KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite losing three straight, the Chiefs sit in an enviable position in terms of the playoffs.
While dreams of a division title have mostly vanished — because of the tiebreaker, they are 1 1/2 games behind AFC West-leading Denver with four to play — they still can lock up a playoff spot this weekend with a win, coupled with a loss by either Miami or Baltimore.
The Chiefs’ three-game lead over the next wild-card contenders — Miami and Baltimore are both 6-6 — seemingly is insurmountable, and they appear locked into the No. 5 seed.
Still, the Chiefs are at somewhat of a crossroads as they prepare to play at Washington this Sunday. After winning nine straight, they have gone three weeks without a win, and they would like nothing better than to remove some doubt that has crept inside the locker room.
“They know that they’ve won some games and that they’ve lost the last couple, they understand that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I think it’s important that you stick with the process. It’s important to trust that and believe in it. They’re learning that as they go through.
“That’s the ebb and flows of the season in the National Football League. You’re going to have highs; you’re going to have lows. It’s important that you stay consistent through both. I have a lot of trust in our locker room and the way they go about their business, and I think trust is an important thing from both sides, players and coaches. I think that’s what makes up a team.”
Even though a playoff spot seems inevitable, the Chiefs know the importance of simply righting the ship.
“We’re not in panic mode at all, but a sense of urgency is definitely required during this time to get on the right track,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We have a great opportunity to go down to Washington and get win number 10, which in this league, regardless of anybody’s record, is going to be hard to get it.”
Quarterback Alex Smith, though, chooses to look past the three-game skid and simply focus on what’s still left ahead to accomplish.
“I don’t necessarily view it (as a crossroads) in the sense that, yeah, we have lost three in a row, but you kind of flush that stuff behind you,” he said. “We’re 9-3 and we have a chance, a potential chance to clinch a playoff spot this week. To me, how exciting is that?
“We have a chance here to go on the road and win a game and punch our ticket to the dance. That’s a huge opportunity, and not many teams get to do that, and that’s what you’re playing for all year. That’s what you work for in the off-season is to be able to get to the postseason because once you get there it doesn’t matter what your record is, you’re in the tournament. For me, that’s the way I’m looking at it right now. That’s my view of things.”
Smith also doesn’t consider the Chiefs in a slump.
“I still don’t view it like that,” he said. “I think it was a unique three weeks. We played Denver twice and they’re a good football team. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. I think early on in the year we had been in some close games and won them, and that’s going to happen in the NFL — the vast majority of games are going to come down to one possession.
“Early on in the year we were the team making the plays. We made the plays late in games that put us on the other side, and these last three weeks we weren’t able to get it done. I certainly view it, like I said, we have a chance to get a ‘W’ this week and get into the postseason, potentially.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.