The emotional roller coaster that has been the 2021 campaign for the Kansas City Chiefs has made the late bye week feel like a 3:00 lunch that may never come. If the highs and lows took such a toll that you needed a week off yourself, don’t feel bad. Chiefs Kingdom deserved a break, too.
If that was you, it likely means you might feel left behind from what happened in Week 12. Here is what you missed.
AFC West Divisional Update
When the Chiefs got hot this month, there seemed to be a shift in the wind. Until then, the entire AFC had seemingly been in the air. The top dog appeared to have fallen in K.C. whyetile no other team stood up to claim the role. The West was a microcosm of that theory. The Raiders looked pretty good, the Chargers showed some toughness, and the Broncos just kept hanging around. However, since the Chiefs statement game in Las Vegas (Week 10), a dog fight has broken out.
On Thanksgiving, the Raiders traveled to Dallas for the Cowboys’ annual turkey bowl. The game was decided in overtime, and the Raiders escaped with a 36-33 victory. The back-and-forth affair was highlighted by excellent quarterback play by Derek Carr and Dak Prescott—both of whom threw for over 370 yards and no interceptions. There were two 100-plus yard receivers on each side (Hunter Renfrow and DeSean Jackson for Vegas, Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson for Dallas), and three different ball carriers found the end zone (Josh Jacobs, Marcus Mariota and Zeke Elliott).
With the win, the Raiders improved their record to 6-5 and moved to a half game back of the then —sole— second place Chargers (6-4). Then Sunday happened. The Chargers flew to the Mile High City to square off with the Broncos. Entering play, the AFC West standings were as follows:
- Kansas City 7-4
- Los Angeles 6-4
- Las Vegas 6-5
- Denver 5-5
With a well-rounded defensive effort, the Broncos truly managed the Chargers all day long. Rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II hauled in two interceptions, and ran one back 70-yards for a touchdown. The front seven hit Justin Herbert 10 times and recorded three sacks against him.
On the offensive side of the ball, there was a small scare for Denver. With about two minutes left in the first quarter, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a lower left-leg injury. He would head to the locker room for an X-ray that eventually came back negative and returned to the game for the second half. It’s a scare, because in his absence backup Drew Lock put together a measly 4-for-7, 26-yard performance that was capped off with an interception. It would seem for now that when the Broncos visit Kansas City next Sunday night, Bridgewater will be available to start, but it is worth keeping an eye on throughout the week.
With the 28-13 victory, Denver reset positioning of the AFC West entirely. First place is still held by the Chiefs at 7-4, but now there is a three-way tie for second place with Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Denver all at 6-5.
This new layout in the division has the Chiefs in a very unique driver’s seat. Moving forward, the next three matchups for Kansas City are Denver at home, Las Vegas at home, and a road trip to Los Angeles (the NFL’s second home). We hear it every year, “team X controls their own destiny.” The Chiefs are team X right now. While it was difficult to imagine a month ago, the division is ours to lose, and the AFC’s one-seed is very much so in reach.
The Rest of the AFC
Week 12 had a bit of a moving week feel to it in the AFC. The contenders either showed out or proved resilient and the fakers got exposed. There is certainly an element of subjectivity when dissecting the parody of the NFL, but this week seemed to have a definitive nature. The Bills destroyed the previously .500 New Orleans Saints, 31-6, reestablishing their position as a serious contender and moving to one game back of the Patriots in the AFC East.
The Patriots asserted dominance over the AFC South leading Tennessee Titans with a 36-13 victory which brought both teams’ record to 8-4, a half game behind Baltimore. The Ravens squeaked past the ailing Browns, winning 16-10 on the heels of fourLamar Jackson interceptions. And the Bengals maintained their position in the middle of the pack with a division win over the Steelers, 41-10.
As it stands today, the AFC playoff seeding is as follows:
Kansas City has four divisional matchups, a road trip to Cincinnati, and a home game against the Steelers remaining. AFC West competition always demands heightened energy and pulls out unmatched emotions from everyone involved, but if the Chiefs have really turned the corner, they could very possibly run the table.
Let’s say that’s going to happen, and the Chiefs end up with a 12-4 record. The top seeded Ravens still have to play the Packers, Bengals, and Rams. The two-seed Patriots are about to play the Bills twice in three weeks, sandwiching a contest with the Colts. And the Titans, well, the Titans aren’t themselves without Derrick Henry, and will be without him for the remainder of the regular season.
There is nothing in the bag. A grueling road lies ahead, and a lot needs to happen for the Chiefs to have a shot at a third straight Super Bowl appearance. However, this “late lunch” of a bye week and all the uncertainty looming over the rest of the AFC should have a well rested and full-bellied Chiefs Kingdom excited for the home stretch.