The Kansas City Chiefs should end the season by beating two divisional opponents to finish with a 14-3 record. That, in theory, would give them no worse than the second seed in the AFC playoffs. They could still “earn” the top spot in the AFC if the Buffalo Bills were to lose one of their final two games and the Chiefs won out. Buffalo is favored in both of its final games, though, so Kansas City is more than likely to be playing on Wild Card Weekend.
There is an assortment of possible opponents for the Chiefs’ opening playoff game. Let’s take a look at the field and rank Kansas City’s competition in tiers.
Tier 1: Upset Alert – Los Angeles Chargers
Every Chiefs fan is likely sweating thinking about playing the Chargers again. Kansas City won both matchups this year, but only by a combined six points. It’s difficult to beat a team three times in one season. No quarterback is on the level of Patrick Mahomes, but the Chargers have one who is in the tier below. Those are the teams that have given the Chiefs the most problems in the playoffs in the Mahomes era.
While Brandon Staley has made some questionable decisions in the past, he has presented good defensive game plans for Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ offense throughout their matchups. With the possible returns of Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater looming down the road, the Chiefs should want no part of this team in the playoffs’ opening round.
Tier 2: Potentially Dangerous – Miami Dolphins
The concussion situation with Tua Tagovailoa may make this team miss the playoffs entirely. However, if the Dolphins are fully healthy, they are a scary out. Chiefs fans know that Tyreek Hill can wreck a game by himself and when pairing that with Jaylen Waddle, that’s quite the handful to deal with. It’s a bad matchup for the Chiefs’ defense, which loves to leave their corners in single coverage.
The offense should have no problem scoring 30-plus against the Dolphins’ defense. Though in a shootout, one play can change the game, and Miami has studs on the defensive line who can give the Chiefs’ tackles problems. While the Chiefs have a massive quarterback advantage in this matchup, Miami is still a tough out because of its individual stars.
Tier 3: You Have My Attention – Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars
Neither of these teams is a likely opening-round opponent for the Chiefs, but it is possible. Baltimore and Jacksonville have good quarterbacks that can get hot at any moment but need to be more consistent to be a real danger to the Chiefs. Nevertheless, they present enough of a challenge that Kansas City needs to play decent to win. We saw the Chiefs already handle the Jaguars once this season without any real challenge. The score could have been worse if they hadn’t called the proverbial dogs off. As for Baltimore, they aren’t built to win in the playoffs, and the Chiefs have historically matched up well with that current core.
Tier 4: Week 3 Repeat? – New York Jets and Tennessee Titans
Offensively, outside of one player, neither of these teams has the firepower to compete with the Chiefs. However, if Kansas City has a similar performance to what we saw in Indianapolis earlier this year, either team could sneak up on the Chiefs. Both teams present good defenses, especially up front, which can give the Chiefs’ offense some problems. Even with their top defenses, however, they would need numerous mistakes from Kansas City in order to pull off the upset.
Tier 5: Better Than A Bye – New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers
Shoutout to Nick Wright for this. He famously said last year that playing the Steelers on Wild Card Weekend was “better than a bye.” The Chiefs then went out and smoked Pittsburgh by a final score of 42-21. The phrase is meant to say that the opponent poses no threat to actually beating the Chiefs, but the Chiefs also don’t get the rust of having to sit that week during the bye. As long as the Chiefs avoid injury in this possible matchup, they will move on without a sweat.