Even if Kansas City doesn’t get the coveted home-field advantage in the conference championship that typically comes with being the AFC’s top seed, coach Andy Reid said the important thing is the Chiefs are still playing.
Reid said Monday he was too preoccupied last week with preparing for Saturday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders to worry about whether the Chiefs would be at home or elsewhere should they make it that far. The NFL made the decision last week to alter the playoff format.
The Chiefs took care of the business of capturing the No. 1 seed with their 31-13 victory at Las Vegas.
”They understand the magnitude of where they sit right now and the opportunity that they have,” Reid said of his players. ”It’s not a lot of teams playing right now, so it’s a great opportunity and you want to take full advantage of that, the best you can.”
If Kansas City faces the Bills in the AFC championship, that game will be played at a neutral site because Buffalo’s game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2 was declared a no contest. The Buffalo-Cincinnati game was stopped when safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest. He has recovered enough to be transferred Monday from a Cincinnati hospital to one in Buffalo.
The Chiefs, of course, have some work to do before they can think about the AFC championship.
They will get a break because of the bye that comes with the top seed. Kansas City will host one of four teams on Jan. 21 and 22.
Reid is a master of the bye weeks, with a career record of 21-3 after a week off.
”I think he has a great balance of the amount of time he gives guys off and the amount he gets guys in there to get them moving and prepare for the next week, and then obviously the coaches did a great job of game planning,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. ”I’m sure this week they’ll game plan like three or four different teams and try to get a good game plan to the guys early in the week so they can execute it at a high level.”
It starts with Mahomes, who set an NFL record with 5,608 yards of total offense even with deep threat Tyreek Hill having been traded to Miami in the offseason. With Mahomes again calling the shots, the Chiefs this season ranked first in the league in total offense (413.6 yards per game), passing yards (297.8) and scoring offense (29.2 points).
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Chiefs won the turnover battle against the Raiders, getting two takeaways while not losing the ball. That was a rare win for Kansas City, which even after that game is minus-three in turnover margin. For the Chiefs to achieve their postseason goals, they need more games like the win over Las Vegas. Otherwise, they’ll likely watch someone else hold up the Lombardi Trophy.
Breaking a record held by Derrick Johnson is notable any time. Linebacker Nick Bolton made 180 tackles this season, one more than Johnson had in 2011. Johnson sent a congratulatory tweet, saying he was ”not surprised at all” that Bolton beat his Chiefs record.
Even though the Chiefs are 14-3, they haven’t always looked impressive over the final month. They beat struggling Denver by six and three points and Houston by six. Even against the Raiders, Kansas City sleep-walked through the second half and was outscored 10-7. That level of play won’t cut it in the postseason.
WR Mecole Hardman (abdomen) continues to recover. Hardman came off injured reserve last week but didn’t play against Las Vegas.
”He’s trying to get this thing right,” Reid said. ”It’s just a matter of time. He’s really day to day, although he feels better today than he did on Saturday. So we’ll just see how it goes during practice.”
Reid said DE Frank Clark (groin), who was injured against the Raiders, wasn’t seriously hurt.
2 – Two of the Chiefs’ losses were to the Bills and Bengals. Both were close, a four-point loss to Buffalo and a three-point defeat to Cincinnati. Both teams are potential AFC championship opponents.
Kansas City will play the Chargers, Dolphins, Jaguars or Ravens the weekend of Jan. 21-22 in the divisional round.
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