The trap is set. Now the question is: will the Kansas City Chiefs fall into it?
The Chiefs are oh-so-close to winning the AFC West title and perhaps earning a first-round bye for the upcoming playoffs.
They are 10-3 and tied with Oakland for the West lead. But they’re currently considered the division leader by virtue of sweeping the season series with the Raiders, handing them two of their three losses.
Denver has slid to 8-5 and has New England on its plate this week. If you’re a Kansas City fan, feelings have to be mixed as the Patriots have the best record in the AFC at 11-2, but a New England loss and the Chiefs would still have a chance to host all the way through the playoffs if they can somehow win out. A Denver win means the Broncos remain very much alive and I’m sure the Chiefs would just as soon see another team make the playoffs other than the Broncos. Denver’s final two games are against Kansas City and Oakland.
The Chiefs host rapidly improving Tennessee on Sunday on a day that again is supposed to be bone-chilling cold, which works in their favor since the Titans normally play in reasonable climate.
Kansas City, however, is coming off one of the most brutal three-game stretches a team can have. It defeated Denver in Denver, Atlanta in Atlanta and then finally came home to hold off Oakland, a game where it lost star linebacker Derrick Johnson for the rest of the season and possibly his career as he ruptured an achilles for the second time.
It was evident after Johnson went out that Kansas City became vulnerable to the run. Few teams run it better than Tennessee, with DeMarco Murray softening up the defense for sledgehammer Derrick Henry. On a day expected to be less than 20 degrees, being able to run the ball is at a premium, something the Chiefs have done a poor job of in recent games despite the presence of Spencer Ware.
Tennessee is coming off a rousing victory over Denver and has to be brimming with confidence. It’s been a while since the Titans have been in this position as it’s been a struggle in recent years.
So it’s all set up for the Chiefs to have a clunker. Their last loss came against Tampa Bay at Arrowhead and that was thought to be a really bad loss, but Tampa Bay now has won five in a row and has vaulted into NFC playoff contention.
The Chiefs can’t afford to be caught looking ahead. They host Denver and then play at San Diego to close out the schedule. Everyone knows how tough Denver plays the Chiefs and playing in San Diego in the final game won’t be easy, especially if the Chargers know there’s a lot on the line for Kansas City and dearly want to play spoiler.
That Kansas City is in position to perhaps host all the way through the AFC playoffs is a testament to underrated coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs rank only 24th out of 32 teams in total offense and are even worse defensively at No. 27. The numbers simply don’t add up.
But 10-3 certainly does and that’s all that matters. And to get to 11-3, the Chiefs had better not be looking ahead.