AFC stock reports: Patriots slip, Raiders fade in Week 17
With some support from the Miami Dolphins, the Kansas City Chiefs surpassed the New England Patriots for the second seed in the final AFC playoff picture.
That’s right, the Kansas City Chiefs have advanced to the second seed of the AFC playoff bracket. By defeating their division rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs did their part. Next they needed to Miami Dolphins to do the same, which they did with a clutch, last-second win over the New England Patriots.
For the first time since 2009, New England will play in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Kansas City will host the highest seed following the Wild Card weekend. If the Patriots win, they will come to Arrowhead Stadium instead of the Chiefs having to travel for the second time this season to Foxborough.
Despite the win, it was an off day for the Chiefs offense on Sunday afternoon. Patrick Mahomes finished the day throwing 16 of 25 for 174 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He was frustrated during the first half, even before the interception. Tight end Travis Kelce was unable to get much going, dropping two passes to finish the day with only 24 total yards. Even Tyreek Hill was quiet for most of the game, finishing with 4 catches for 61 yards. Forty-seven of those yards came on a single play over the middle late in the game.
One player on the Kansas City offense who wasn’t having an off day was running back Damien Williams. After spending most of the season battling injuries, Williams looked exceptional in multiple spots of the game. He had 2 touchdown runs displaying extra effort to slip out of tackles and take it to the house. Williams finished the day running just 12 times for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding another 4 receptions for 30 yards. In his last five games, Williams has had 90 plus scrimmage yards in four games.
Fortunately, the Chiefs defense has taken this team to another level. Early in the game, the defense took a major blow, losing rookie safety Juan Thornhill to a knee injury. Most indications have speculated he will be lost for the postseason, which will put a damper on the entire defense. Thornhill’s emergence in the back end of the defense has allowed for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to be aggressive. His range has allowed the defense to play the schemes they want without worrying about the back end.
Los Angeles took advantage of the Chiefs linebacker core passing to running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler out of the backfield often. The two backs tallied 15 receptions for 119 yards. The good news was that the defense held every runner to under 50 yards on the day. Stopping the running game has improved significantly down the stretch.
Following Week 17, the Chiefs joined the Baltimore Ravens to have a first-round bye week. New England will host the Tennessee Titans while the Houston Texans host the Buffalo Bills. Both of the AFC Wild Card matchups will take place on Saturday, January 4th. The first game will be the Bills vs. Texans at 4:30 p.m. ET. Shortly after will be the Titans at Patriots at 8:15 p.m. ET.