KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs coach Andy Reid has downplayed throughout the week what is at stake in the season finale.
But don’t overlook the game’s importance to help clear an unsettled postseason picture.
A win for the playoff-bound Chiefs (10-5) over the Oakland Raiders combined with a loss by the Denver Broncos (11-4) to the San Diego Chargers gives Kansas City the AFC West division title based on the tiebreaker.
The seeding for the fifth and sixth AFC wildcard slots are also pending the results of at least four games: Chiefs-Raiders; Chargers-Broncos; New York Jets-Buffalo Bills; and Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns.
“I’m not even sure of all the scenarios,” Reid said earlier in the week. “I just know we have to play this one and everybody’s getting ready to do that and that’s how we’re focused.”
While Reid wants his team to concentrate on Oakland, the AFC scenarios arguably give Sunday’s game a postseason feel at Arrowhead Stadium.
Good thing the Chiefs are fully acclimated to that approach after reeling off a historic nine straight wins after a losing streak of at least five games.
“These last nine games have been playoff atmosphere because we’ve been behind the 8-ball,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “When you get in the playoffs, it’s the same type of deal. This game means a lot to us.”
Wide receiver Jason Avant agreed.
“There are a whole bunch of components about it that’s going to remind you of playoff football,” Avant said. “We’ve been playing playoff football for nine to 10 weeks, so we’re trying to continue to do that and play as hard as we can.”
The Chiefs can certainly appreciate the sense of urgency, as a loss in the postseason sends a team home.
Kansas City experienced the reality of that situation after starting the season at 1-5, which prompted the team to stick together and believe in each other to turnaround the season.
Johnson credited Reid and the coaching staff for keeping the team focused on weekly opponents and Week 17 isn’t different.
“We’ve been doing that this year, doing very good at that this year, making sure we handle our business,” Johnson said. “Regardless what happens of the outcome, we need to keep our winning streak going all the way to the Super Bowl. That’s what it’s about.”
Kansas City was originally scheduled for a 12 p.m. CT kickoff, but the NFL flexed the start time to 3:25 p.m. CT, which overlaps with the Chargers-Broncos game in Denver.
The Jets-Bills and Steelers-Browns matchups are featured in the early afternoon, so those results will be known by the time the Chiefs take the field.
But with the Chiefs and Broncos playing at the same time, an opportunity presents itself for players to peek at the stadium scoreboard to monitor what is going on at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Avant doesn’t believe he or his teammates will be distracted.
“It’s not an issue when you know what’s on the line,” Avant said. “These guys have been playing football their whole lives. We don’t really care about what’s going on with other teams. We just got to focus on what we have to do.”
Defensive end Mike DeVito said what happens in Denver or around the NFL with playoff seeding hasn’t been a heavy topic of discussion in the locker room.
Instead, it has been business as usual.
“I think the biggest thing is we haven’t even drawn attention to it,” DeVito said. “We’ve prepared like it’s any other week. It doesn’t matter what the scoreboard is, we’re going to try and win this game here.”
Left guard Jeff Allen added the Chiefs’ veterans offered a message to the younger players throughout the week’s preparations.
“Understand that everything that’s going on outside of this locker room is not up to us, it’s not in our control,” Allen said. “Older guys, veteran guys have been through it and we just tell the younger guys to treat it like a regular week.”
There is plenty on the line when the Chiefs take the field Sunday, but what happens around the league won’t deter the team’s current path.
Tight end Travis Kelce offered the best solution to maintaining focus and not paying attention to the postseason scenarios.
“It’s easy,” Kelce said. “You just go out there and play; it’s as easy as that.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank seventh in rushing (123.7 yards per game) and 28th in passing (207 yards per game).
• The Raiders rank 25th in rushing (93.9 yards per game) and 15th in passing (248.1 yards per game).
• The Chiefs rank 12th against the run (101.5 yards allowed per game) and 12th against the pass (236.1 yards allowed per game).
• The Raiders rank ninth against the run (99.3 yards allowed per game) and 27th against the pass (266 yards allowed per game).
THE LAST TIME
The Chiefs defeated the Raiders, 34-20, in Week 13 at O.co Coliseum.
Sunday’s matchup represents the 111th meeting between the Chiefs and Raiders, with the Chiefs leading the all-time series 57-51-2.
The game at Arrowhead Stadium marks the 44th time the two teams will play at the venue, and the Chiefs hold a 24-19 edge at Arrowhead.
• Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Peters grew up in Oakland.
• Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker appeared in three games with the Raiders in 2011.
• Kansas City safety Tyvon Branch was a fourth-round pick of the Raiders and spent seven seasons in Oakland (2008-14).
• Raiders coach Jack Del Rio spent two seasons as a linebacker for the Chiefs (1987-88).
• Raiders running backs coach Bernie Parmalee served as the Chiefs tight end coach for three seasons (2010-12).
• Raiders center Rodney Hudson entered the league as a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011 and spent four seasons in Kansas City (2011-14).
• Raiders long snapper Thomas Gafford spent seven seasons with the Chiefs (2008-14).
• Raiders offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb spent training camp with the Chiefs in 2014.
• Raiders rookie linebacker Ben Heeney, a native of Hutchinson, Kan., and rookie cornerback Dexter McDonald, a native of Kansas City, Mo., played collegiately at Kansas.
Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Raiders safety Charles Woodson, who retires after a decorated 18-year NFL career.
“I think it’s more of a celebration of what he’s done for the game of football.”
Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack on the impact of growing with Woodson as a teammate:
Chiefs coach Andy Reid on how he learned to do the Dab:
“It just comes natural.”
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith on evaluating Reid’s version of the Dab:
“You’re asking the wrong guy; I wouldn’t know.”