Can the Chiefs take advantage of the home field?

By Steve Sell
December 31, 2018

The Chiefs made it easy on their fans Sunday with a no-stress, no-doubt-about-it 35-3 rout of the sad-sack Oakland Raiders to wrap up a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs — only the third time they have accomplished that feat.

I know there were some who were concerned that Jon Gruden would conjur up a game plan to at least make KC fans sweat, but after a pick-6 by Daniel Sorenson early on you could see the Raiders were no longer invested in the upset bid.

Arrowhead Stadium hasn’t exactly been kind to the Chiefs in postseason play, but of course you want to play at home instead of on the road.

Where I think it helps the Chiefs most is on defense. They seemingly are a different team at home, with Sunday’s game a prime example.

While the Raiders gashed the Chiefs with their running game, the first four Oakland drives ended with a turnover forced by the enthusiastic defense. For once you can say the defense won this game as it was a pedestrian effort by Patrick Mahomes’ rarefied standards.

Mahomes will finish either first or second in the MVP voting. It’s now a two-man race with Drew Brees and it should be Mahomes’ award, unless Brees receives it for lifetime achievement. Yes, he was incredible this season, but his numbers just don’t stack up to Mahomes’ and the young KC gunslinger energized the NFL with his amazing play.

The playoffs are now set and both the AFC and NFC should be dandies.

Assuming Houston defeats Indianapolis,the Chiefs are perhaps a bit unlucky in being the top seed. They’ll get a week off to rest and hopefully get Eric Berry and Spencer Ware in 2 weeks, but when they come back, they’re certain to play one of the hottest teams in the AFC.

They’ll play either the Ravens or Chargers unless the Colts win. The Ravens are scary because of their ability to run the ball and the Chiefs’ inability to stop it. The saving grace is that Lamar Jackson isn’t much of a passer, but the Ravens should control the time of possession because of KC’s generous run defense.

If it’s the Chargers, I like the Chiefs’ chances. Philip Rivers has had one of his best seasons, but for him to lead LA past the Chiefs twice in one year at Arrowhead is a monumental task. Recent history certainly is not on his side as he had struggled in KC until this year.

On the other side, it’s all set up for New England to be in the AFC title game.

In the NFC, the big news was the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles — given up for dead at the 10-week mark — getting in, taking advantage of Minnesota losing a home game against Chicago to miss the playoffs.

Chicago and Philly will be a great first-round game, but the Bears are hot at the right time. They’ll come in steaming as they’ve been on a serious roll. Eagles’ QB Nick Foles was hurt on Sunday and if he can’t go, this will be easy for the Bears.

Seattle goes on the road to Dallas for the other quarterfinal game and I just don’t trust the Cowboys. It did finish the year winning seven of eight, but Dak Prescott doesn’t stack up to Russell Wilson.

I’ve been saying for a few weeks that I like the Bears, though most are expecting New Orleans to ride the homefield advantage to the Super Bowl. The Rams were the trendy pick at midseason, but Jared Goff’s indifferent play down the stretch has soured some, not to mention Todd Gurley has been banged up.

At the start of the year I had an Eagles-Steelers Super Bowl, but that was under the guise that Le’Veon Bell would be with the Steelers. Going into the playoffs now, I’m thinking Bears-Patriots.