Over the past several years, as the K.C. Chiefs have clinched five consecutive AFC West titles, and have typically locked up one of the top 2 seeds by Week 17, head coach Andy Reid has been able to sit his starters for the final game of the season.
Will that happen again this year?
This is the first year with 17 games in the regular season, and with Week 18 (with byes) just a few weeks away, the playoff picture is surprisingly still murky in the AFC. In fact, with 3 weeks left to play, nobody has clinched a playoff spot.
Will the Chiefs’ starters find any rest before the postseason in 2021?
Currently, the Chiefs control their own destiny, not only for a 6th consecutive division title but also for the No. 1 seed. But because the Chiefs do not own the tiebreaker against virtually any of the other division leads, it wouldn’t take much for another team to jump them should they slip up even once. This is what makes even the final week of the season this year important.
At this rate, the Chiefs won’t even clinch the division this week (unless the Texans pull up a huge upset on the Chargers), which means the next two weeks will be worth playing. Then, if the Bills, Ravens, and Titans win out (and that’s a big if), then all three would hold the tiebreakers over the Chiefs should they fail to defeat the Broncos in Week 17.
Now the odds that all three of those teams win out is pretty low, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them makes things interesting, particularly the Titans who own the tiebreaker and are just one game back on the Chiefs. We could see them breathing down our necks going into the final game.
Regardless of what happens, the Chiefs can’t be looking ahead, especially not past the Steelers this week. With several key players on the COVID list, including Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, the suddenly “easy” win over Pittsburgh isn’t so cut and dry. A loss this week, or even next week, would make Week 17 worth playing for. Or in some cases, they could be playing for the division at that time instead.
At any rate, the Chiefs just need to hope that the Chargers, Titans, Ravens, and Bills/Patriots lose at least once over the coming 3 weeks to give them some breathing room.
It seems like this year the NFL’s desire for parity has reached its apex. Very few teams, including the Chiefs, will be resting their starters in the final week. Buckle up, it’s going to be intense.