No team in the NFL had a better Week 17 than the Kansas City Chiefs.
Andy Reid’s team beat the Chargers in the final week of the season, saw the Raiders lose to the Broncos, and won the AFC West because of that.
And the Chiefs jumped from the 5 seed to the 2 seed in the process, so instead of playing three road games to reach the Super Bowl, they’ll have a first-round bye and a home game in the AFC Divisional Round.
All in all, it was a pretty good Sunday.
The Chiefs aren’t the favorites in the AFC this January — that would be the Patriots — but this Kansas City team still has an excellent shot of making Super Bowl LI and winning it.
Here are the biggest three reasons why:
Getty ImagesGetty Images
The Chiefs have a you-just-can't-explain-it defense
Kansas City’s defense isn’t the best in the league, but it is good, and it is peaking at the right time of the year.
Bolstered by the emergence of defensive tackle Chris Jones as one of the best interior rushers in the league, Kansas City won five of its last six games and allowed fewer than 17 points per game in those last four contests.
The biggest advantage Kansas City has is its red zone defense — the Chiefs are one of three playoff teams to allow opponents to score touchdowns on fewer than 50 percent of the time, and Kansas City’s defense led the NFL in red zone turnovers (8).
In all, Kansas City led the NFL with 33 takeaways this year — so even if that defense isn’t at its best in terms of conceding yards, it can always turn things around in a hurry. That matters a great deal in the postseason.
The offense has a new big-play threat
Kansas City wants to move the ball down the field and score points, of course, but even more so than that, it doesn’t want to make mistakes.
It didn’t this year — the Chiefs had only 17 giveaways this season.
But that formula hasn’t been all that successful in the playoffs for Kansas City in recent years — the Chiefs have lacked a gamebreaking player who keeps defenses honest and fans in their seats when Alex Smith has the ball.
They have that player now.
Tyreek Hill might be only 5-foot-10 and weigh 185 pounds, but he is game-changing fast, and whether it’s on punts, kickoffs or as a receiver, he demands the full and undivided attention of every team he faces.
Hill had 12 touchdowns this year, nine coming on offense, and the Chiefs surely have a few more tricks up their sleeve to get him into open space this postseason.
The addition of Hill to the fold creates an electricity for a steady-as-she goes offense where the tight end is the team’s best receiver. (To be fair, Travis Kelce can create a bit of electricity, too, but doesn’t that say it all?)
Combining low mistakes and high potential is a winning formula and one that will have defensive coordinators thinking twice about overlooking Kansas City’s attack.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Home-field advantage matters in Kansas City
No matter what happens in these playoffs, if the New England Patriots play in the AFC title game, it will be at Foxboro.
So if Kansas City wants to go to the Super Bowl, it will have to go through New England.
But someone is going to have to go through Kansas City, and it’s probably the Pittsburgh Steelers.
You might remember that the Steelers put an unabashed whoopin’ on the Chiefs in Week 4 — 43-14.
Kansas City hasn’t forgotten, and a playoff game in front of the loudest crowd in the NFL is the perfect opportunity for payback.
Do not underestimate the value of the first-round bye, either — pass rusher Justin Houston has been out for the last two games, but with another week to heal from what has been reported as swelling in his surgically repaired right knee, he’ll have almost a month off the field. That might just be enough for a return, and if the Chiefs add him back into the fold, that strong defense becomes even more ferocious.
Start the playoffs off with momentum — and we've seen it before — anything can happen.