This Thanksgiving weekend, the Kansas Chiefs are thankful for a bye week. This serves as time for them to recharge their batteries and rest up heading into the final stretch of the season. Both the team and its fans alike are also thankful to be riding a four-game winning streak and sitting atop the AFC West after an up-and-down start to the season.
If the Los Angeles Chargers defeat the Denver Broncos this weekend, they’ll jump the Chiefs (due to a head-to-head tie-breaker) and be first in the division. Things will shake themselves out thereafter, with the Chiefs playing the Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, and the Chargers in consecutive weeks coming out of the bye.
If the Chiefs take care of business against the division, that should set them up to win the AFC West for the sixth consecutive season. That dominance shouldn’t be taken for granted. Winning the division title is the first step in securing a playoff spot and getting closer to the ultimate goal of winning the Lamar Hunt trophy, then having a chance at another Lombardi trophy.
No one in the AFC is running away with the rights to the top seed and only playoff bye this season. As of the beginning of play on Sunday, the current No. 1 seed is the Tennessee Titans. That could all change this weekend, and no team or place in the AFC playoff picture is safe at this point.
The Buffalo Bills slipped from first place in the AFC East into a wild card position after losing in embarrassing fashion at home to the Indianapolis Colts. However, after a big Thanksgiving win over the New Orleans Saints, they are currently a half-game ahead of the New England Patriots for the lead in their division.
The Patriots have been riding an impressive five-game winning streak and will host the aforementioned Titans, who are hoping to maintain their position atop the AFC. A win for the Patriots would put them back on top in the AFC East with two games yet to be played against their rivals in the Bills. It will be fun to see how that division takes shape as the final weeks of the season unfold.
The Titans' season has been an odd one. They have losses to two of the worst teams in the NFL, the New York Jets and Houston Texans, but they also have several quality wins. Unfortunately for Tennessee, it has a lot of injury issues that will be tough to overcome down the stretch. The biggest holes appear on offense with the losses of running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver Julio Jones. The Titans don’t appear to be a strong top seed, even if they can edge out the rest of the AFC. It’s tough to trust them as a deep playoff contender unless their stars return in time.
The AFC North, like the AFC West and AFC East, still have a lot of teams in the mix. The Baltimore Ravens are the frontrunners but have a big game this weekend on Sunday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns, who are 6-5, currently sit in last place in the division. They are a team that many thought could take another step toward Super Bowl aspirations, but it hasn’t worked out for them to this point. With that said, they are still a decent team that can show up any given week and give opponents fits, including those in their own division.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are fighting for one of the final wild card spots. Heading into the weekend, the Bengals have the edge and stake claim to the No. 6 seed. A head-to-head matchup between the two teams in Cincinnati this weekend will clear up the picture just a little bit, but there is still plenty of football left for either of these teams to make a push and grab one of the last spots.
Without a doubt, the AFC is still wide open. No one is running away with the top seed. The Chiefs are sitting at a slight disadvantage going into the final quarter of the season because they have losses to some of the other top teams, including the Titans, Ravens and Bills. They will need to have a full-game lead over any of those squads in order to finish the season with that elusive No. 1 overall seed.
The Chiefs got through one of their toughest stretches of the season with their defense finally rounding into form. The Chiefs' offense can still get a lot better, which could be scary for the other teams in the conference. If the defense can continue to keep up its incredible play and if the offense can get back to being what everyone thinks it can be, there is a chance the Chiefs win out and have as good of a chance as anyone to get that top seed in the AFC.
Enjoy watching the other teams this weekend stress-free, as the Chiefs get a well-deserved break. After that, they will be back on Sunday Night Football next week taking on the division rival Broncos to kick off the home stretch of the season. For now, the rest of the AFC will beat itself up.