Why the KC Chiefs were the NFL’s biggest winners this week

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs wears a shirt in honor of Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills during warmups prior to playing the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on January 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs wears a shirt in honor of Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills during warmups prior to playing the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on January 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) /

The past week has been one of the most emotional in NFL history. The entire NFL world was tuned into Monday Night Football last week to watch the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals play one of the most important regular season games of the year. The game had massive ramifications for the seeding in the AFC playoffs for both the teams playing and the Kansas City Chiefs. Instead of the game, we were all hoping to see, things took a terrifying turn when Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field.

The good news and really the only news that matters is that Hamlin survived and appears poised to make a full recovery. Whether or not that recovery includes a return to football remains to be seen, but given how things looked on the field Monday night, that isn’t what matters. While Hamlin’s life is undoubtedly more important than a game, this is a Kansas City Chiefs blog and what I’m going to focus on the rest of this piece is where the Chiefs go from here.

From the time that the Bills/Bengals game was postponed on Monday night up until the Chiefs game kicked off on Saturday made for one of the strangest weeks in NFL history. The internet and airways were a mix of love and support for Hamlin and strong feelings about what should be done about the game and the AFC playoffs. While people tried to prioritize Hamlin’s well-being as the most important thing, it became very clear that there were strong feelings from fans in Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Kansas City about what was the “right thing to do”.

We don’t need to turn this piece into a debate about what the NFL should have done. You can find those conversations all over the internet. The bottom line is that they decided not to replay the game which meant K.C. would come into the final week of the season as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. When the Chiefs dismantled the Las Vegas Raiders 31-13 on Saturday that number one seed became locked in. The other major decision was that should the Chiefs and Bills end up meeting in the AFC Championship Game it will be on a neutral field. There were some other decisions made as part of that resolution, but because of the results of this past weekend, none of those other scenarios really matter now, especially for the Chiefs.

How the Chiefs came out winners

I understand that some of you reading this are still upset about the Chiefs not being able to host the Bills in the AFCCG, but the big picture here is that the Chiefs came out of this past week as the biggest winners in the AFC. Period. I have seen a lot of chatter that the Bills were the biggest winners of this situation from a football advantage (obviously the Hamlin situation itself was not a win for them), but that is where I think people are wrong.

Yes, the Bills could have lost that game to the Bengals. Cincinnati was certainly off to a hot start, but we all know how much a game can change from the middle of the first quarter until the end of the game. When that game got called off the Bills lost control of the number one seed. They may have been down 7-3 when the game was stopped, but they held their fate in their hands. Once the game was canceled that control went to Kansas City and the Chiefs took advantage of that on Saturday and clinched the number one seed.

I’m not here to say the Chiefs didn’t earn the number one seed, they absolutely did, but it’s also true that the Bills lost control of it when the game was canceled. Now I agree that they could have chosen to finish the game the following day if the top seed was more important than what was going on with Hamlin. I respect their decision to put the team’s well-being over the game. The NFL felt that their decision was warranted enough to make the special exemptions for the AFC playoffs. If you don’t think the Bills deserved that, I won’t argue with you, but my point is that the Chiefs still emerged from the situation with a huge advantage over the Bills and the Bengals.

There are two main reasons the Chiefs have a huge advantage now. The first is the first-round bye. While I don’t expect either the Bills or Bengals to lose next week, stranger things have happened, and if nothing else the Chiefs don’t have to risk injury and will have fresh legs in the divisional round. Being the lone AFC team with a bye is a big advantage.

The other huge advantage is that the Chiefs now will only have to play one of the Bills and Bengals to make it to the Super Bowl. Those two teams are by far the biggest competition for KC and only playing one of them is huge. Instead, the Chiefs will face one of the following four teams: the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Baltimore Ravens, or the Miami Dolphins. Assuming the Bills and Bengals take care of business, the Chiefs will most likely host the winner of the Jaguars and Chargers.

While the Chiefs will have to execute to beat any of those teams, none of them will be at the level of challenge that playing either the Bills or Bengals in the divisional round would. What’s more, if the Chiefs do win and the Bills and Bengals advance and have to face each other in the divisional round, imagine the hype and intensity of that game after what happened last week. The team that advances out of that game is likely going to be drained both physically and emotionally more than the Chiefs will be coming off a game against one of the other teams. That sets the winner of Buffalo and Cincinnati up for a bit of a letdown game the following week, even if the Super Bowl is on the line.

Vegas says the Chiefs are winners, too

If you still don’t believe that the Chiefs came away the winners of this past week, let’s look at what Vegas has to say about it. Here are the Super Bowl odds at Draft Kings for the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals last Monday before the start of Monday Night Football:

1. Buf +350
2. KC +450
5. Cin +800

Here are the Super Bowl odds at Draft Kings now that the playoff plan is set:

1. KC +330
2. Buf +400
5. Cin +800

So the events of the last week leapfrogged the Chiefs over the Bills as the Super Bowl favorite and Cincinnati remains the fifth most likely pick with the exact same odds. So Vegas thinks this past week helped the Chiefs, hurt the Bills, and kept the Bengals in the same place they were before the game. The problem for the Bengals is that they lost their chance to improve those odds. So the Bills lost control of the one seed and the Bengals lost the ability to improve their standing.

The Chiefs earned their number one seed. They earned the right to be the Super Bowl favorite going into the playoffs. They are 14-3 and have the soon-to-be MVP at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. That can all be true AND it can be true that how things worked out with the Bills/Bengals game took control of the one seed from the Bills and gave it to the Chiefs. If the NFL felt that it was worth making a Chiefs/Bills matchup happen at a neutral site, I’m fine with it. The Chiefs still came away with far and away the best path to the Super Bowl in the AFC. I have no doubt that KC fans will pack a neutral site location AND K.C. is more than capable of beating Buffalo on a neutral field.

My advice is that Chiefs fans need to put last week in the rearview mirror and get excited about the road to come. Enjoy getting to sit back and watch the other teams have to duke it out during Wild Card weekend and feel confident that the Chiefs will be ready for whatever teams emerge from it. Enjoy the fact that we’ll probably finally get to see Buffalo and Cincinnati go head-to-head in the divisional round. If the Bengals can play as well as they looked early in the Monday night game, we may still get to watch a fifth straight AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead. I don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty good to me.

If that somehow isn’t enough to get you excited and put a smile on your face, just think about the beating that the Chiefs put on the Raiders to end the season and specifically the greatest way we’ve ever seen a team huddle in the history of the NFL.

I think that alone makes the Chiefs the biggest winners of the week.

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