How the Kansas City Chiefs Clinch the No. 1 Seed in the AFC in Week 18
Heading into the final week of the 2021 NFL regular season, playoff spots and seeding are up for grabs. Even after a nail-biting loss in Week 17, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs can still secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Here’s a look at where the Chiefs stand and what it would take for them to lock up the first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFL playoffs.
The Chiefs dropped to the No. 2 seed after loss to the Bengals
The Kansas City Chiefs entered the Week 17 tilt against the Cincinnati Bengals as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Andy Reid’s squad had plenty of momentum, reeling off eight straight victories.
Cincinnati was also riding high after sweeping the season series against the Baltimore Ravens. Not to mention, the Bengals knew a win over Kansas City would lock up the AFC North crown.
Patrick Mahomes and company seemed to be hitting their stride after a slow start to the 2021 season. The Bengals have surprised many people, but they still had their fair share of skeptics heading into this matchup. With playoff implications aplenty, these two teams delivered the game of the week.
The Chiefs and Bengals feature two of the most talented offenses in the NFL and proved why in Week 17. Kansas City jumped on Cincinnati early on, but Zac Taylor’s crew fought back.
Thanks to Joe Burrow and a historic performance from rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals pulled off a 34-31 comeback victory.
The loss was devastating for the Chiefs, who relinquished their lead and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
How Kansas City can reclaim home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs
The Tennessee Titans moved back into the top spot in the AFC playoff picture with a win over the Miami Dolphins and the Chiefs’ loss. Still, Kansas City can overtake the resilient Titans in Week 18.
The Chiefs have already clinched the AFC West title, and the Titans locked up the AFC South. Both teams are sitting at 11-5, but Tennessee holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Titans toppled the Chiefs 27-3 in Week 7.
Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and company will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in the regular-season finale. A win would give Kansas City a 12-5 finish, which is impressive given the team’s early struggles. To claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Chiefs will need some help, though.
The top-seeded Titans close out the 2021 season on the road against the Houston Texans. If Tennessee loses or ties, Kansas City will move back into the No. 1 seed in the conference. If both teams lose, they could open the door for the Bengals to possibly sneak into the No. 1 seed.
For Andy Reid’s crew, it’s pretty simple. Take care of business against Denver and hope the Titans drop the ball.
Still, putting faith in the Texans can’t end well.
Who could Patrick Mahomes and company face if no first-round bye?
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Kansas City Chiefs have a 17% chance to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. While it could certainly happen, those are long-shot odds.
If things remain how they are, the Chiefs would be the No. 2 seed in the AFC, meaning they’ll be playing during Wild Card Weekend. With that being a real possibility, let’s look ahead at who Kansas City could match up with in the first round of the playoffs.
Suppose the current seedings stay put after Week 18. The Chiefs would draw the Los Angeles Chargers, who hold the last wild-card spot. Playing against LA would probably be the best possible matchup for Kansas City of all the teams in the playoffs right now.
The Chargers got the best of the Chiefs during their rough start. However, Kansas City returned the favor in a Week 15 overtime victory. Familiarity could come into play, as these two teams play twice a season.
The Chargers haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet, though. LA will be playing the Las Vegas Raiders for a spot in Week 18. The winner gets in. The Raiders do not match up well with Kansas City. The Chiefs have dominated the season series with a combined score of 89-23 across two games.
Scenarios exist in which the Chiefs could face the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Baltimore Ravens. However, those matchups would be highly unlikely.
Whether Kansas City gets a first-round bye or not, it will be a tough out in the AFC playoffs no matter who it faces.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference