Remember the 50-year Super Bowl drought? Yeah, me neither. (Okay, a little bit.) How about the 20+ year AFC championship drought? Oh, you don’t remember how before Patrick Mahomes came along, the last Lamar Hunt Trophy the Kansas City Chiefs had even sniffed was with Joe Montana in the 90s?
How we have been blessed. Despite all of the Mahomes slander this offseason, and there has been a lot of it, one thing is still true: Mahomes hasn’t played a full season where he hasn’t reached the American Football Conference Championship game.
Arguably the only better start to a career was one Tom Brady, who of course won three Super Bowls in his first four years. Mahomes didn’t quite accomplish that, but AFC title games are still hard to come by, and making four straight is quite the feat. But something nobody has ever done? Hosted four straight AFC title games.
Patrick Mahomes has gone to four straight AFC championships to start his career. How many straight title games could he get to?
This run of success does beg somewhat of a question: how many AFC Championships could Patrick Mahomes get to start his career? A pipe dream of mine was that he never misses a title game, but that’s unrealistic. So what is? Well for starters, let’s look at the record for most consecutive AFC Championship appearances.
Can you guess who it belongs to? Of course, Tom Brady. With the Patriots, Brady went to eight (8!) straight title games last decade. That seems like a lot, and it is, but it also means Patrick Mahomes is already halfway there. Are another four straight title games in the cards?
Unfortunately for Mahomes and the Chiefs, the AFC has gotten considerably better since Tom Brady was living at Patriot Way. Not only has the conference gotten better, but so has the division. While the AFC West was living up to their AFC East counterparts for the last few years, that’s not so true anymore.
Just last year, the Chargers started making a name for themselves, beating the Chiefs. This year the Broncos have Russell Wilson, and the Raiders have Josh McDaniels (but still Sid from Toy Story.) The division won’t be a cakewalk anymore, and some are even predicting that the Chiefs will finish last.
I still think the Chiefs will win the division, but capturing the #1 seed in the playoffs will be a real challenge, especially with teams like the Bills, Ravens, and Bengals becoming serious contenders. Missing out on that crucial bye week will just make it that much difficult to get within scoring distance of the Lamar Hunt Trophy.
If Mahomes and the Chiefs can pull off yet another trip to the AFC Championship this year, it could be a good indicator that they could do it for another few seasons too. It will take growth from the entire team and coaching staff to make it happen.
But then again, making eight (or a record-breaking nine) AFC title games won’t mean much if the team can’t go one game further and capture the Lombardi Trophy, too.