Now that we are in the second half of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs are proving themselves as still the team to beat in the AFC. They do still have some challenges ahead to finish out the season with trips to Las Vegas, Tampa, and New Orleans.
Not to mention needing Pittsburgh to falter at some point to have a chance at the number one seed going into the playoffs whereas it stands right now, will be the only bye with the NFL adding an extra wild card team this year.
But if more games get postponed or canceled, then one more team will be added and no one will have a first-round bye. With that being said, let’s dive into some of the challenges the Chiefs face in the AFC that may put a damper on going back to back.
First of all, finishing out the regular season strong and gaining momentum into January is always something playoff teams try to accomplish in the last few weeks.
The Chiefs finish up their last two weeks at Arrowhead with the Falcons in week 16 and the Chargers to end the regular season. Week 17 could end up being a trap game depending on the standings and this game could decide home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If you recall back in week 2 the Chiefs traveled to LA and the brand new SoFi Stadium where rookie QB Justin Herbert was a late entry as QB due to Tyrod Taylor being scratched because the team doctor punctured a lung while administering a shot before the game.
The Chiefs played flat and the rookie took the defending champs into OT where the Chiefs prevailed with a Harrison Butker game-winning FG. The Chargers may only be 2-6 at this point but every loss has been by seven or less and they also took the Saints into OT so this matchup could be significant to end the regular season.
Another potential threat to Kansas City is the division rival Las Vegas Raiders. Although they haven’t been relevant in recent memory, they came into Arrowhead in week five and handed the Chiefs their only loss of the season and also beat the Saints by double digits in week two.
With the veteran Derek Carr at the helm, they added some solid offensive weapons with RB Josh Jacobs, speedster WR Henry Ruggs III, WR Hunter Renfrow, WR Nelson Agholor, and their leading receiver, the 6’6” 255 lb. TE Darren Waller.
The Chiefs head to Vegas next week after the bye and that bodes well for Andy Reid and company. The head coach has led his teams to a dominating 18-3 record after the bye week in the regular season. The Chiefs will be looking to avenge their only loss and start their second half off strong and if the Raiders have a good second half, this could be a potential January matchup, most likely in KC.
The obvious hurdle for the Chiefs in the AFC is the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Big Ben is healthy and playing well once again with a fresh carousel of receivers and rookie WR Chase Claypool is starting to make a name for himself and challenging the number one receiver slot with Juju Smith-Schuster. RB James Connor could also be a thorn in the Chiefs side but the major issue could be the Steelers defense and pressuring Mahomes.
Entering Week 9, Pittsburgh led the NFL in pressure rate (35%), sacks (30), and QB hurries (41). Although these teams do not see each other in the second half of the regular season, if all goes well for both teams, this could be the AFC Championship matchup we’ve been waiting for but if Kansas City comes out flat like they did all last year in the playoffs, they could have a tough time making a second-half comeback to give themselves back to back Super Bowl titles.
The Chiefs have handled Buffalo and Baltimore this regular season and could be potential foes come playoff time. As well as Tennessee wanting to avenge their AFC Championship loss from the previous year and a Philip Rivers led Indianapolis Colts with a stout defense could be potential problems as well but the Chiefs biggest obstacle this year in the AFC, themselves.
The Chiefs gave up 40 points to the Raiders in week five. They haven’t given up over 40 points in a game since that shootout with the LA Rams on a Monday night in November of 2018 losing 54-51. They also barely snuck by a Christian McCaffery led Carolina Panthers last week.
Last year we saw some of the most explosive second half football in the playoffs by the Chiefs in recent memory but teams are catching on and they need to avoid shooting themselves in the foot in the first half.
As long as the Chiefs stay healthy, play all four quarters on both sides of the ball, and make important third-down stops, they should be the favorite to win a second straight Super Bowl. Mahomes has found his groove in the last several weeks and if he continues to play like that, it’s gonna be difficult for any team to come into Arrowhead and upset the defending champs.