Chiefs earn some much-needed rest by clinching bye

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs would have made the playoffs as a wild-card entrant even had they lost Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

But they didn't want try to reach the Super Bowl via that route. They wanted a first-round postseason bye and to play each one of their January playoff games in the comfort of home. As coach Andy Reid put it, "There's nothing like playing at Arrowhead."

The Chiefs guaranteed that their potential path to the franchise's first Super Bowl in 49 years will be the one of least resistance by beating the Raiders 35-3. They finished the regular season 12-4, which ties them with the Los Angeles Chargers for the best record in the division and the conference. The Chiefs win the tiebreaker because of a better AFC West record, 5-1 to the Chargers' 4-2.

Every other AFC team finished with at least five losses, giving the Chiefs a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The benefits of a third consecutive division title and the prizes that go with it are many. The first is not having to play a game next weekend.

The Chiefs faced the Raiders with three injured starters on the inactive list: safety Eric Berry, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Spencer Ware.

A fourth starter, guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, is on injured reserve but returned to practice last week and could be activated in time for the playoffs. All will benefit from the extra week of rest.

"I think the week off will help us get healthy and be where we need to be," Reid said.

The Chiefs also won't leave Kansas City for the playoffs. The Chiefs have historically been disappointing when playing at Arrowhead in the postseason. They've lost six straight playoff games at home, including one by one point, one by two, one by three and one by four.

The Chiefs averaged just 13.5 points in those four games.

But they were 7-1 at Arrowhead this season, with the one loss coming by one point against the Chargers.

"It's always an advantage to be in this stadium," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "For us to get the bye week, get your bodies right and ready for this run and then to be able to play in the stadium where we can feed off the energy, it's special and we're excited for the opportunity to do it."

The Chiefs have been significantly better at Arrowhead on defense than they've been on the road, where they've allowed almost 35 points per game.

At home, it's only 18 per game. Reid was at a loss to explain the difference.

"I just know what we're capable of doing and where we're going," he said. "It's good to get some guys in there flying around and making plays. ... That's a plus for us."

In the meantime, the Chiefs are hopeful Sunday's game, when they allowed a season low in points, was the start of something good. The Chiefs allowed 33 points to the Raiders in a Week 13 victory at Oakland.

"We've just got to keep it rolling," linebacker Justin Houston. "I think it's a great time for us to play like this. We [were] firing on all cylinders. We've just got to build on it and continue to get better."