About that Super Bowl express the Chiefs were riding early in the season …
The Chiefs’ 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday was their fifth in six games, and instead of thinking about playing in the final game, the idea may be to avoid joining a short list of teams that completed their reversal of fortune.
Six teams since 1990 have started with a 5-0 record and failed to make the playoffs. Last season, that was the Vikings’ fate. They were the NFL’s last undefeated team, just as the Chiefs’ were this season.
Other 5-0 teams that didn’t make the playoffs: the 1993 Saints, 2003 Vikings, 2009 Broncos and Giants and 2015 Falcons. All finished 8-8 except the 2003 Vikings, who went 9-7.
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But none recovered to a playoff level after the fast start.
Even with their stunning play lately, the Chiefs continue to lead the AFC West. Maintain that spot and the Chiefs will be a postseason team.
But it’s a far cry from what the season promised through early October. It wasn’t just the fast start but who the Chiefs beat, the Patriots on the road in the opener, and the Eagles — who haven’t lost since — in the second game.
This is a season that once looked like a playoff lock, with visions of a top seed. In that scenario, one home victory would put the Chiefs in the AFC championship game.
The playoff prospects were enhanced by the early lack of a challenger in the division, but that also has changed. The Chiefs’ collapse that has left them at 6-5 has coincided with a charge by the Los Angeles Chargers, who improved to 5-6 with a Thanksgiving Day victory at Dallas. The Oakland Raiders also are 5-6 after Sunday’s 21-14 victory over the Broncos.
The division might come down to consecutive games against the top contenders at Arrowhead Stadium, the Raiders on Dec. 10 and the Chargers on Dec. 16. With a game at the New York Jets next Sunday, who knows where the Chiefs will stand when the showdowns approach. The Chiefs have won at the Chargers and lost at Oakland.
“We’ve been leading the division every week,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “That’s not an excuse to relax. A sense of urgency will be here the rest of the year. We have to figure out how to get it done.”
A third straight playoff year was a foregone conclusion weeks ago, especially with a post-bye-week schedule that included one team with a winning record.
Johnson maintains the Chiefs are a playoff-level team.
“We’re a really good team,” he said. “We need to show it by getting more wins, closing these close games out, but we’re a really good team.”