Chiefs’ path to the playoffs

It seems a bit stale to do grades after five days doesn’t it? I mean, the defense of the Kansas City Chiefs put in an effort of the ages to hold the Oakland Raiders to 13 points despite three turnovers deep inside their own territory.

Meanwhile the offense inflicted maximum damage in a near perfect first half to complete the sweep of the hated division rivals. Not much more to say on the subject. Even the national news outlets have been talking Chiefs/Raiders non stop until Sunday when more football could take over. So instead today I would like to talk about what is left to be done for the Chiefs this winter.

Defensively

Despite losing one of their all-time greats in Derrick Johnson on Thursday the Chiefs’ defense managed to hold an MVP candidate to under 120 yards in the air. The Chiefs won’t face an offense like the Raiders again until the playoffs. In their next three games the Chiefs host the Titans, the Broncos, and then travel to the Chargers. Each of those teams has some major flaws the Chiefs can exploit defensively.

Dec 8, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) pursues the play during a NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 21-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the Chiefs have lived on big defensive plays to either hold slim leads or flat out win the game. The San Diego Chargers are the perfect team to give the Chiefs’ defense exactly what they want. Philip Rivers leads the league in interceptions thrown and he appears fond of throwing them in big moments. With a possible serious injury to running back Melvin Gordon, even more pressure will be put on Rivers’ shoulders. The Chiefs have historically fed on Rivers’ mistakes, especially Justin Houston.

Tennessee works as a near opposite of San Diego. Third in the league in rushing, the Titans use a resurgent DeMarco Murray and last years Heisman winner Derrick Henry to bombard defenses up the middle. The Chiefs will miss Johnson’s ability to stop the run here but the Titans lack the passing game to threaten downfield should the Chiefs stack the box. Bringing Eric Berry down towards the line of scrimmage should force Marcus Mariota to throw. The Kansas City faithful in Arrowhead will take their toll then.

We’ve seen Denver already this year and if the Oakland game was any indication, it will be a loud affair Christmas night in Arrowhead. Trevor Siemian can throw the football but his running game has struggled for weeks now. Without the ability to play-action or bootleg, the Broncos will move the ball into the red zone but struggle once there.

The Chiefs have never been able to shut down both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas but they can prevent them from getting to the end zone with strong front pressure. The Chiefs need Justin Houston and Dee Ford to get on the same page to really put the heat on Siemian and the Broncos.

Dec 8, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes against the Oakland Raiders during a NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 8, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes against the Oakland Raiders during a NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively

I really don’t understand it sometimes. Alex Smith can make all the throws. Those who don’t believe that need to rewatch that Oakland game. Even when he could have been rattled by a couple of turnovers he was still able to hit some big throws to Travis Kelce. He has already proven once this year that he can beat both the Chargers and the Broncos behind in the fourth quarter.

For both games he will need his best as both teams can make him scramble and both secondaries can shut down even the top passers. What gives Smith and his teammates the edge is the return of Jeremy Maclin and the continued play of Kelce and Tyreek Hill. These young weapons have proven over the last several weeks that the Chiefs are a force to be reckoned with offensively.

Against the Titans the Chiefs will find running the ball difficult. The Titans only give up an average of just over 86 yards per game on the ground. The Chiefs haven’t run the ball effectively since right after the bye week so that shouldn’t be much different than the last few weeks. What the Titans lack is much of a pass defense.

They rank 30th in the NFL in pass yards allowed and 20th in points allowed. This bodes well for the Chiefs as they will continue to feed their star tight end and rookie phenom receiver.

Dec 8, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 8, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Scenarios

After the win on Thursday the Chiefs jumped from the 5th seed to the 2nd seed in the AFC. If they continue to win then there is no losing that spot. There is however, opportunity to snatch the number one seed with some help. The New England Patriots currently hold the top spot and hold tiebreakers over the Chiefs should they only lose one more.

The Pats’ last four games of the season are Ravens, Broncos, Jets, and Dolphins. The Denver and Miami games are on the road. Miami has looked better this season but the real chances to help the Chiefs are tonight and next Sunday. If the Chiefs take care of their own business then they will be rooting for Denver and Baltimore to do what most other teams can’t. Beat the Patriots.

Other scenarios are that if two out of the 4 current 5 loss teams lose this next week then the Chiefs would only need a win against the Titans to clinch a playoff spot. The most likely result is that Denver loses to the Patriots and the Dolphins are upset by the Jets. I just can’t see Pittsburgh losing to a CIncinnati without AJ Green. As much as I want to see Baltimore win tonight they may take themselves out of that formula against New England.

To clinch the AFC West Kansas City can win the next two games and have one Oakland loss. The Raiders play at San Diego and at home against the Colts. If the Raiders lose either of those games the Chiefs claim the AFC West for the first time since 2010.

We all hope for that ideal number one seed. Even when we take things objectively the Chiefs have a great shot at finishing 13-3. Not only that but they have their best shot in 20 years to reach the AFC title game. Go bring that Lamar Hunt Trophy home.

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