The Chiefs and their place in AFC West race

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs did more than the normal amount of celebrating in the minutes after the conclusion of Sunday’s 23-20 win over the San Diego Chargers. Chairman Clark Hunt, president Mark Donovan and general manager John Dorsey offered hearty handshakes to anyone they could find. Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy stood sentry outside the locker room, greeting each player with a hug and some loud words of encouragement.

Who could blame them? The Chiefs not only won in San Diego for the first time since 2007 and ended the Chargers’ five-game winning streak, but more importantly they saved their own season. In the moment, it felt like the Chiefs did more than just raise their record to 3-3.

It was easy to forget the Chiefs are still in third place in the AFC West, two games behind the 5-1 Denver Broncos and 1½ behind the 5-2 Chargers.

But the Chiefs served notice with their victory they intend to be a factor in the division race. By winning over the St. Louis Rams this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs would gain a game on one of the teams ahead of them in the standings. The Chargers play the Broncos Thursday night in Denver.

The Chiefs are also finished with this season’s visits to Denver and San Diego. Their remaining games against the Broncos and Chargers will be played at Arrowhead, on Thanksgiving weekend against Denver and in the final regular-season game against the Chargers.

It’s difficult to see the Chiefs disappearing from the division race anytime soon. The Rams, though coming off a big home win against the Seattle Seahawks, are just 2-4. The New York Jets, who play against the Chiefs the following Sunday at Arrowhead, are 1-6.

If the Chiefs can lose at home to the feeble Tennessee Titans, as they did to begin the season, they can certainly lose to the Rams or Jets, or both. But after a big win in San Diego, the Chiefs look like they’re well beyond having such a dismal performance again.