4 pivots Chiefs must make to secure No. 1 seed in AFC

With eight games remaining in the regular season, the Chiefs have a golden opportunity to lock up the No. 1 seed and lay the groundwork for a sixth-straight AFC Championship Game in the cozy confines of Arrowhead Stadium. The right mix of a few key ingredients will create that winning recipe.
Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs / Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/GettyImages
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Week 11 is officially underway and the Kansas City Chiefs are still in firm control of their own destiny. With their feet up over the bye week, virtually everything that could've fallen favorably for the Chiefs did. The Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Jaguars, and Ravens all fell over the weekend. That leaves Kansas City in sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the AFC and in their division (where they currently enjoy a 2.5-game lead).

Only eight games remain in the regular season, and despite the offensive struggles that marked their first nine games, the Chiefs have the conference and division right where they want them.

Life is good at One Arrowhead Drive, but now's no time for the team to rest on its laurels. The Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos are both heating up with recent win streaks. The Baltimore Ravens despite a loss are still just one of four teams in the NFL with seven wins.

The Chiefs can't afford to stumble over their next four games. The forthcoming quartet starts with a Super Bowl LVII rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles next Monday night. They follow that match up with back-to-back roadies with the Raiders and Packers and round that quad out with their annual scrape with the Buffalo Bills.

Ideally, Kansas City would come away from that stretch with three wins. If they falter and can only manage a split, the hope is that those losses come at the hands of NFC opponents. Another useful advantage the Chiefs have over the field is their 5-1 record in conference games.

With the front nine in the rearview, it's clear the team's strength has been Kansas City's defense. To stay ahead of the pack, the offense needs to mature and make a bigger contribution. A couple of weeks ago, I shared some ideas on how the Chiefs might get going offensively. Team brass has been in the kitchen spitballing to this point in the season.

The second half of the Chiefs' schedule is upon us, and now it's time for a scratch recipe. Let's take a look at a few core elements that can help this team close out the regular season on a high.

1. Unleash Jerick McKinnon

If you're over the age of 35 and had a grandmother anything like mine, you're familiar with plastic-wrapped furniture. I'll spare the uninitiated a long explanation. Suffice it to say, it was their way of preserving the upholstery. It appears the Chiefs have done a player personnel version of that with veteran running back Jerick McKinnon. In fairness to them, McKinnon is 31 years old and has a long history of injuries. A bit of load management makes sense for the eight-year veteran.

At this point in the season, it's time to remove the cellophane and expand his usage in this offense. Over the last eight games of the 2022 season, McKinnon accounted for 466 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns. The bulk of his production came as a pass catcher. He gave this offense a boost at a time when Travis Kelce was eerily quiet as he uncharacteristically went six straight games without a touchdown reception.

Kansas City's aerial attack has been suspect all offseason. Featuring McKinnon more as a weapon in the passing game seems prudent.