KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs know they are in the playoffs, but three games on Sunday afternoon dictate the path to the Super Bowl for coach Andy Reid’s team and whether Arrowhead Stadium could host a playoff game in the new year.
“There hasn’t been anything decided besides that you’re in the playoffs,” Reid said. “There are other things that can be decided.”
The Chiefs (11-4) travel to San Diego for a 3:25 p.m. kickoff against the Chargers (5-10). Quarterback Philip Rivers and company stand ready to play spoiler for the Chiefs, but two other games play prominently in determining both the AFC West title and the conference wildcard standings.
The first piece of the puzzle falls into place with the noon kickoff for the New England Patriots visiting the Miami Dolphins. If the Patriots win, they claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC and lock the Dolphins into the sixth-seed. All that remains is determining the winner of the AFC West between the Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders.
But if the Dolphins win, the late afternoon matchups between the Chiefs and Chargers along with the Raiders at Denver Broncos take on greater meeting.
A Dolphins win means the Raiders can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win at Denver. Meanwhile, a Dolphins win paired with a Chiefs loss gives Miami the fifth-seed and a road trip to the Houston Texans in next weekend’s wildcard playoff round. That sends Kansas City to the sixth-seed, resulting in a return to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next weekend.
The ideal scenario for the Chiefs: a win over the Chargers and a Raiders loss to Denver. That roll of the dice gives Kansas City the AFC West title, the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, a bye next weekend and a home playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in two weeks.
The Chiefs can’t control what happens in Miami and Denver, which means the Chargers must remain their sole focus on Sunday.
Kansas City’s thrilling 33-27 overtime win against San Diego on the season’s opening weekend provided a sneak peak at what lay ahead for both teams. The Chiefs own a series of dramatic come-from-behind wins while the Chargers lost nine games by a touchdown or less during a season punctuated by injuries.
That first week loss still stings quarterback Philip Rivers, who wants to exact revenge against the Chiefs.
“We feel like we let the week one game get away,” Rivers said. “We felt like we dominated for 50 minutes and then they dominated for 10 minutes and won. It’s a credit to them because they beat us, but there’s still some saltiness around here about that game.”
Missing from that first game was Chargers rookie defensive end Joey Bosa. The No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft has 9.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hurries in just 11 games this season.
Chiefs co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress said Bosa owns the requisite length, speed and tenacity to be a superstar.
“He’s not a one trick pony, doesn’t race up-field, he can come inside and beat you,” Childress said. “He makes plays all the way around the backside too. His motor really stands out.”
Coach Andy Reid agreed.
“The thing he does is he’s going to give you an honest down every snap,” Reid said. “There’s no downs off. He’s going to push it — run, pass — it doesn’t matter.”
The Chiefs have critical playoff possibilities serving as their motivation, but the Chargers have their own emotional considerations. The team once again faces the possibility this could be the franchise’s final game in San Diego. Rumors continue swirling coach Mike McCoy may be coaching his last game for the team.
But McCoy simply wants his team to play in week 17 with the same effort that kept the Chargers competitive in virtually every game of the season.
“That’s what we’ve got to do out there and everything else will take care of itself,” McCoy said.