The New Year brought a lot of happiness to the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs. With their dominant 37-27 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, they clinched the AFC West and the AFC’s No. 2 seed. This is the first time since 2003 that the Chiefs, who last won the division in 2010, have won the division AND had a first round bye. The AFC West Championship ended a run of five straight Broncos AFC West crowns, and is only the second NOT won by the Chargers or Broncos over the last 13 seasons.
Unlike the first matchup, a game where the Chiefs rallied from a 24-7 deficit late in the third quarter to win 33-30 in overtime, the Chiefs dominated San Diego (5-11) from the outset. At the end of the first half they had accumulated 20 points, 31 plays, 235 yards, and had intercepted Phillip Rivers twice – once in the endzone. Despite missing running back Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West had both 58 yards on the ground and in the air, and caught an Alex Smith, who guided scores in seven of the eight drives he was behind center, touchdown pass. San Diego moved the ball well too, but only one of four first half possessions ended in a touchdown. The second half wasn’t much better, despite San Diego outgaining Kansas City 193-144. Jaheel Addae took an Alex Smith interception 90 yards for a score in the third quarter, as Smith’s pass attempted to am open Knile Davis in the right flat, was deflected. But, the Chiefs (12-4) quickly answered with a Smith-to-West touchdown that put the KC lead back to 27-17. Tyreek Hill also returned a punt 95 yards, and Cairo Santos added a late field goal ensuring the closest the Chargers would come to their lead was 10 points.
Kansas City ends the regular season with the best chance they’ve had in years to final bring back a title. The offense, led by Smith (who set a career high in passing yards this season, with 3,502), can score in various ways. Anchored by Hill and Travis Kelce, they can beat you short and deep and with long plays, and with quick scores, the presence of a healthy Jeremy Maclin means teams can’t focus solely on the two young stars. Defensively they’re as aggressive as they come, and while stopping the run and getting the quarterback on the ground have been struggles this season, they’ve made up for it by making teams pay dearly for mistakes: Kansas City has scored four touchdowns on defensive returns this season. While they may not be the most exciting team, you can’t deny wins. They’re 23-9 in the last two seasons, and that’s come without a lot of contributions from their two best players, Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles. But, since Week 7 of 2015, they’re 22-4 – the best record in NFL in that span.
With a bye this week, the Chiefs will take on the highest remaining seed next Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at Arrowhead. The No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers take on No. 6 Miami this weekend, while No. 4 Houston takes on the No. 5 Oakland, who will start rookie QB Connor Cook – the first QB in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in the playoffs – while veteran QB Matt McGloin, who was already replacing Derek Carr, recovers from an injury suffered in the loss against Denver.
The Kansas City Chiefs are two wins away from a Super Bowl. They’ll still have to go through New England (14-2), but they’re better equipped to do it this year, than last.
Smith said they’re “deeper” and “more well-rounded” this year.
Justin Houston and Spencer Ware will be back, too.
Follow us on Twitter: @KCSportsNation
Like us on Facebook
Follow Devereaux on Twitter: @marylandpoet