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Divisional Round Preview

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We look ahead to the coming weekend’s matchups, potential storylines, and a whole lot more. Follow along this week on all Chiefs Focus social media platforms, the 1st and 10 Podcast, as well as the blog for coverage and insights.

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

Blowouts. Blowouts, galore. The “Super” Wild Card weekend came and went, and in it we did not see a lot of competitive football. The average margin of victory for the teams that moved on was 17.2 points, and the only two games that were within one score at the final whistle were Cincinnati’s 7 point win over Las Vegas, and San Francisco’s 6 point win at Dallas. The Bills won by 30, the Bucs by 16, Chiefs by 21, and the Rams by 23. A lot of folks on the Twitter are claiming that the extra team in the playoffs is bad, we only need 6, yada yada yada. The bottom line is there was football on all weekend, and we all watched it. Also, I would give those fans a word of advice – don’t fly too close to the sun. When your team is on the brink of a playoff berth, and there isn’t an additional seed, you’re going to regret wishing the extra spot away. 

The divisional round may just be the conference semifinals, but it is the last full weekend of football we have until college football and the preseason come back around. Chiefs fans have grown to appreciate Championship weekend and Super Bowl Sunday quite a bit over the past few seasons, but we cannot lose our appreciate for the divisional round. Look at these matchups. You have collisions of styles in the Titans vs. Bengals and Packers vs. 49ers games. The Rams travel to Tampa to try to unseat Tom Brady and the Bucs. And the final game of the weekend features arguably the two best teams in the AFC in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. 

(4) Cincinnati Bengals at (1) Tennessee Titans – AFC – Saturday 3:30 CST; CBS, Paramount+

On the Call : Ian Eagle and Charles Davis 

  • Cincinnati, coming off of their first playoff win since 1991 against the Las Vegas Raiders, will travel to Nashville to face the 1 seed Titans, who are of course coming off of a bye week. 
  • The million dollar question this week – will Derrick Henry play, and if so how much? The Titans all-world running back was activated off of IR before week 18, but sat the last game and rested last week. Against a banged-up Cincinnati run defense, he could be a key to victory for the Titans. 
  • Joe Burrow hits the road to face a Titans defense that excels at creating pressure with their front 4. 
  • This will be the second all-time playoff matchup between the two franchises. The Bengals defeated the Houston Oilers back in the 1991 AFC Wild Card round by a score of 41-14. 
  • Coaches Mike Vrabel and Zac Taylor will meet for the first time. Vrabel is the front runner for NFL coach of the year, and Taylor has taken the Bengals from 2-14 to the Divisional round in his third season at the helm. 
  • The Titans are currently 3.5-point favorites. 

(6) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Green Bay Packers – NFC – Saturday 7:15 CST; Fox

On the Call : Joe Buck and Troy Aikman  

  • The 49ers, coming off a 23-17 win over the NFC’s 3 seeded Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, travel to Green Bay to take on the 13-4 Packers. 
  • In a rematch of the 2020 NFC Championship game, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to avenge the loss to reach his third consecutive title game. Green Bay has not reached the Super Bowl since 2011. 
  • The Packers Davante Adams and the 49ers Deebo Samuel will meet in a matchup of 2 of the 3 wide receivers from this year’s All Pro First Team. 
  • San Francisco enters after back-to-back wins against the Rams in the final week of the regular season and Cowboys in the Wild Card round. This will be a rematch of a Week 3 thriller that Green Bay won 30-28. 
  • Several key players on both sides are either slated to return from injuries, or are nursing new ones, including the Packers offensive line duo David Bakhtiari and Josh Myers, and 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa.
  • The Packers are currently 6-point favorites. 

(4) Los Angeles Rams at (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – NFC – Sunday 2:00 CST; NBC

On the Call : Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth

  •  Los Angeles takes on of the longest road trips in the NFL as they head to Tampa to take on Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champion Bucs 
  • Both teams won in the Wild Card round with relative ease, with the Bucs handling the Eagles 31-15 and the Rams dismantling division rival Arizona 34-11. 
  • Buccaneers starting offensive linemen Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen are both nursing ankle injuries (Wirfs is in a walking boot) – something that could play a huge role against a Rams team that can generate pressure from the interior with Aaron Donald and and on the edge with Von Miller.
  • Tom Brady will be in search of his 36th playoff victory (tops in NFL history by a mile), Rams QB Matt Stafford will be looking to notch his 2nd career playoff victory. 
  • The Buccaneers are currently 3-point favorites. 

(3) Buffalo Bills at (2) Kansas City Chiefs – AFC – Sunday 5:30 CST; CBS

On the Call : Jim Nantz, Tony Romo 

  • These two teams had the most impressive offensive performances, particularly from their quarterbacks, in the Wild Card Round. Buffalo’s Josh Allen was 21 for 25 for 308 yards and 5 TD against New England, and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes went 30 for 39 for 404 yards and 5 TD against Pittsburgh. 
  • This will be the teams’ second meeting this season. Buffalo won a week 5 contest in Arrowhead Stadium by a final score of 38-20. It is also a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game, one that Kansas City won 38-24 at home. 
  • Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and cornerback Charvarius Ward will be available to play in this game. They both missed the week 5 matchup with Buffalo due to injuries. Buffalo will be without cornerback Tre’Davious White who tore his ACL against the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving night. 
  • Mahomes holds the advantage in the 3 contests these quarterbacks have squared off in thus far at 2-1. 
  • Mahomes and the Chiefs have a 6-1 record at home in the playoffs including last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
  • Kansas City is currently a 1.5-point favorite. 

Stay tuned to the blog all week for coverage on these games, as well as in depth coverage on the Chiefs and Bills Sunday night matchup at Arrowhead Stadium!

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Rumors

Divisional Round First Look : Chiefs Welcome Bills Back to Arrowhead

Kansas City Chiefs vs Buffalo Bills at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO on October 10, 2021

This weekend we see a rare double rematch – the teams met in week 5 of this year’s regular season, with Buffalo winning at Arrowhead 38-20, as well as in last year’s AFC Championship game (also at Arrowhead) where the Chiefs won 38-24.

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

News & Notes

  • AFC 3 Seed Buffalo Bills visit AFC 2 Seed Kansas City Chiefs 
  • Bills enter having decimated division rival New England in the Wild Card round 47-17
  • Kansas City comes off of a 42-21 win at Arrowhead Stadium against the 7 seeded Pittsburgh Steelers 
  • The Chiefs will look to improve their home playoff record to 7-1 in the Patrick Mahomes era in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. Kansas City won that game 38-24, and this year’s contest will be played nearly a year to the day of last year’s (January 24, 2021 AFCCG; January 23, 2022 AFCD) 

There are some teams and players that, through the course of competitive evolution, you just grow to dislike. The Chiefs and Bills have certainly reached this point. The two teams began their respective ascents at around the same time, with the Chiefs taking Patrick Mahomes with the 10th pick in the 2017 draft and a year later the Bills selecting Josh Allen with the 7th pick in the 2018 draft. The rosters have been built in different ways to showcase different strengths, but the beginning of their climb to their current states started with the independent but similar decisions to christen new faces of the franchise. And both decisions have paid off, to different degrees. Last season, Allen led the Bills to their first playoff win since 1995 when the team defeated Dan Marino and the Dolphins in the Wild Card round. Buffalo rattled off wins against Phillip Rivers and the Colts in the Wild Card round in 2021 and Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in the divisional round before their eventual loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. 

Mahomes has obviously led the Chiefs the heights that no one could have expected when they drafted the “project” quarterback out of Texas Tech in 2017. Mahomes victory over Andrew Luck and the Colts in the 2019 divisional round was the first home playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium since Joe Montana outdueled Neil O’Donnell and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1993. He didn’t stop there, though. After falling short in 2019, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in 2020 and went back in 2021 to fall short of the Lombardi. But they are back in familiar territory in 2022 against a familiar foe, with a AFC Championship and a definition of each young star’s trajectory on the line.  

When you talk about the best quarterbacks in the league, particularly young ones, these two comes to the forefront of every conversation. Allen is a full-fledged specimen at the position. He’s 6’5”, 237 with a rocket arm and legs that can hurt you just as bad. This season, Allen became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 750. Last year, he became the first quarterback in league history with at least 30 passing touchdowns and 8 rushing touchdowns. He’s also the first player in league history to reach 100 passing touchdowns and 30 rushing touchdowns in his first 4 seasons. His 135 total TD in 4 years trails only Dan Marino (144) for the most in NFL history in that span. The Bills have won the AFC East in back-to-back years for the first time since the span between 1988-1991 when they dominated the division and went to 4 straight Super Bowls. Patrick Mahomes is no slouch, in comparison. The columns in the record books that he has toppled are plentiful, and if you’re having a slow day at work you can find where I’ve covered them here and here. And while Allen has the individual stats and relative team success to hang his hat on, the organizational transformation that Mahomes has brought to Kansas City is unparalleled by anyone who is not currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or named Tom Brady. Since Mahomes took the helm in 2018, the Chiefs have been to the AFC Championship game every season, losing in 2019 before winning in 2020 and 2021. They have been to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 54 – in which Mahomes earned the game’s most valuable player honor. 

While the heart of the debate for both fanbases stems almost directly to the quarterback comparison in most cases, the completeness of the teams and the individuals who have built them have turned this into this generation’s version of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning’s Patriots/Colts rivalries. Two teams who share a conference but from separate divisions who have bigger goals than division championships and playoff appearances in their minds coming into every season. Buffalo has been a darkhorse pick in the AFC that has emerged this season as a full-fledged contender, and Kansas City is the former upstart who have now found themselves as the team with the biggest target on their backs in the NFL, let alone the AFC. Not many would argue that these two are the class of the AFC, so a divisional round matchup seems premature, but it will be star studded, nonetheless. 

There is no lack of depth on either roster. Names like Tyreek Hill, Stephon Diggs, Travis Kelce, Dawson Knox, Chris Jones, Jerry Hughes, Tremaine Edmunds, Micah Hyde, and Tyrann Mathieu will all suit up to join their all-world quarterbacks in battle on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Two teams with rosters that are constructed as well as any in the NFL, coached as well as any in the NFL, and players that don’t particularly like each other a whole lot.  So how far has each team come since their week 5 showdown in Arrowhead in October? Let’s start with the Bills. 

Buffalo started out on fire this season. After losing the first game of the year to Pittsburgh at home, they rattled off 4 wins in a row capped by the 38-20 whitewashing of Kansas City in Arrowhead Stadium. They looked like they were the best team in the AFC and the NFL at 4-1, and many national media outlets took notice and were boisterous about declaring them as such while simultaneously touting the fall of the Chiefs empire. However, a different narrative developed over the next 8 weeks of the Bills season. After losing a close game to the Tennessee Titans the week after their win against the Chiefs, Buffalo got back on track with a win against the (then) lowly Miami Dolphins. After that? A mindblowing 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over the next 6 games, Buffalo would lose 4 including a blowout loss to the Colts and a loss to division rival New England at home. Halfway through December the Bills were 7-6 and on the outside looking in at a division championship. Wins in their next four games against Carolina, New England, Atlanta, and the Jets propelled them as New England sank back, losing key games down the stretch, and giving Buffalo their second consecutive AFC East title. Then, last Saturday, the Bills appeared to get the strong urge to reintroduce themselves to the world in their Wild Card win over the Patriots. The Bills scored touchdowns on all 7 of their drives against New England, while holding the Patriots to 305 yards of offense and shutting down their vaunted rushing attack. Allen threw for 308 yards and 5 TD. 

As for the Chiefs, they rebounded nicely with a convincing win over the Football Team in Washington in week 6, before hitting 2021 rock bottom with a humiliating 27-3 week 7 loss to the Tennessee Titans. What happened next defined the Chiefs season, and set the stage for a matchup when the week 5 score has to be thrown out the window. KC has won 10 of their last 11 games since the loss to Tennessee behind a defense that has moved from dead last in the NFL to points allowed per game to 8th, and an offense that couldn’t find the answers anywhere in the first 7 weeks finding themselves as the league’s 3rd most prolific unit by the end of 2021. Which they will need going up against a Buffalo defense that has been the league’s best in both points allowed and yards allowed over the course of the 2021 season. 

So we know both team’s trajectories heading into the Divisional matchup that has game of the week written all over it, but what has each gained and lost since the last time they played? Well, Buffalo has stayed healthy for the most part. They did lose reserve offensive lineman Ike Boettger to an Achilles injury against New England last Saturday, but kept everyone else off of the IR. Their biggest loss of the season, and one that will most definitely impact their approach against the Chiefs compared to the last time the two teams squared off, is that of cornerback Tre’Davious White. White was lost on Thanksgiving night against New Orleans with a torn ACL, and the Bills defense hasn’t looked quite the same since. While they slipped minimally against the pass, it was against quarterbacks like Cam Newtown, Matt Ryan, Mac Jones, and Zac Wilson. The only quality QB they played in that timeframe was Tom Brady, a game they lost while allowing Brady 363 passing yards and 2 TD. Leonard Fournette also had 113 yard rushing in that game, an area where the Bills have slipped noticeably since White went out. in the four games following his exit, Buffalo allowed 135 yards per game on the ground – 39 more than they had prior to his injury. 

Buffalo did hold New England to 89 yards rushing in their wild card matchup after allowing 371 combined in their 2 regular season matchups, but with the way the Buffalo offense jumped out on New England running the ball was not an option late in the game. White is also a huge presence in Buffalo’s strategy of taking Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill out of the gameplan for KC. Without him, it is going to be difficult to body those two, along with the other Chiefs receiving threats that have emerged in recent weeks. 

In Kansas City, a lot has changed. The first time these two teams played, Daniel Sorensen played every defensive snap at free safety and gave up 2 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Chris Jones missed the game with a wrist injury. Charvarius Ward was inactive. Frank Clark started and played well, but it was his first game back from a hamstring injury. It was Willie Gay’s first game off the IR. Jarran Reed only played 27 snaps. All 4 of these defenders, plus Melvin Ingram who was added at the trade deadline and a catalyst for the Chiefs now vaunted pass rush late in the season, will be healthy and active against Buffalo on Sunday. Sorensen has been (for the most part) shifted into a most situational role that fits his abilities much, much better by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith had just 4 NFL starts under their belt when they took the field in October, and Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown had 4 with the Chiefs. That is a unit that has gone from a question mark to the most dominant in the league. Make no mistake about it – the Chiefs invested a lot of resources (both cash and draft capital) into their offensive line after the result of Super Bowl 55, and it has paid off for them immensely. A defensive front 7 featuring Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Melvin Ingram, Nick Bolton, Willie Gay, and Anthony Hitchens is much more daunting for the Bills offensive line than Frank Clark, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton, Mike Danna, Ben Niemann, Anthony Hitchens, and Nick Bolton. While the latter provide depth and will contribute, there is a distinct difference in what the Chiefs will sport up front against the Bills on Sunday compared to what was trotted out in early October. 

While the same two clubs with take the field against each other on Sunday that shared the same field in October, the players who will be clashing will be much different. Both quarterbacks are susceptible to questionable play when pressured. We’ve seen it with Mahomes early in the year, and Allen has been consistently erratic when he is contained and knocked down. Against New England, Allen had time to throw the ball. I do not see that happening against this version of the KC defensive front. When the two best teams in the AFC (and possibly the NFL) take the field on Sunday, they will both be ready to bring everything they have up their respective sleeves to end the other’s season. They key to this, which we will dive into deeper later in the week, will be who wins the battle up front on both sides of the ball. The quarterbacks will be the story, but the play in the trenches will be the reason that one of these two teams move on to the AFC Championship.  

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Rumors Statistics

Patrick Mahomes vs Joe Burrow Season Comp. 15 games each.

Passing Yards

Mahomes: 4310

Burrow – 4165

Mahomes Passing TD’s 33

Burrow – 30

INT’s:

Mahomes – 13

Burrow- 14

Comp. %:

Mahomes – 66.1%

Burrow – 69.9%

Rushing Yards:

Rushing Yards Mahomes – 302 w/ 2

Burrow – 108 w/ 2 TD’s

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don’t make me throw the no look perfectly > LIKE I ALWAYS DO!!!
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Everybody wants to be like Pat (insert line from Bad Boys) He is good, but no Mahomes.

Patrick Mahomes has had an off season, if you consider these numbers “off” A brand new revamped O line, new WRs, lost a WR, a new baby, outside distractions, head coach becoming ill, a certain offensive coach (not Andy) taking away his ability to play his game that made him the most dangerous QB in the game, but yet he still put up numbers that EVERY other starting QB or otherwise only dream of. NEVER DOUBT THIS MAN’S ABILITY, GENERATIONAL TALENT OR HEART!!!!! And remember, the Chiefs had the 11th toughest schedule in the league this season!

We are the most fortunate fan base in the NFl to have him. All the talk and chatter by the so called “experts” were shut down not only by Patrick, the entire team strepped up.

We have the best of the best and will for a very long time!

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Eric Bienemy Rumor Mill Update

Denver Broncos coach search: Eric Bieniemy, Nathaniel Hackett in mix

We reported on Monday that the current Chiefs offensive coordinator would certainly be taking on a new role with a different team in 2022, here’s an update on how that is progressing.

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

On Monday numerous outlets reported what we knew on Sunday – that the Denver Broncos had requested permission to speak to Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy about their head coaching vacancy left after the firing of Vic Fangio on Sunday. Since then EB’s name has come up, as expected, in numerous coaching search conversations and rumors – both for head coaching roles, and offensive coordinator positions around the league. Let’s dive in to who’s interested and what steps have been taken by each franchise. 

Minnesota Vikings 

The Vikings fired Mike Zimmer on Black Monday, leaving their head coaching vacancy wide open. Sources have told us that Minnesota is eyeballing Bienemy as Zimmer’s replacement, requesting an interview and being fairly open about him being the “front runner” for the job at the moment. Bienemy would inherit an offensive football team with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen, with a decision to make on whether or not Kirk Cousins is indeed the quarterback of the future in the Twin Cities. 

Miami Dolphins 

Some reports are listing Bienemy as the favorite for the Dolphins job as well, and they have requested an interview, but given Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ track record, this might be a long shot. Ross is notorious for setting up interviews simply to meet all requirements under the league’s “Rooney Rule” for minority coaching candidates. Our sources have gone as far as to say that Ross hired Brian Flores initially because he knew there would be draft compensation coming his way eventually. 

New York Giants 

The Giants have yet to formally request an interview with Bienemy, but have certainly kicked the tires and will request one in the coming days. The last couple head coaching hires the Giants have made with offensive backgrounds have not panned out (Ben McAdoo and Pat Schurmur) but Bienemy’s resume as an offensive coordinator and the results he’s (helped) produce have been far superior to both McAdoo and Schurmur. 

Anonymous West Coast team 

In the past 2 days there have been murmurs from a team on the west coast (cannot release the information yet, as they have not made a decision on their current head coaching situation) that there is interest there in Bienemy. Rumors are that the team is considering whether or not to retain their current coach, the coach is contemplating retirement, and if they do keep him and he decides to stay, the likelihood of Bienemy accepting a role as offensive coordinator with a “Head Coach in Waiting” tag. There is a lot to pan out with this scenario, and we will keep you up to speed as we know more. 

Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Football Team 

These three squads are in the market for new offensive coordinators, and Bienemy is squarely on their radar. To our knowledge, no formal requests have been made at this point, but should Bienemy not land a head coaching job, one of these three teams would be a likely landing spot for him next season, as Mike Kafka is poised to be the next offensive coordinator in Kansas City. 

Check back for more updates as the week progresses. As is the case with all scenarios of this nature, the information is always changing and evolving. We will keep the Kingdom up to speed in real time as updates come our way.

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Breaking News Rumors

Eric Bienemy Rumor Mill Update

Seahawks hiring Eric Bieniemy as OC and future HC would make sense

We reported on Monday that the current Chiefs offensive coordinator would certainly be taking on a new role with a different team in 2022, here’s an update on how that is progressing.

chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

On Monday numerous outlets reported what we knew on Sunday – that the Denver Broncos had requested permission to speak to Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy about their head coaching vacancy left after the firing of Vic Fangio on Sunday. Since then EB’s name has come up, as expected, in numerous coaching search conversations and rumors – both for head coaching roles, and offensive coordinator positions around the league. Let’s dive in to who’s interested and what steps have been taken by each franchise. 

Minnesota Vikings 

The Vikings fired Mike Zimmer on Black Monday, leaving their head coaching vacancy wide open. Sources have told us that Minnesota is eyeballing Bienemy as Zimmer’s replacement, requesting an interview and being fairly open about him being the “front runner” for the job at the moment. Bienemy would inherit an offensive football team with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen, with a decision to make on whether or not Kirk Cousins is indeed the quarterback of the future in the Twin Cities. 

Miami Dolphins 

Some reports are listing Bienemy as the favorite for the Dolphins job as well, and they have requested an interview, but given Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ track record, this might be a long shot. Ross is notorious for setting up interviews simply to meet all requirements under the league’s “Rooney Rule” for minority coaching candidates. Our sources have gone as far as to say that Ross hired Brian Flores initially because he knew there would be draft compensation coming his way eventually. 

New York Giants 

The Giants have yet to formally request an interview with Bienemy, but have certainly kicked the tires and will request one in the coming days. The last couple head coaching hires the Giants have made with offensive backgrounds have not panned out (Ben McAdoo and Pat Schurmur) but Bienemy’s resume as an offensive coordinator and the results he’s (helped) produce have been far superior to both McAdoo and Schurmur. 

Anonymous West Coast team 

In the past 2 days there have been murmurs from a team on the west coast (cannot release the information yet, as they have not made a decision on their current head coaching situation) that there is interest there in Bienemy. Rumors are that the team is considering whether or not to retain their current coach, the coach is contemplating retirement, and if they do keep him and he decides to stay, the likelihood of Bienemy accepting a role as offensive coordinator with a “Head Coach in Waiting” tag. There is a lot to pan out with this scenario, and we will keep you up to speed as we know more. 

Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Football Team 

These three squads are in the market for new offensive coordinators, and Bienemy is squarely on their radar. To our knowledge, no formal requests have been made at this point, but should Bienemy not land a head coaching job, one of these three teams would be a likely landing spot for him next season, as Mike Kafka is poised to be the next offensive coordinator in Kansas City. 

Check back for more updates as the week progresses. As is the case with all scenarios of this nature, the information is always changing and evolving. We will keep the Kingdom up to speed in real time as updates come our way.

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Rumors

Eric Bienemy Rumor Mill

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News broke yesterday (from our Chief JP) that the Broncos had an interest in interviewing Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bienemy for their Head Coach opening.

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus  Charles Robinson @CRob5769

Please do not take the photo above as a tease about what might happen in regards to Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy. The sun is literally setting on EB’s time as Chiefs offensive coordinator, regardless of whether he becomes the next head coach of the Denver Broncos. 

JP got the insight on this on Sunday afternoon, and several sources on Twitter are late to the party reporting it today. The Broncos have asked permission from the Chiefs to interview Eric Bienemy for their head coaching vacancy left by yesterday’s firing of Vic Fangio. And it makes sense. To Denver, they are looking at the guy who they see as responsible for KC’s historic offensive performance over the past 4 seasons – or, essentially, the entirety of Patrick Mahomes career. While Bienemy has been a large part of sculpting the Chiefs rushing principles since his arrival in Kansas City alongside Andy Reid in 2013, the offense is hardly a feather that can be placed in his cap. Has he been a fantastic players coach? Yes. Have there been times when everyone in the offensive room haven’t seen eye to eye, and questioned certain approaches to play calling? Yes. Is this an ugly breakup? It depends on who you ask, but for the most part – no. 

The Chiefs signed Bienemy to a 1 year contract extension after the head coaching carousel of 2021 ended. This was done with the mutual understanding that Bienemy’s time as Chiefs offensive coordinator would be done following the 2021 regular season/2022 postseason. Whether the Broncos sign Bienemy as their head coach, or he ends up as the lead man for any of the other NFL franchises looking for head coaches (as of right now, that would be Miami, Chicago, Minnesota, and Jacksonville), his time as the Chiefs offensive coordinator will conclude with the Chiefs season, if not sooner. Bienemy will not be back to coach the team in 2022. Denver does seem like a good fit, considering EB had a historic career during his playing days at the University of Colorado. Bienemy still holds the Buffalos all time career records in rushing yards (3,940), all-purpose yards (4,351), and touchdowns (42). Buffs fans endearingly referred to EB as “Scooter” during his playing days, and in 1990 he finished third in Heisman Trophy voting while leading the Buffalos to a national championship. To say his roots in Colorado are deep would be an understatement. 

So, who does that leave to fill the position for Kansas City? There is only one correct answer to this question. Mike Kafka. The Chiefs current quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator has been an Andy Reid disciple since Reid drafted him as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2010. Kafka has been on the Chiefs coaching staff since 2017, first as an offensive quality control coach – helping mentor a rough around the edges rookie quarterback by the name of Patrick Mahomes – and as quarterbacks coach since 2018. Kafka did brief stints with the Patriots, Jags, Bucs, Vikings, Titans, and Bengals as a player, but for the most part his only time away from Coach Reid was in 2016 when he served as an offensive GA for his alma mater Northwestern. 

Chiefs Kingdom will always remember Eric Bienemy fondly, but all good things eventually come to an end. As we watch the final chapter of the Eric Bienemy story unfold, it is time to look forward to the Mike Kafka era of Chiefs offensive football. The man behind the curtain should be able to, in conjunction with Andy Reid’s unparalleled offensive mind, lead an offense that continues to evolve and improve. 

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Wild Card Weekend First Look : Chiefs Prepare to Host Steelers for Second Time This Season

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates the touchdown with his teammates during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, December 26, 2021 in Kansas City.

In a rematch of a week 16 showdown that the Chiefs won comfortably 36-10, KC opens their 2022 Playoff run at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. 

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

News & Notes

  • AFC 7 Seed Pittsburgh Steelers @ AFC 2 Seed Kansas City Chiefs 
  • Steelers enter having won their final two regular season games against division rivals Cleveland and Baltimore to clinch a playoff berth 
  • Losses by the Colts (vs. Jacksonville) and Ravens (vs. Steelers) assisted Pittsburgh’s playoff berth
  • KC comes in off of a road win over division rival Denver and having won 9 out of their last 10 regular season games 

Well, we’ve finally made it. The regular season has wrapped up with a roller coaster of a week 18, and the Kansas City Chiefs are set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday at 7:15 PM central time. This is the second meeting between the two teams in four weeks, the first a 36-10 drumming of the Steelers that saw Patrick Mahomes throw for 258 yards and 3 TD, and the Chiefs defense suffocate an overwhelmed Steelers offense. The Chiefs defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice, held Najee Harris under 100 yards rushing, forced two fumbles (both turnovers) and an interception en route to a convincing win over the AFC North runner up. Kansas City will need to dial up more of the same on Sunday in order to move on to the divisional round. 

While the Chiefs were impressive offensively and defensively in the first matchup, they did so without key contributors on each side of the ball as well as special teams. Travis Kelce, Nick Bolton, and Harrison Butker were unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.  But in preparing for this game without their star tight end, middle linebacker, and kicker, KC found balance offensively to the tune of 9 pass catchers recording receptions, 7 of those with multiple catches, and adapted well to the running back by committee approach when Clyde Edwards-Helaire exited the game with a shoulder contusion. Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore emerged as a more than reliable duo out of the backfield, and guys like Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, Blake Bell, and Noah Grey stepped up big at times when their numbers were called. 

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Chiefs heading into this game – namingly around defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his decision making in both personnel and schematic matters. The Chiefs will need to find the version of their defense that pulled them through their 8 game winning streak in order to make a run deep into the 2022 playoffs. Pittsburgh will be a tough out, but there are much more difficult tests to be taken by this team in order to make their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. There are a number of matchups, strengths and weaknesses, and other variables to assess going into Sunday, and we’ll have daily coverage here at Chiefs Focus. Playoff football is back in Arrowhead this weekend, and we are here to keep the Kingdom informed!

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Breaking News News Rumors

Week 18 Reactions : Chiefs Extend Winning Streak vs. Broncos

Chiefs extend their reign over Broncos, escaping with 28-24 win to put  pressure on Titans for AFC's top seed – The Athletic

Following a 28-24 win over the Denver Broncos in the season finale, and a wild slate of early games on Sunday, the Chiefs prepare for a Wild Card round rematch. 

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

News & Notes

  • Chiefs 28, Broncos 24
  • The win extends the Chiefs winning streak over their division rival to 13 games 
  • Broncos coach Vic Fangio was fired Sunday following the loss – in 3 seasons with the Broncos Fangio went 7-9, 5-11, and 7-10 this year. He was 0-6 against the Chiefs. 
  • Tyreek Hill (heel) and Darrell Williams (toe) were banged up in Saturday’s game and their play was limited. We will monitor their status as the week progresses. 
  • With the Titans 28-25 win over the Houston Texans, the Chiefs are locked in to the AFC’s number 2 playoff seed, and will play next weekend in the Wild Card round. 

It’s very hard to look back on Saturday’s game with so much going on across the league today. While Chiefs Kingdom hitched their wagons to the Texans for their upset attempt against the Titans – one that almost came to fruition – the real Cinderella story of the day came from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags, behind a stout defensive performance, beat up on the Indianapolis Colts and with a Steelers victory over the Baltimore Ravens in a rainy overtime affair in Baltimore, the Colts and Ravens were both ousted from playoff contention. 

There is some more shuffling to be done with the remaining seeds in the AFC – at the moment, the Bills lead the Jets and the Dolphins are trouncing the Patriots, which would give the Bills the 3 seed and the AFC East championship, and we still have to see what happens in the Raiders Chargers game tonight. But from the looks of things, the Chiefs will be taking on the Steelers at home next weekend in a rematch of a week 16 matchup that saw the Chiefs blow the Steelers out without Travis Kelce, Nick Bolton, and Harrison Butker. There is a chance the Chiefs could get a third matchup with the Raiders, but that would require the Chargers and Raiders game tonight to end in a tie. 

But let’s take a second to travel back in time before today’s games get too much crazier. I’ll start by saying that the Chiefs last night looked like their focus was not the Denver Broncos. It’s tough to blame them, with the playoffs imminent coupled with the uncertainty of whether or not they would receive a bye in the first round, it would be pretty easy to look past a game that you should in theory breeze through. We have to remember – these guys are human. But the performance did not exactly stir up a good deal of confidence, particularly in how the team defended the run against Denver. The Broncos rushed for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns on the Chiefs, including 2 from backup quarterback Drew Lock. 

Andy Reid eluded to the fact that the Chiefs would rotate heavily on the defensive line on Saturday, and it played out that way in the game. The second line of Derrick Nnadi, Alex Okafor, Mike Danna, and Tershawn Wharton were on the field nearly as much as the starting battery of Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Jerran Reid, and Melvin Ingram, and played well for the most part. The rotation and lack of being able to “settle in” on the defensive front was likely a driving factor in the degree of success that the Broncos found in the ground game, but we have to expect that the fab 4 will see a healthier chunk of the snaps in postseason play. It is always, always good to have the second unit acclimated to real game reps, and they have certainly seen those in the few weeks leading into the playoffs.  

There was, however,  a lot left to be desired from the defensive play calling and personnel moves from Steve Spagnuolo for the second week in a row. On multiple occasions last night, on 3rd down and varied distances, the Chiefs defensive coordinator opted to have Anthony Hitchens, Ben Niemann, and Daniel Sorensen on the field instead of keeping Nick Bolton and Willie Gay on the field. Multiple times the Chiefs looked lost defensively in third down situations, missing tackles and generally appearing very reactive to what Denver was doing offensively – which, frankly, shouldn’t have been a surprise. Spags will without question have to sharpen his pencil heading into the playoffs. Even if the Chiefs get the Steelers in the Wild Card round, Najee Harris is a dangerous weapon and Big Ben can make some things happen with the stable of receivers that the Steelers have. The Chiefs can’t afford to look past another opponent, even if the divisional round promises the Chiefs either the Bills, Chargers, or Bengals (more than likely). Chris Jones also missed out on a $1.25 million incentive bonus by not registering a sack in last night’s game. He ends the regular season with 9, and ended last night without as much as a tackle. He will bring it in the playoffs, he always does, but that was not his best performance. 

Offensively, KC was pretty vanilla. A couple of bright spots showed up for the Chiefs, though, and could be a very promising sign moving into the postseason. With Tyreek Hill limited with a heel injury he suffered in warm ups, Mecole Hardman shined. The third year, much maligned wide out was targeted 11 times and had 8 catches for 103 yards – the first 100 yard receiving performance of his career. The Chiefs needed him to show up, and he did in a big way. After Darrell Williams was put on the shelf with some toe discomfort in the second quarter (more of a precautionary move, from our understanding), Derrick Gore and Jerrick McKinnon literally and figuratively took the ball and ran with it. McKinnon had 8 touches for 50 yards and a receiving TD, and Gore added 7 carries for 30 yards to help the Chiefs maintain a presence on the ground against a physical Denver front 7. But the real key to the Chiefs offense, and something that is incredibly encouraging for the Chiefs going into the playoffs, was the mobility of Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs QB racked up 324 total yards, including 54 on the ground on 9 rushing attempts, and kept the Denver defense guessing all night. Add two touchdowns through the air (the one to McKinnon, and another to ol reliable Travis Kelce), and Mahomes pushed his road record vs. divisional opponents in his career to 12-0. 

 For the second week in a row, a player whose name should not be a household name tried to drive the Kingdom crazy. Zayne Anderson, an undrafted free agent from BYU who was elevated from the practice on December 14th, committed another penalty that hurt the Chiefs immensely on special teams. Last week it was a hold on a Byron Pringle kick return that went to the house for a touchdown, this week it was a running into the punter call that kept a Broncos first half drive alive and ended in Drew Lock’s second rushing touchdown of the game. They say NFL stands for “Not For Long” pertaining to the length of players careers, and mistakes like this could turn your “career” into a very brief stint. Let’s hope the team cleans this up this week in practice, whether it’s with 39 or the next man up. 

We won’t avoid the elephant in the room in this game – Nick Bolton and Melvin Ingram were the heroes of the Kingdom’s Saturday night. In a game that didn’t give us much to get excited about, the timing of their game changing collaboration could not have been better. With 7:42 to go in the game, and the Broncos threatening another score at the Chiefs 9 yard line – potentially getting ready to go up 28-20, Ingram collided violently with Broncos running back Melvin Gordon, dislodged the football, and Nick Bolton did the rest. 91 yards later, Bolton’s touchdown return gave the Chiefs the 28-21 lead, and outside of a late Denver field goal the score wouldn’t change. The Chiefs had iced their 13th straight over the Broncos, and 9th win in their last 10 games in 2021.

As we mentioned up top, the Broncos announced this morning that they were parting ways with head coach Vic Fangio. Fangio compiled a 19-30 record with the Broncos in his 3 years with the franchise. Upon hiring Fangio, the former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator and renowned defensive mind, the Broncos plan was to attempt to minimize the “Mahomes” effect, and help to stimy the Chiefs offensive onslaught that had just begun to take the AFC West by storm. That clearly didn’t pan out, Fangio never beat the Chiefs, and now the Broncos will be on the search for their fourth head coach since 2016. It’s tough to build something when you’re constantly starting over, so it will be interesting to see which direction Denver turns from here. 

As for the Chiefs, now we wait. While it’s a high likelihood that the Chiefs will play the Steelers next weekend at Arrowhead, this has been a wild final day of the 2021 season, and anything is possible. If the Raiders and Chargers tie, we will play the Raiders next weekend. The date and time of next week’s matchup remains to be determined, we will update you all as the matchups and times are confirmed. 

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Donkey Week Honey Badger WPMOTY Hype Train

Chiefs Safety Tyrann Mathieu is in a tight race for the $25,000 donation to his charity that will come with winning the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year. 

Chiefs Focus @Chiefs Focus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

Everyone has seen this all over twitter over the past few weeks – hashtags and twitter handles of NFL players in the running for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Kansas City Chiefs players are no stranger to this award. The Chiefs franchise shares the record for the most players to win the WPMOY with 5. The Chicago Bears also have 5. Past Chiefs winners include : 

  • Willie Lanier – 1972
  • Len Dawson – 1973
  • Derrick Thomas – 1993
  • Will Shields – 2003
  • Brian Waters – 2009

Obviously the five players mentioned above were great players – all are in the Chiefs hall of fame, and all but Brian Waters are in the NFL hall of fame. So Mathieu could be in great company not just in Chiefs history, but NFL history as a player and for his efforts to improve Kansas City and other communities that have been a part of his journey in life. For those unaware, Mathieu was nominated for his community work stemming from his charity, the Tyrann Mathieu foundation. The mission statement of his foundation, from it’s official website, says Mathieu established his foundation to impact the lives of financially disadvantaged children and youth through encouragement, opportunities and resources to achieve their dreams in Kansas City and his hometown of New Orleans. The programs include the Tyrann Mathieu Techzone – state of the art Honey Badger themed tech academic centers geared to provide financially disadvantaged kids resources they need, Tyrann’s Backpack Giveaway, Heart of a Badger Youth Camps where Mathieu partners with Hard Count Athletics to provide children in New Orleans a safe, productive, and uplifting environment to develop their football skills, and probably the most regonizable program – Tyrann’s Turkeys. In partnering with the Giving Hope KC Food Pantry, Mathieu has provided Thanksgiving turkeys to over 500 area families in each of his years in Kansas City. 

It’s always fun to watch number 32 fly around the field every Sunday and make plays for the Chiefs, but it’s incredible to sit back and consider the impact that Mathieu has on not just the Kansas City community, but also his hometown of New Orleans. They don’t make many like Tyrann Mathieu. Make sure to support out own and continue to vote for him for Walter Payton Man of the Year. You can do so by tweeting and retweeting the hashtag #WPMOYChallenge and Mathieu’s twitter handle @Mathieu_Era.

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Week 18 Preview : Chiefs (11-5) vs. Broncos (7-9)

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 17:  Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs enroute to scoring a third-quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos as Davontae Harris #27 of the Denver Broncos attempts to cover the play at Empower Field at Mile High on October 17, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Chiefs go for the season sweep and their 13th consecutive victory over all against the Broncos in the regular season finale in Denver. 

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

Date: Saturday January 8 | Time: 3:15 PM CST
Location: Empower Field at Mile High Stadium (Denver,CO)
TV: ESPN, ESPN+, ABC | Radio : 106.5 The Wolf
Odds: Chiefs -10.5, O/U 45

The last time the Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs was September 17, 2015. Peyton Manning threw two touchdowns to Emmanuel Sanders, and Jamaal Charles rushed for 125 yards and a score before fumbling a carry in the fourth quarter that would result in a Bradley Roby scoop and score that proved to be the final margin of victory for the Broncos. Since then, Peyton Manning has been enshrined in Canton, we are on our third President (including Barack Obama, who was in office when this game took place), and the Chiefs have won 12 straight games over the Broncos. Today’s contest will wrap up a regular season of highs and low for the Chiefs, most recently highlighted by a wildly frustrating loss to the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals last week in Cinci. The loss dropped the Chiefs to 11-5 on the year, and the 2 seed in the AFC.  

While last week’s narrow 3 points defeat to a fellow division champion is nowhere near the low point of this season – think back to the Bills and Titans games if you want some real gut punches – it did provide one of the bigger playoff implications for the team thus far this season. Every game is weighted equally in the NFL, that’s why they play them all, but a loss that late in the season in a “control your own destiny” scenario can be disgruntling to both a team and a fanbase. Lucky for the Chiefs, the loss comes on the cusp of a game against a longtime rival who over the last 5.5 years has been the cure for what’s ailing the Chiefs.  The contest does come at a time where the Chiefs have several questions to answer heading into a postseason where there are uncomfortably familiar parallels to last season in the injuries on the offensive line, signs that their top playmakers have been slowed in recent weeks – particularly Tyreek Hill, and 2 of 3 games where a majority of their secondary has been exposed by big passing days from opposing quarterbacks (Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow). 

But here’s the good news. Throughout all of the highs and lows, the doubts, the concerns – the Chiefs are still winners of 8 of their last 9, have the 3rd ranked passing offense, 3rd ranked offense in total yards, and 4th ranked scoring offense in the NFL, and a defense that has gone from 32nd in the league in scoring to 13th after allowing 34 points to the Bengals in week 17. There is far more good going on in Kansas City leading into the team’s attempt at a third consecutive AFC Championship and Super Bowl berth than there is bad, and with a win in Denver today, coupled with a Titans loss to the Texans tomorrow the Chiefs could find themselves again with the top seed in the AFC and the AFC playoffs assured to go through Arrowhead Stadium. Also, the obvious – the Chiefs still have Patrick Mahomes under center. 

Mahomes looks to add to his undefeated record overall against the Broncos and his undefeated road record against all AFC West opponents in his career on Saturday. But how does he get this done today? Let’s take a look at the offensive and defensive keys to today’s season finale against fierce rivals. 

Offensively, the last time these two teams squared off the Chiefs offense didn’t do a whole lot to impress, although they didn’t really need to. KC’s offense only accounted for 1 touchdown (a 10 yard run by Mahomes), while Daniel Sorensen accounted for the other and Harrison Butker knocked in 3 field goals to tally up the Chiefs 22 point in week 13. One thing that stymied the Chiefs vaunted offensive attack in the matchup was the Broncos commitment to taking away Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The pair combined for 5 catches and 49 yards, which is by far their lowest single game combined total. Granted, the flow of this game was very, very odd. The Broncos had a drive in second quarter of that game that ate up 11 minutes of game clock and resulted in no points. That’s almost an entire quarter the KC offense was on the shelf. But, assuming Drew Lock has maintained his inability to produce drives like that, the Chiefs offense should see more of the field today, and in that you should see more of the supporting cast get opportunities to shine. It will be key in the passing game for Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman to show up today and take pressure off of Mahomes to try to find Kelce and Hill in double coverage. If they can get open and get to the 4-5 catch plateau each, the Chiefs passing game should fare much better than it did in week 13. 

But, I’ve been beating a drum all season long, and I am going to keep beating it even though the Chiefs are not playing in a stadium with a drum deck this weekend. Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore have to be integral parts of the offense. Obviously in the run game, but also in receiving the ball out of the backfield. These two will be the most important pieces of the Chiefs offensive gameplan today if we want to find success against a fairly stout Broncos defense, who is playing their Super Bowl today. Williams has been nothing short of spectacular this season in relief of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has missed multiple games with multiple injuries, and Gore has emerged as an exceptional change of pace back to compliment Williams bruising style. Both of these guys should touch the ball a minimum of 10 times today. Get behind Creed, Trey, and Joe and cram the ball down the heart of the Denver defense. They are a group that are dangerous on the edges, but with the angriness with which the Chiefs interior offensive line plays, they should dominate this matchup from the inside out. Also along the offensive front, Orlando Brown is expected to play after missing last week’s game with a calf strain, and Andrew Wylie is expected to start a right tackle as Mike Remmers continues to work towards a playoff return from the IR. Lucas Niang was officially placed on the season ending IR yesterday. 

Defensively, the Chiefs needs to bring more of the same. I mentioned that the Chiefs D has given up great performances and some points to Herbert and Burrow in 2 of the last 3 games, but I should have added an asterisk to both of those. Against the Chargers, the Chiefs were missing Chris Jones, Willie Gay, and L’Jarius Sneed – arguably the most important player at each level of the defense. Against the Bengals, well…Ja’Marr Chase had a game for the ages, and the replacement officiating crew that look completely lost kept 4 drives alive for the Bengals with questionable calls that ended up costing the Chiefs 3rd and 4th down stops and assisting the Bengals towards 20 additional points. That’s tough. I will say though, one thing I noticed last week that needs to be put in check by the KC coaching staff – we might not have gotten the calls we go in the second half had Rashad Fenton not been so blatantly outward in clapping, smiling, and yelling at the officials when they called him for legitimate pass interference penalties. Talking to your opponents is one thing, but when you start doing it to the refs the team is very clearly going to get targeted. 

The last time these two teams squared up the Chiefs defense was suffocating. Before the Broncos scored their lone touchdown with 7 minutes to go in week 13 (the score at the time was 22-3), here is how their drives panned out : 

1Q – 12:59 – Punt 

1Q – 6:04 – Punt 

1Q – 0:25 – FG 

2Q – 1:12 – Turnover on Downs 

3Q – 8:59 – Punt 

3Q – 2:17 – Interception 

4Q – 9:42 – Interception returned for TD 

The defense had 9 passes defensed and 8 QB hits on Teddy Bridgewater, but only 1 sack. One thing to watch for today will be Chris Jones. He’s 1 sack away from unlocking a $1.25 million incentive in his contract for this season. You would have to think that’s going to motivate the big man to get after Drew Lock a little bit today in Denver. If I’m Melvin Ingram and Jones hits the payday today, I’m subtly letting him know what I didn’t get for Christmas that was on my list – since Ingram has joined the Chiefs and Jones has moved back into his natural habitat full time, he has amassed 6 of his 9 sacks he has so far. So if you get paid, let Melvin wet the beak a little bit, Stone Cold. 

Like everyone else in Chiefs Kingdom, my mind is mostly on next week and who the Chiefs will square off against in the playoffs. While this week is a must win, and I am confident that Andy Reid and the Chiefs coaching staff have the players focused that direction, it’s tough to get too excited about a Saturday game with the Broncos. But it’s a good chance to get the grill fired up (even though it’s freezing in KC), drink some day beers on Saturday, and not worry about the Sunday scaries and Chiefs scaries in the same day. We can divide and conquer the weekend. And if the Chiefs can establish a physical presence on offense, have Byron and Mecole keep bringing it in the receiving game, and dial up more of the same defensive game planning they had against Denver the first time around, none of us should have to fret too much about the outcome of this Saturday game. One time, after I played a particularly bad game my junior year in high school, my head coach told me I had a decision to make – I could either sit there and mope and keep getting pissed on, or I could get pissed off. The Chiefs come out pissed off today, make an example of the Broncos, and give us all something to look forward to in the next 5 weeks. It’s going to be a fun ride. 

Chiefs 32, Broncos 9