TAMPA, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 07: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs speak after Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Going into the third quarter of the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs looked like they had many times during their winning streak. Dominant on both sides of the ball on the way to crushing an inferior, albeit quality opponent.
By the end of the game Chiefs Kingdom, the Chiefs coaches, and the team’s players were at a loss as to what happened. The Bengals successfully drained the clock on their final drive and kicked the go-ahead field goal as time expired.
With that loss, and subsequent wins by the Chiefs and the Titans last weekend, the Chiefs find themselves relegated to the two-seed and Patrick Mahomes’ first date with the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend. Understandably, there are those who are entering this weekend’s upcoming matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers with great disappointment.
What this article is not is a critique of the referees’ performance in the Chiefs vs. Bengals game. That deserved its own separate piece, which you can find here. This also isn’t a critique of the team’s play in that game, though a critique of some serious head-scratching play calls in that game would be absolutely warranted.
What this hopefully is, is a positive angle on where the Chiefs can reasonably go in the playoffs. To do that we’ll take an objective look at the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers path to the Super Bowl and explore a less objective theory about playing teams two times in the same season.
1. 2020 Super Bowl champions
To the chagrin of Chiefs Kingdom, the 2020 Buccaneers got hot at the right time and rolled to the franchise’s first Super Bowl in two decades. Despite the media’s adoration and its reimagining of history, the Buccaneers’ road to a championship was extremely rocky.
With four weeks left in the season, things looked rough, having just lost two straight games to the Rams and the Chiefs. In particular, the Chiefs embarrassed them before seemingly taking their foot off the gas in the second half, adding insult to injury.
By the end of the season, they had won four straight, but one of those games was to the hapless Lions and another was a close win against the mediocre Falcons. This landed them a spot in Wild Card Weekend, with four away games standing in their way to a Super Bowl appearance.
Does this sound familiar? It should because it’s nearly the identical situation the Chiefs now find themselves in. The positive at this juncture is every game but the AFC Championship is guaranteed to be a home game.
In general, the Chiefs are a young team. You never want to play four games to win a Super Bowl, and history says this lowers your margin for error, but it can absolutely be and has been done. The Chiefs are one of the few teams with a reasonable chance to do so.