KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs' chances to win the AFC West championship took a big hit Monday night when the Denver Broncos rallied to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime. The 11-4 Broncos can now win the division title by beating the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
The Chiefs aren’t eliminated from winning the AFC West, though. If the Broncos stumble on Sunday, the Chiefs would claim the division championship by beating the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
As slim as their chances for winning the division are, the Chiefs need to go for it.
Recently I suggested the Kansas City Chiefs would be better off as a wild-card playoff entrant as opposed to being the AFC West champion. The matchup against the AFC South champions, most likely the Houston Texans, is so appealing it is worth playing on the road as opposed to playing against a stronger opponent at Arrowhead Stadium in the first round of the playoffs.
I’m not backing off that thought now. A matchup against the Texans is still in the Chiefs’ best interests.
But the Chiefs have no choice but to go for the division championship.
The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot and will be going to the postseason whether they win the AFC west or not. So it doesn’t have to be win-at-all-costs for the Chiefs this weekend. They can rest any players who have lingering injuries and would benefit in the playoffs from getting a break against the Raiders.
But it can’t be a large scale benching, as the Chiefs did for their final regular season game after clinching a playoff spot in 2013. Alex Smith has to play. Jeremy Maclin, too. Travis Kelce and anyone else who can help the Chiefs beat the Raiders.
The Chiefs owe that to their fans, who have experienced one division title since 2003. They owe that to their fans who will trudge to Arrowhead on Sunday on what looks like it will be another frosty day.
Andy Reid was mysterious on Monday about his plans for Sunday's game. Chiefs fans should hope he was just being coy and Kansas City puts forth a strong effort.