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Now the Fun Begins for the Chiefs

With the dredge of the regular season all but over, the Kansas City Chiefs with a meaningless game on Sunday in Los Angeles against the hapless Chargers, Head Coach Andy Reid can rest his players and get ready for their Wild Card game in two weeks.

Let’s be honest the 2023 regular season was a cruel grind for the Kansas City Chiefs players and their fans. Had the ball bounced a couple of different directions in their season, perhaps they could have challenged the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC.

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That didn’t happen, and the Kansas City Chiefs are locked into the third seed in the AFC playoff standings. We can lament all we want about the missed opportunities this season, but after five straight AFC title games in Kansas City, this year’s AFC Championship game will likely be played elsewhere.

Patrick Mahomes will likely play a road playoff game in the divisional round for the first time in his career. It’s far too early to speculate where that next game might be; however, unless there’s an upset with the second seed in the wild-card round, Mahomes will take his act on the road.

On Sunday, the Chiefs took care of the Cincinnati Bengals 25-17. The win largely fell on the right foot of Harrison Butker, who went six for six on his field goal attempts. However, the offense came to life in the run-and-passing game.

Yes, they still had drops, including a big one by Marquez Valdes-Scantling that would have given the Chiefs a touchdown late in the second half. He also dropped another long pass between his outstretched hands in the third quarter.

Still, the offense was carried by Mahomes, Isiah Pacheco, and Rashee Rice, who made enough plays to dominate the middle of the field against an excellent Bengals defense.  For Travis Kelce, well, he’s been a terrific decoy the last eight games. As frustrating as it might be for him to be in this offense until Kansas City develops more outside threats, Kelce’s numbers will be limited.

As we get set for the playoffs, this Chiefs team is different. The offense isn’t going to light up the scoreboard. However, thanks to a terrific defense, Mahomes doesn’t need sparkling numbers to win games in January. 

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People need to remember how many grind-it-out games the Chiefs played last season. They had three of them in the postseason, numerous in the regular season, and they generally won all of them. However, that wasn’t the case this year until Sunday when they executed their first fourth-quarter comeback of the regular season.

It’s important to note that despite some of the roster make-up that hasn’t developed, especially on offense, 2023 was, in essence, a rebuilding year for the Chiefs. Add that to the expectation that this team usually cruises through the regular season and struggles to do so as a big reason they struggled much of the year.

However, during some of their losses, not enough emphasis was placed on the details of the weekly game. There was too much reliance on Mahomes to do the spectacular, but he could only do so much in fighting his demons and those that have plagued the offense.

In reflection, this has been an unorthodox year for the Chiefs. From their opening season loss to the Detroit Lions to their game Sunday against the Bengals, we never knew which Chiefs team would show up on game day.

Yet, looking ahead to the playoffs, if the team that won Sunday to clinch their eighth consecutive AFC West Title gets that kind of production from offense, defense, and special teams, they might make a run.

Of course, the football must bounce the right way, they can’t have drive-killing penalties, and they can’t drop passes. The defense can only do so much, as was evident in the Raider’s loss on Christmas Day.

The fact they held the Bengals to no points after they led 17-7 was the biggest reason Kansas City won the game. Still, had the offense been better in the red zone, this game would have been a blowout.

But that’s wishful thinking because this team isn’t going to blow the lid off another team in the playoffs. They just aren’t built for a thirty-point explosion in the playoffs. They have to embrace who they are and what their limitations are at this point.

The Chiefs are a team that doesn’t strike fear into their opponents, but they shouldn’t be taken lightly after winning two Super Bowls in four seasons. Right now, the hot money is on the Baltimore Ravens and the surging Buffalo Bills, but the Chiefs are still the defending champs until someone knocks them out of the playoffs.In two weeks, we’ll learn a lot about this football team. Until then, rest up, focus, and prepare to shock the NFL world because most people don’t believe they can return to the Super Bowl.

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