The Kansas City Chiefs currently sit second in the AFC west behind the Denver Broncos who lead the division at 10-3. With a record of 8-5, the Chiefs could potentially catch Denver who
With a record of 8-5, the Chiefs could potentially catch Denver who has a couple of tough games away to Pittsburgh and then at home to Cincinnati.
However, the Broncos finish their season by welcoming the struggling Chargers to Mile High in week 17 so expect Denver to chalk up the single win they need to clinch their division.
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With Denver's control of the divisional berth almost guaranteed, this leaves the Chiefs in a direct struggle with two other 8-5 teams for the wild card berths into the playoffs.
All other teams vying for these spots are now at least two games behind this pack and would be unlikely to catch them.
Arrayed against Kansas City are the Steelers and the Jets. Of the three teams, the Chiefs arguably have the easiest run in; away to Baltimore, then home against the Browns and the Raiders.
All of their opponents are currently below .500 and effectively out of playoff contention. The Steelers host the 10-3 Broncos before two tough divisional road games against the Ravens and the Browns.
The Jets meanwhile, travel to Dallas, then play New England at home before heading to Buffalo for their season ender.
With both of their main competitors for the wild card spot facing slightly trickier routes through the final week of the season, Kansas must keep up the momentum of a seven-game winning streak in order to progress.
Although lacking a quarterback with the same level of experience as Ben Roethlisberger, wideouts as accomplished as Antonio Brown or Brandon Marshall, and running backs as destructive as Chris Ivory, the Chiefs' offense has been a pillar of consistency.
Quarterback Alex Smith may not put up huge numbers, within the seven-game win streak his highest total was 255 yards, but he is largely mistake free.
He may only have thrown eight touchdowns in those seven games, but he only threw one interception as well. His completion percentage has been steady too, hovering around the high sixties throughout the Chiefs' run.
Although only averaging 209 yards through the air through these games, the Chiefs are being careful with the football, using it effectively to put them in positions to win games.
With Smith's number so unimpressive, it is hardly surprising to hear that his most effective receiver may be his tight end Travis Kelce. His yardage per game is only slightly lower than number one wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (48 against 58).
Maclin, however, has gotten on the scoreboard more often with four touchdowns to Kelce's one.
The other primary receiver, Albert Wilson, lingers in relative obscurity. Across the seven games, he has had two games were he caught passes totalling over 70 yards but three when his combined numbers fell below 20.
With such inactivity through the air, the Chiefs' run game might have stepped up in trying to pick up the slack but this is not the case.
The offense may have been built around the now-injured Jamaal Charles, but the run game has suffered from his absence, despite the sterling effort of replacement backs Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Looking at West for instance, he had a couple of big games production-wise in weeks 7 and 8, rushing for 110 yards and 97 yards respectively.
Since the bye in week 9, his production has dropped off, down to 69 in week 10. Since then injuries have hit the Chief's backfield, with West splitting carries with Ware.
Worryingly for the Chiefs, both backs seem to be struggling to recapture the form that carried Kansas through the first half of their winning streak.
The Chiefs rank 25th overall on offense. Realistically they need to find ways to be more productive should they aspire to progress in the playoffs.
Their defense has carried them part of the way, ranked eighth overall. The Chiefs are seventh in the league against the run (and sixth in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed) and 15th against the pass (foutth in sacks).
They allow 19 points a games, compared to the Chiefs' scoring rate of 25 a game. This defense needs to keep playing a high level, being stingy with conceding points, if this relatively limp Chiefs' offense is to stand a chance of progressing deep into the playoffs.
With the schedule they're facing and the consistent, albeit unspectacular play of Alex Smith, the Chiefs have a very good chance of progressing if they can continue to harness the momentum that they've generated thus far and ride their winning streak all the way into the post-season.
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