The Kansas City Chiefs' 3-4 start to the 2021 season saw them dig themselves into a hole. In order to have any chance of completely crawling back out of it and emerging on solid ground again, they need one thing: wins.
Sure, there are other factors to take into account. At the end of the day, though, it's truly that simple. In regards to having a reasonable chance at getting the AFC's top playoff seed, the Chiefs aren't going to have tiebreaker advantages over the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans or Buffalo Bills. They can't afford to finish with the same record as those teams. They need to get — and then stay — one win ahead in order to rank higher in the conference standings.
Luckily for the Chiefs, the Ravens and Titans are now both 8-4. Kansas City's 8-4 record puts it squarely in a position to possibly leapfrog both of the aforementioned teams down the stretch. The Bills lost in embarrassing fashion on Monday night and are now 7-5, which serves as another good break for the Chiefs. As things currently stand, the AFC-leading New England Patriots are the conference's top dog. Mark Van Sickle of Arrowhead Report joined me on Monday's Roughing the Kicker podcast to not only recap the Chiefs' Week 13 win over the Denver Broncos, but also emphasize how important finding ways to win will be down the stretch for the reigning two-time AFC champs.
Because of conference record, the Patriots project to also hold a strong tiebreaker over the Chiefs. New England is currently 7-1 in games played against AFC opponents, whereas Kansas City is 3-4 with losses to the aforementioned trio of likely playoff clubs. Bill Belichick and Andy Reid's squads won't face each other in the regular season so even if the Chiefs do win out, they'll need the Patriots to lose at least one game moving forward. That is, of course, if the No. 1 seed and a first-round playoff bye week are the main goals here. That's what the team is striving for but with that said, simply winning the AFC West is still far from a guarantee.
Speaking of non-guarantees, let's extinguish a common misconception in regards to week-to-week performance. There is absolutely a correlation between great teams being consistently great and them having subsequent success in the playoffs, but upsets are always possible. A team like the Chiefs could look unstoppable for the remainder of the regular season and then lose their first playoff game because they struggled to play consistent, mistake-free and focused football. Conversely, winning "ugly" games and barely scraping by can be used as an argument for indicating possible future failure, but the Chiefs haven't been barely scraping by. There's also one more thing working in their favor.
Should the Chiefs make the playoffs, it's possible that they will have the best quarterback-head coach duo in those games. Patrick Mahomes, despite his flaws and struggles at times in 2021, is still the best in the business. Reid is an all-time great coach. That counts for quite a bit in a postseason environment, and the Chiefs have been on the biggest stage before. They deserve the benefit of the doubt.
The Chiefs' offense is going through a bit of a rough patch, but it isn't as bad off as many think. Whether the team completely figures things out or not, that's a long-term conversation. Right now, the Chiefs simply need to stack wins. They can sort out the rest later, and history indicates that they just might be able to do both at the same time.