Tim Crone: Early AFC losses have taken away Chiefs' margin for error
At the beginning of the year, I wrote an article that never made it into the paper (but was online) in which I predicted the Chiefs season would end at 13-4 if they had playoff hopes.
My prediction was that the Chiefs would lose to the Ravens, Chargers, Bills and Titans. We are going to Nashville for the Titans game on Sunday. A former football and baseball player I coached has Titans season tickets. I thought it would be a pivotal game for the Chiefs.
Little did I know at the first of the season, that if they do not win this game, it might very well take them out of the playoff picture. The three losses the Chiefs have suffered are in the AFC, which is the second tiebreaker in determining who makes the playoffs. That would make the Chiefs 0-3 going into Sunday’s game.
People claim that the Chiefs will be OK because they can still win the AFC West. That may be true, but realistically it may be a hope and a prayer. I thought the Chiefs would lose to the Chargers in Los Angeles and not at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Raiders will be a tough team to win against on the road and at home. And if the Chiefs make the playoffs this year, they must win two games against Denver. The Chiefs will play the last game of the year in Denver, where the altitude and cold can be a tough environment.
The Chiefs are now 3-3 with the toughest schedule in the NFL ahead of them. The team has 12 games remaining. They must beat the Giants, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Denver twice, which would give them eight wins. If they split with the Raiders, it would give them nine wins.
They must also win one of the two games against the Packers or Cowboys at home, which would give them 10 wins. The Chargers game in Los Angeles could be a key game even if the Chiefs are in the race.
That brings us to the upcoming game against the Titans. It will be a must win game in the playoff hunt. If they lose to another AFC opponent, they are out of the running in the tiebreaker category. If they win Sunday, they could possibly win 11 games and go 11-6.
The second half of the Washington game was the first time the Chiefs have looked like they were a playoff caliber team. Patrick Mahomes was brilliant, and the team did not have any turnovers in the second half. They dominated against a below average football team.
The Chiefs are currently averaging two-plus turnovers per game. You cannot beat Sisters of the Poor with that average, and they have the toughest remaining schedule in the league. However, there is still hope and I do believe if the Chiefs can find a way to get to the playoffs, they will give any opponent a run for their money.
They have the three years of experience playing in the AFC championship games and two years in the Super Bowl. They have many strengths and there is no substitute for battle ready experience. It is possible that the Chiefs can win the rest of their AFC West games and come up tied with the Chargers or Raiders. Both those teams could faulter in the AFC as well.
We talk about the defense and about Mahomes trying to do too much, but most of the players on this team know what it takes to win. If the defense can make two stops a half and the offense plays within itself without major injuries, they have a chance to surprise all their fans and themselves and make a run in the playoffs.
They have dug a big hole during the regular season. A loss to the Titans on Sunday could make their chances slim to none. Mahomes and that offense can still light it up if they stay away from the turnovers and the defense gets some stops.
The Chiefs cannot even blink or the 2021 season will break their playoff streak. Go Chiefs!
• The quote of the week comes from former NFL offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf: “I think a lot of people get too concerned with their competition. They fall into the habit of worrying about everyone else. I don’t pay attention to what others are doing. I feel strongly that if I have correct goals, and if I have the determination to keep pursuing them the best way I know how, everything else falls into line.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.