The Kansas City Chiefs will begin the homestretch of their 2021 season this Sunday night against the Denver Broncos. The winner of this game will seize control of the AFC West.
Essentially, the Chiefs can come out of the bye week and take this final six games of the season as a fresh start. A new season to close the season, if you will.
Everything is still in front of the Chiefs. The AFC is wide-open and no team is running away with the crown. The Tennessee Titans continue to slip up, losing to the New England Patriots last weekend and relinquishing the top seed in the AFC. The Patriots boosted their ranking up to the two-seed in the AFC with their sixth consecutive victory.
The Baltimore Ravens took over the one-seed in the AFC with an unconvincing 16-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Lamar Jackson threw four interceptions in the victory. The Ravens didn’t look like a team that would scare anyone in the playoffs.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, two current wild card teams if the playoffs started today, had very solid games. The Los Angeles Chargers are clinging onto the seventh and final wild card spot heading into Week 12.
The Chiefs still have plenty of time to continue to climb the ladder in the AFC and finish where many thought they would when the season began: as the one-seed in the conference.
There is also time for the Chiefs to slip and fall out of contention, but I’m under the impression that head coach Andy Reid and the rest of the experienced coaching staff will have the players ready to roll the rest of the way.
The Chiefs have plenty of experience on both sides of the ball when it comes to pushing for a postseason run and they will lean on the leaders of this team as the season winds down.
In fact, it would not shock me to see this team (behind the leadership of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and defensive lineman Chris Jones) push themselves to win out the rest of the way.
The defense has continued to get better as the season has rolled on. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Chiefs' defense had given up the most points per game in the league. Since then, they have given up the fewest points per game in the league. If the defense continues to stay the course and the pass rush continues to get pressure, these dominant defensive performances will continue.
I’m also anticipating a nice finish to the season from second-year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He started rolling before an injury cost him games in the middle of the year, but he looked fine in his return before the bye week. Getting another week of rest should have Edwards-Helaire ready to roll behind an offensive line that has continued to get better as the season goes on.
As long as the offense doesn’t beat themselves by reverting to their early-season struggles when they were turning the ball over at an unprecedented pace, this team will be just fine as they push to the finish line.
It is a cliche to say “one game at a time,” but that is the mindset this team should have going forward. However, with three games in a row against divisional opponents starting Sunday against the Broncos, the Chiefs are set up to prove to the world that they are the team we thought they were heading into the season: the best team in the AFC West and the best team in the AFC.