult competition from here on out and if they lose both games and the Chiefs win all but one, the Chiefs will finish with a better record.
Traveling to Oakland this weekend should present the Chiefs with their biggest test from here until the end of the season. The Raiders are only one game behind and if they win this battle they’ll be tied with the Chiefs record wise, but will be ahead of the Chiefs in the standings because their head-to-head record. Without being redundant… too late I know… it is critical that the Chiefs win in Oakland.
The Chiefs game with the Raiders this weekend, and all their games from here on out, are critical because Indy currently holds the 4th seed, and K.C. has the 5th, so the Colts would be hosting the Chiefs if the playoffs were today. Should the Colts falter then the Chiefs would move to the 4th seed and host a playoff game, even if the Texans don’t beat the team the Chiefs just beat, Buffalo, this weekend.
While the Pats and the Bengals hold the catbird seat for the top two seeds in the AFC… the Chiefs are in prime position to take over the catbird seat among all wildcard teams.
While it looks like the Chiefs could bear to lose another game between now and the end of the season and still make the playoffs, they’d be better off winning each game and securing the wildcard catbird seat… plus a home field wildcard game in all likelihood.
The schedules for each of the remaining 6-5 teams are as follows:
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