It’s been six seasons since the Chiefs finished first in the AFC West, and since 2003 when they finished with the first or second seed in the postseason, assuring a week of rest before a home playoff game.
Those objectives are within reach as the NFL’s 14th week comes to a close.
The Chiefs’ 21-13 triumph over Oakland on Thursday night changed control of the division. The Raiders held the edge until they lost and now own the identical record as the Chiefs at 10-3.
With the regular-season sweep of the Raiders, the Chiefs own the tiebreaker advantage over their rival.
Not that the Chiefs, at least the players, were paying much attention. At least that’s the public stance.
What does it mean to be in first place, Marcus Peters?
“Nothing at all,” Peters said. “We’re trying to get to our ultimate goal. We have to win each game.”
Oh, it has to mean a little something, doesn’t it?
“It feels great,” linebacker Dee Ford said. “But we’re not going to take it for granted, and we’re not going take our foot off the gas.”
The division looked more like a two-team race after Sunday’s action. The third-place Broncos lost at Tennessee 13-10 and dropped to 8-5. For the defending Super Bowl champions, the postseason entry looks more like a wild-card path.
The other game that could impact the Chiefs in the playoff picture this weekend is Monday night when the Patriots play host to the Ravens. If Baltimore pulls the upset, the Chiefs and Patriots (and Raiders) share the best record in the AFC with three weeks remaining.
And the Broncos play all three, giving them the most difficult possible schedule remaining. They play host to New England next weekend, visit the Chiefs on Christmas night and finish the season with a home game against the Raiders.
“From the outside looking in, a lot of people are going to say it doesn’t look good,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said after the Titans’ loss. “I’ve been part of a hell of a lot worse and come out of it. We’re going to keep battling. I’m a battler. Those guys in the locker room are battlers.”
The Chiefs play host to the Titans on Sunday and end the season with a trip to San Diego. The Raiders visit San Diego this weekend and play host to the Colts before finishing with Denver.
The schedule would seem to favor the Chiefs as they seek their first division crown since 2010.
Fivethirtyeight.com gives the Chiefs a 99 percent chance to reach the playoffs and an 83 percent chance to win the division. Only the Patriots have a better chance at an AFC division title.
As for winning the Super Bowl, the same methodology – based on 100,000 simulations of the season — has the Chiefs as the third choice at 17 percent, behind the Patriots at 22 percent and Cowboys at 18 percent, entering Dallas’ game on Sunday night at the New York Giants.
Plenty of work remains for the Chiefs, who if they win out will match the franchise record of 13 regular-season victories, which they’ve accomplished three times, most recently in 2003.
The victory over the Raiders marked the third straight over a team that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and although the players mostly dismissed the achievement, coach Andy Reid took a moment to appreciate the recent run.
“The grit they showed to battle through these last three games can help you and it shows a good foundation under this football team,” Reid said. “You’ve got to do it every week (but) for three weeks here they sure have done a nice job of building something they can bank on.”