The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are dominating even the most open-minded discussions about the AFC playoff picture. It is understandable, after all they both have huge fanbases, are quality teams, and have won 10 AFC championships between them since the turn of the millennium.
However, they aren’t the only teams competing in the AFC that have a realistic chance of winning the Super Bowl. The Kansas City Chiefs, they of the 5-0 start and mid-season skid, are sitting at the #4 seed and ready to show that the AFC goes beyond just the Patriots and Steelers. Here is why the Kansas City Chiefs can win Super Bowl LII.
The untameable offense
Forget, just for a minute, about the impending 2018 quarterback decisions that the Chiefs have to make. Forget about Patrick Mahomes vs Alex Smith and just focus on the product on the field right now.
The Chiefs offense was a whirling dervish of destruction in the first month of the season. Kareem Hunt was a revelation, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were everything fantasy football pundits proclaimed they could be and more. Alex Smith was raining hellfire from the skies to prove the “he can’t throw deep” doubters wrong.
That offense was fun as hell, with read option looks, enough motions to make you cross-eyed, and shovel passes, run-pass options, and deep balls that always caught a defense off guard.
Through five weeks they scored 164 points, amassed 2,071 yards and 116 first downs. They were an unstoppable red wave. Then it all went away. An epic mid-season collapse saw them lose four in a row to the Cowboys, Giants, Bills, and Jets. Before that Jets game Andy Reid handed playcalling responsibilities over to offensive coordinator and all of a sudden the wide-open offense was back.
In their last five games the Chiefs have scored 143 points, amassed 2,062 yards and 106 first downs. Look familiar?
With Nagy blending the old west coast Andy Reid style with the new college-style plays in a different way and adding his own wrinkles, teams have once again been unable to find an answer for the Chiefs offense. With the Steelers defense hamstrung by Ryan Shazier’s injury and the Patriots already feeling the wrath of the Chiefs once there is little to suggest that the AFC’s big two could slow down the Chiefs behemoth of an offense.
The Chiefs defense hasn’t been the monster we assumed it would be this season. They are 15th in points per game, 24th in sacks, 28th in yards per game, and 30th in DVOA. In short, they have been pretty bad. However, there is a silver-lining, and that is in their turnover margins.
They are 7th in the NFL in takeaways with 26, and have turned the ball over an NFL-low 11 times. That kind of play is all-important in the playoffs.Winning the turnover battle, creating extra possessions and better field position, is vital in close games against big teams. It’s what could save them against Jacksonville or if they run into a high-level Tom Brady performance.
Their biggest ballhawk is obviously cornerback Marcus Peters, who led the team with five interceptions despite quarterbacks frequently throwing away from him and avoiding his side all together. Peters also forced a pair of fumbles and recovered three thanks to good tackling skills and a nose for the ball. Justin Houston and Chris Jones cause havoc with their pass rush and have created fumble opportunities as well. Even without Eric Berry in center field they have been a turnover force, and finding different ways to take the ball away makes them a very awkward proposal for anyone in the playoffs.
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