We could actually have a scenario in which all three division rivals look back and say, “That loss to the Chiefs ended our season.”
It’s one thing to sweep your division. While the Chiefs are only halfway there, they do have the opportunity to do just that in the final five weeks of the season, with three home games remaining against the Oakland Raiders (Week 13), Denver Broncos (Week 15), and Los Angeles Chargers (Week 17).
It’s an entirely different conversation to be able to boast that you ruined the season of each of your rivals. Yet if the Chiefs can get a win at home against the Raiders this coming Sunday, they can do exactly that. Follow me here.
It is worth pointing out that this “achievement” does not give out trophies, nor does it have any bearing on the standings. If you do not care about a little bit of healthy trash talk, then this article is not for you. For the rest of us who like to have a little ammunition at the water cooler, the following is true: By beating the Raiders at Arrowhead, the Chiefs will be able to lay claim on a rare achievement: to be the team to plunge a sword into the hearts of not just one, or two, but all three division foes’ playoff chances. That’s right. We could actually have a scenario in which all three division rivals look back and say, “That loss to the Chiefs ended our season.”
Let’s rewind the tape a little bit.
Week 7 at Denver
Having begun the season 4-0, the Chiefs dropped two games at home before traveling to Mile High Stadium at 4-2. Denver was the polar opposite; things were bleak in September when the Broncos began 0-4, but the Broncos won at L.A. in Week 5 and shut out the Titans in Week 6. Vic Fangio’s squad entered the primetime game against the Chiefs with some dignity.
With an opportunity to avenge last year’s Left-Handed Pass defeat, while forging ahead with a three-game win streak and putting themselves back in the playoff race on national television, the Broncos crumpled like a cheap suit. Chiefs fans might not remember this game well. While the defense was scoring touchdowns and sacking Joe Flacco nine times, Chiefs fans watched this game like a deer in headlights, wondering about the future after Patrick Mahomes was lost with an unidentified knee injury early in the 2nd quarter. But trust me, it was an exciting win.
For the Broncos, the loss ended any momentum they may have had. Dropping to 2-5 effectively ended their hopes for a playoff run.
Week 11 at the Chargers (in Mexico)
Once again, in primetime, the Chiefs Hans-Gruber-ed an AFC West foe off the top of the playoff skyscraper. The Chiefs and Chargers traveled to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City for the league’s annual NFL Mexico game, and there were major stakes to be won.
A win over the Chiefs would have catapulted the Chargers within one game of first place in the division. With their backs against the wall, Los Angeles looked the Chiefs in the eye and threw away their chances (literally and figuratively). The Chargers almost overcame three Philip Rivers interceptions, but they couldn’t overcome a fourth. They went home to L.A. with a record of 4-7, and all-but-eliminated in the AFC race.
Thanksgiving weekend and the table is set
Back to the present day. While the Chiefs sat comfortably on their bye week and watched the Raiders get rolled at New York, they also took one step closer to clinching the AFC West. With just five games remaining, the 7-4 Chiefs currently hold a 1.5 game lead over the 6-5 Raiders by virtue of Kansas City’s Week 2 win at Oakland.
The Raiders are on the outside looking in on the AFC playoff bubble, and (like the previous two scenarios) the Chiefs can’t mathematically eliminate them this weekend, but they can do lethal damage to Oakland’s season by beating them. A loss to the Chiefs will put Jon Gruden’s Raiders at 6-6, and 2.5 games behind the Chiefs with four games remaining.
Under these circumstances, Oakland would need to run the table in the fourth quarter of the season (which is possible, given their schedule), and would need Kansas City to drop three out of their last four, if they want to win the division. That’s a tall order. A wild card is still in play for the Raiders, no doubt about it. Buffalo has a firm two-game grip on the first at-large bid. The Steelers, Raiders, Colts and Titans all have a chance at the sixth and final AFC playoff slot, currently sharing the same 6-5 record.
However, the Raiders didn’t just lose to Adam Gase’s (utterly mediocre) Jets yesterday. They got positively pulverized by a score of 34-3, and I don’t think there’s any reason to look at them right now and think they’re a playoff team. The Raiders cannot bank on a wild card if they want to get into the playoffs. They have to beat the Chiefs in order to keep things close, and even then, they are going to need some help.
So, once again, Kansas City has a division foe cornered. With his well-known proficiency coming off a bye week, Andy Reid and his crew have a great chance on Sunday to deliver another knockout punch for a clean sweep of AFC West opponents.