It might seem strange to be writing an article suggesting that Kansas City are ready to crash and burn in the postseason. Sitting at 11-3 and tied with Denver at the top of the AFC West, they still have a chance at the number one seed overall. If Denver slip up in their last two games, the Chiefs are ready to pounce.
Add in to this the fact that they have won their last two games (against Washington and Oakland) by a combined score of 101-41 and a running back in Jamaal Charles who is a man in form (five touchdowns and 195 yards receiving). This suggests a team in form, not one likely to stumble. Yet there are many factors that the Chiefs will have to overcome in order to avoid their playoff adventure failing at the first attempt.
1. The Chiefs have benefitted from a weak schedule
Kansas City has benefitted greatly from having an easier schedule this season. Up to and including week 15, the Chiefs have only beaten one team with a record over .500. This came in three with a victory against the Eagles in Philadelphia. Before their game with the 9-5 Colts this weekend, the only other times Alex Smith and Andy Reid have come up against a team with a winning record was in their match ups with Denver. They lost both. Every team they come up against in the playoffs will have a winning record, which could spell trouble for a Chiefs team that is probably not as strong as their record would suggest.
2. Their defense is on the slide
No question about it, the Chiefs’ defense was performing sensationally well at the start of the season. Prior to week 11 no side had managed to post more than 17 points against them. In their last five games, however, their opposition has racked up an average of 28.8 points per game. This includes the game in Washington where the Redskins only managed to put up 10 points. Take this out of the equation and over that four game spell, the average shoots up to 33.5. This is not the type of form that promotes confidence going into the postseason. Alex Smith will not be able to post enough points to overcome high opposition totals against teams with better records. The defense needs to get back to basics if they are to make a return to form.
3. Denver will not slip up in the race for the first seed
The race for the first seed is still on. Denver’s loss last week against San Diego opened the door for the Chiefs, but with the Broncos holding the tie breaker the chances of overtaking them is slim. Added into that is the fact that Denver’s last two games are against Houston and Oakland; games that Peyton Manning’s team would expect to win easily The Chiefs still have to travel to San Diego; a game that they could easily lose as the Chargers look to force their way into the postseason. This will mean the Chiefs have to travel in the first round; with a very difficult game in Indianapolis or Cincinnati/Baltimore to look forward to.
4. Andy Reid’s playoff record is patchy at best
Although only in his first season with the Chiefs, Reid has plenty of experience with the Eagles to fall back on. However his overall record of 10-9 is not great and he has not won a playoff game since the 2008 season. In his last two visits to the postseason, with Philadelphia entering as divisional champions both times, the Eagles lost their only match. His six divisional titles resulted in just once NFC Champions title, in the 2004 season after a 13-3 record. Does this suggest a weakness in Reid when entering the playoffs? There is certainly enough doubt to suggest that the Chiefs may struggle against opposition of a higher quality than they have faced to date.
5. Alex Smith is not among the elite quarterbacks of the AFC
Smith falls a long way short of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady when looking at ability and performances. He has performed well this season since his off-season move from San Francisco, but his 3160 passing yards have come against a weak schedule. His overall career passer rating stands at 81.3 and his reputation will not strike fear into the defenses that he will encounter in the postseason. As the Cheifs defense has begun to falter, more pressure has been placed on the ex-49er. He has coped with this pressure against poorer teams, but may struggle when coming up against better teams in the playoffs. As well as Manning and Brady, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton and possibly Joe Flacco could be his opponents in the key role. Out of the six, Smith would be the player who you would feel least confident about mounting a game winning drive later in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs have many challenges to overcome. Opponents with poorer records numerically have undoubtedly faced tougher schedules and as such are more battle hardened going into the business end of the season. It will be very tough for Andy Reid and the Chiefs to make an impact; don’t be surprised to see them go one and out, despite their regular season record.