It’s officially panic time for the Kansas City Chiefs, who should have put their division away a long time ago.
The Chiefs have seen their once-comfortable lead in the AFC West practically vaporized as they now lead the hard-charging Los Angeles Chargers and the Oakland Raiders by just one game after practically being given notice by the NFL after five weeks to start printing playoff tickets.
The Chiefs have stunningly lost five of their last six as they head back to New York this week, site of the igniting of the free fall with a shocking loss to the New York Giants. Yet, and here’s the silver lining, they are somehow still atop a division that before the season, on paper, looked to be the best in the NFL.
But now the division is a combined six games under .500 and will have only one playoff qualifier unless some fortunes change dramatically.
If the Chiefs can’t ground the Jets this week, we’ll probably be looking at a three-way tie for the division lead with four games left. The Chargers are home to winless Cleveland and the Raiders entertain the 2-9 Giants.
The Chiefs have allowed 12 and 16 points the last two weeks, normally a recipe for success. True, they still allow a lot of yards, but buckle down when it comes to allowing points.
This is on the offense. There’s a hue-and-cry to replace Alex Smith at quarterback, but that’s not the answer. True, his impeccable control has deserted him at times and he’s started to aim his throws, but this calamity is fueled by a total collapse of the offensive line.
If you can’t run the ball in the NFL, you can’t win. Pure and simple. Oh, Tom Brady might get by with a pedestrian running game, but he’s the exception to the rule because he’s in his own world.
Kareem Hunt put up out-of-sight numbers through five weeks. Sunday, he ran it 11 times for 17 yards and several times was hit just about the time he touched the ball. Critics are saying he isn’t getting enough touches, but how many times does he have to bang his head against the wall before it’s evident he’s going nowhere?
Smith is being criticized for dinking and dunking, but count the number of times he was in the pocket and able to set his feet. It only takes one hand because he was under siege all game.
Coach Andy Reid is being vilified for his play calling. But what options does he have if there’s no blocking? I thought he might try and go no-huddle in an attempt to put pep in the step, not to mention Smith seems to run the hurry-up pretty well.
Reid did stay away from the gadget plays for the most part on Sunday. There were no Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill ill-fated passes. The Chiefs were about as vanilla as Fourth of July ice cream and I’m searching in my brain for how many shots Smith took down the field for Hill where he just throws it up and hopes the NFL’s fastest human can run under it.
The schedule still favors a strong Chiefs finish. After their game with the Jets on Sunday, they’re home for three in a row and then close at Denver, whose offense is about on par with Kansas City’s. The way the Broncos play defense, we may see a 0-0 game in regulation.
The Chargers are the team the Chiefs may have to worry about most. After the Browns this week, they have games left with Washington, Kansas City, the New York Jets and Oakland. At 5-6, there’s a good chance they can finish 10-6 or even 9-7.
The Dec. 16 game in Kansas City could decide it all.