It was a utopian Christmas for Kansas City, who unwrapped the biggest gifts under the tree. First came an official playoff berth in the form of a Ravens loss to the Steelers in the early game. Then a convincing 33–10 win over the reigning Super Bowl champion Broncos put the Chiefs within reach of an AFC West title.
Kansas City bolted out to a 14–0 lead against the reeling Broncos, but memories of their blown opportunity in Week 15 danced in their heads—after jumping out to that same lead, the Chiefs allowed the Titans to come back from behind tand hopes of the coveted no. 2 seed started slipping.
But in the NFL, things turn on a dime. Kansas City’s start against Denver’s second-ranked defense was just a sliver of a breakout night that has the Chiefs firmly repositioned as one of the NFL’s most dangerous teams. At the end of the first quarter, electrifying rookie Tyreek Hill blazed past everyone en route to a 70-yard touchdown run, and tight end Travis Kelce added an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass, thanks to some premium blocking. Kelce had a career game, finishing with 11 catches for 160 yards and a score, and he now holds the record for the most 100-yard games by a tight end in a season with six.
Kelce and Hill’s megaplays highlighted what was truly a team effort. Except for one first-half miscue that led to an interception, Alex Smith fell somewhere between premiere game manager and playmaker. The offensive line did its job and them some. Smith was sacked six times in the Week 12 version of this series; Sunday he was untouched. Spencer Ware ran well to the tune of 62 yards on 13 carries. Both the defense and special teams were opportunistic and missed few tackles. Heck, even nose tackle Dontari Poe got in on the action, throwing a “fat guy” touchdown to tight end Demetrius Harris late in the fourth quarter. Andy Reid’s creative playcalling, as it did Sunday, rounds out what is truly a thriving and complete squad.
Conversely the Broncos’ season will sputter to a close next week. There will be no confetti showers in February as this loss eliminated them from postseason contention. The Broncos, who have now lost four out of their last five, will end a disappointing season with myriad questions, most notably what to do under center. (Common thought is that the solution’s name rhymes with “Coney Domo” and it is assumed he likes ribs.)
The downtrodden Broncos have one more week to go before the adjustments begin, and as fate would have it they are central to the Chiefs’ next order of business: trying to win the AFC West. The Oakland Raiders (12–3) currently lead the Chiefs (11–4) by a game but Derek Carr’s devastating fibula injury leaves them a lot more susceptible to next week’s opponent: the Broncos. Meanwhile, Kansas City travels to San Diego to take on the woeful Chargers. Assuming they win, the AFC West will come down to whether Matt McGloin is ready for the spotlight against a Broncos team that may give some of its starters the afternoon off.
While the possibility of two home playoff games (if the Patriots were to lose), is ideal, especially when your home is as disruptive to opponents as Arrowhead, the Chiefs have a swagger that makes them dangerous in any locale. They have no gaping deficiencies. The rest of the AFC better watch out.