In, arguably up to this point, the most important game of the season, the Chiefs dominated the Raiders on Sunday night. After a rollercoaster first nine weeks, the Kingdom were treated to a game that could mark a turnaround for their beloved team. After witnessing defensive letdowns, offense breakdowns, a “broken” QB and what seemed like endless turnovers the Chiefs destroyed the hated Raiders and returned to the top of the AFC West.
The Chiefs will host the equally perplexing Dallas Cowboys on Sunday before their much-needed bye week. A win on Sunday would have them resting at 7-4 a loss means 6-5, a huge difference moving forward. Their record after Sunday will have a big impact as they return for the back half of their schedule. The Chiefs will be returning to six remaining games, including four division games and two conference games. The question is, can the Chiefs win a sixth consecutive AFC West Championship?
The Chiefs Are In Control
The most important variable in determining if the Chiefs can win the AFC West, is the Chiefs. In looking back, the Chiefs beat themselves in several games this season. Not to be confused with the Chiefs flat out losing a couple games too. The games against the Ravens and the Chargers, the Chiefs were their own worst enemy and they made the mistakes that lose games. Against the Bills and the Titans, they Chiefs were flat out beat.
Those are the two ways the Chiefs have found to lose games this season. Eliminating mistakes, not unlike Sunday’s game against Vegas, is the first method the Chiefs stay competitive and the first step to another AFC West title. The Bills and Titans games are a different story. In those games they were not even remotely competitive. This problem would pose another issue moving forward if the Chiefs plan on finishing the season as AFC West Champs.
It is hard to say what happened in those games that showed the Chiefs as completely out-matched. Is it an “Any Given Sunday” situation where the Chiefs just failed to show up? Have Buffalo and Tennessee surpassed the Chiefs this season? This season’s parity in the NFL is at eleven. Both of those teams have had their own bad losses this season. The Titans have a loss to the Jets and the Bills juggernaut offense put up 6-points in their loss to the Jaguars. The hope across the Chiefs Kingdom is that they have turned a corner on their own mistakes and they have recaptured their swagger when they retook 1st place in the division. If the Chiefs can refrain from the mistakes that cost them games and stay competitive week in and week out, they can and should capture another AFC West crown.
It Starts (And Ends) In The Division
The clearest path to the crown is through their own division games. At 1-1 in the division with four games left, these games will all have a playoff like importance. After the bye-week the Chiefs will have three consecutive division games in a row. That will start with back to back home games against Denver and a rematch against the Raiders, followed up by a West Coast trip to avenge their loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. If the Chiefs have turned the corner on their turbulent first half of the season, a well-timed bye week should help them prepare for the stretch run. Hopefully a humbled Chiefs team realize there is no room for error, no time to “get bored” and their division rivals are closing the gap.
The Chiefs have less control over the other AFC West team’s schedules. The Broncos, having had their bye already, have five divisions game left. Two of those against Kansas City. They will also face the Bengals and the lowly Detroit Lions. It is hard to figure out the Broncos, with some impressive wins on their resume, but some equally poor outings as well. With less then stellar QB play and a fire sale on Von Miller, this doesn’t seem like a team to worry about.
The Raiders appear to have entered their annual collapse after failing to compete against the Chiefs. Their moment to take over AFC West top spot, a dud. Past their bye week, the Raiders have a trip to Arrowhead on their schedule along with another division tilt hosting the Broncos and end the season with L.A. Also, on their schedule the Raiders have the Bengals, Cowboys, WFT, Colts and the Browns. The Raiders will find some wins, but as typical, it expect the Raiders to end the season as the Raiders.
Then there are the Chargers. The team most likely, if any, to unseat the Chiefs as AFC Champs, have four division games left. Herein lies the problem if the Chiefs stumble, the Chargers have some weak teams remaining on their schedule. The Chargers will play at depleted Steelers team, a questionable Giants team and a hapless Houston Texans team. L.A. will win some games in the remaining weeks. The Chargers presently hold an early season win over the Chiefs. This means their match-up on week #15 could have major division and playoff implications. With both teams coming off a short week the Chiefs should have a slight advantage. Hosting the Chargers at Arrowhead in a prime-time game, the crowd will be a big factor for the home team.
In The End
The Chiefs appear to have announced their return on Sunday night in Las Vegas. The question is will they keep that momentum going forward? Some may look at the Chargers game next month as the most important remaining game on their schedule, but that is simply not true. The December 16th tilt against L.A. only has meaning if the Chiefs are competitive between now and then.
If the Chiefs revert to their early season shenanigans and the losses pile up, the Chargers game is meaningless. If the Chiefs pick up where they left off in Vegas, starting Sunday against Dallas, take that momentum into the bye-week, then the Chargers game could determine the post season for K.C. Until then, the most important game of the season for the Kansas City Chiefs is the next one. That is the team that stands between the Chiefs and their seventh consecutive AFC Championship. Right now, that is the Dallas Cowboys.