The Chiefs clinched the AFC West and a playoff spot with Sunday’s 29-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Arrowhead Stadium. Players broke out division champion hats. Owner Clark Hunt congratulated the team in the locker room.
Andy Reid even dressed like Santa Claus in the postgame locker room speech and press conference.
A sense of final-game celebration and get-ready-for-the-postseason washed over the proceedings.
The only problem with that is one game remains in the regular season.
The Chiefs visit the Broncos next weekend, and Denver has already been eliminated from the postseason.
Also, the Chiefs are locked into a Wild Card playoff round game at Arrowhead Stadium, which will played on Jan. 6 or 7.
With the stakes low, how will the Chiefs approach next week?
Could reserve quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the team’s first-round draft selection, make his NFL debut?
“We’ll get through Christmas and then we’ll get on with that,” Andy Reid said.
There is precedent by Reid to play reserves in this situation. In 2013, his first season with the team, the Chiefs found themselves in a similar situation in the final game at San Diego. Reserve quarterback Chase Daniel started that game instead of Alex Smith and running back Knile Davis was the primary running back, not Jamaal Charles.
Several other offensive starters and the entire starting defense rested as the Chiefs readied for a playoff game the following week.
Even with the reserves carrying the load, the Chiefs played well, falling 27-24 in overtime. The Chargers’ victory put them in the playoffs.
Smith said he didn’t know what was in store for next week. He preferred to savor Sunday’s accomplishment, a triumph that gave the Chiefs consecutive AFC West crowns for the first time in franchise history.
“We’ll see,” Smith said. “I’m pumped about the back-to-back thing right now and obviously clinching.”
If Smith sits, he’ll have completed one of the best seasons by a Chiefs quarterback in the franchise’s history. He surpassed 4,000 yards (4,042) and owns a 104.7 rating, a mark that would be the highest in team history.
But there would be an eagerness to see Mahomes in action for the first time since the preseason. The Chiefs traded up to pick the Texas Tech star 10th overall, and he became the team’s first quarterback selected in the first round since 1983.
Has Mahomes had enough reps during practice to appear in a game this season?
“I think on the mental side he’s obviously watching and mentally observing and (taking) mental reps,” Smith said. “But throughout the week, limited reps. He’s running the (scout) team and obviously trying to prepare as much as he can to get ready.
“So he hasn’t seen live bullets since camp … so in a sense it’s been a while. But I’ve said this all along, he’s a pretty natural player.”
Chiefs fans might enjoy getting a glimpse of the future.