On Monday night, the Kansas City Chiefs chance at securing the AFC’s number one seed became much greater. It was none other than former Chief quarterback, Alex Smith, and the youthful Washington defensive front who walked into Pittsburgh and downed the Steelers. The last undefeated team of 2020, is now tied record wise with Kansas City at 11-1. The Steelers still technically hold the number one seed as of now. However, this is the opening the Chiefs needed, as Pittsburgh starts to get more banged up and show more holes within their team.
Pittsburgh has a tougher schedule on paper down the stretch. A trip to Buffalo on Sunday Night Football against the Bills this Sunday will be a dogfight. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns present similar challenges to what they just saw in the Washington Football Team.
Kansas City may have a bit easier schedule on paper. Nonetheless, we have seen plenty of December upsets over the years for teams at the top of either conference. The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints are difficult road tests. As a result, there is no better time than now for the Chiefs to keep their foot on the pedal and become the aggressor.
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Can’t Beat Themselves
Last time we saw the Chiefs, the Denver Broncos became a pest to get by on SNF. Settling for field goals in the red zone, committing penalties in crucial spots and blocking struggles let the game stay close. Patrick Mahomes played better the box score suggests, too. At least two Tyreek Hill touchdowns were not counted. One, due to the replay team of Kansas City not realizing a ball never hit the ground. The other, being called back due to a holding call. Mahomes also stepped up into the pocket to almost complete a long pass on a 3rd and 20. If Travis Kelce were to come down with it, he may have scored. It just hit off of the tight end’s hands.
While division matchups are no pushovers, this game could have easily been a two to three score victory for the Kansas City Chiefs. They are now in a somewhat similar spot to where they were late last season. Knowing they are that much closer to possibly getting the AFC’s top speed, the Chiefs still see room to improve or turn it up another level. That is obviously scary for upcoming opponents. As we have seen throughout the last couple of years, it takes a lot to down this team. And more often than not, it is the Chiefs who usually beat themselves more than their opponent if they are not on their A game.
Short Yardage Struggles
It is unbelievable how often we turn back to this discussion. However, there is greater confidence in the offense when it is 3rd and 8 for example, compared to 3rd and 2 when watching the Chiefs. We saw more of those struggles in the game against Denver. In goal to go or less than five yards to go situations, Kansas City converted on one of five third down attempts.
But what’s the problem? A couple of things appear to have combined to the bigger picture against the Broncos. We already discussed the blocking issues briefly earlier. Maybe the return of Stefen Wisniewski to the practice squad will prove to be a strong addition down the stretch. His blocking prowess in the playoffs last year, kept the interior part of the line afloat. Play calling has also become bland in those situations. Simple rush attempts have no chance of gaining any positive yards. There is also still some hesitation to run QB sneaks or run under center, due to Mahomes’ freak injury from last year.
It’s funny how much this reverberates around the league. In Monday’s game, the Steelers failed on all five attempts from the Washington one yard line. Washington even had their own share of disappointments in short yardage situations. With Andy Reid’s creativity, one would figure that he is cooking up multiple ways in which to improve in those spots.
Competition Creates Greatness
This is one of the deeper AFC playoff fields in recent memory. And as the picture begins to winnow out, we have seen teams continue to look like they are growing as the weeks go by. Teams like the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns have a physical nature that could pose problems to the Chiefs. Elsewhere, the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins have shown that they can win in multiple ways. And that is similar to what the Chiefs can do too.
Moreover, we saw a somewhat congruent situation for Kansas City last year. And they showed significant improvement and will to power through games. This tougher field and set of teams could strike the Chiefs in the same light. When they get into that mindset, they become a near unstoppable force. Finding that aggressor state will be for the better. This set of potential AFC playoff teams is good for fans of football, but possibly even better for Kansas City grinding their way to another Super Bowl chance.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.