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For about 24 hours — or however much time had passed before the new SpyGate controversy started Monday — we heard all about the New England Patriots losing Sunday night’s game. How their offense wasn’t very good, that Tom Brady is slipping, that officiating fiascos are taking center stage, and how their chances to get the No. 1 seed were all finished.
Not mentioned very often in that that hubbub was that the Kansas City Chiefs won.
Sunday’s result was not all about the Patriots. The Chiefs came into this season as a hot pick to win a Super Bowl, then they started a little slow and fell off the radar a bit. They need to be back on the short list of contenders.
The Chiefs still have a remarkable offense. The defense played well Sunday. Lamar Jackson is clearly the MVP this season but it’s also fair to call Patrick Mahomes the best player in the NFL. And only one team has defeated the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens this season.
The best team in the AFC this season is the Ravens. It’s really hard to deny that, or find any reason they won’t win two games in January. Except that the best team often doesn’t win in the playoffs.
The Chiefs are one of the teams capable of winning a couple games on the road in the playoffs (assuming the Patriots end up getting the No. 2 seed, and perhaps we shouldn’t assume that yet). Last season everything was set up for the Chiefs to make a Super Bowl for the first time since the 1969 season, and they couldn’t do it. Kansas City’s playoff history is heartbreaking. But maybe they weren’t quite ready last season, when the Patriots bested them in overtime of the AFC title game. Sometimes those losses can lead to better days. Ask the Peyton Manning Colts, for example.
The Chiefs are on a three-game winning streak, and the offense hasn’t really been the driving force. They’re averaging 305 yards per game over the last three, which isn’t much for them. But the defense has allowed 17, 9 and 16 points against the Chargers, Raiders and Patriots. That’s a nice streak. And you have to assume the offense will come alive again. It did pretty well against a very tough Patriots defense.
Assuming Mahomes feels good — he has been banged up all season — then Kansas City feels like the type of team nobody would want to play. All Andy Reid jokes aside, the Chiefs are one of the best-coached teams in the NFL. The offense can still outscore anyone when it’s right. Mahomes has the ability to absolutely carry his team through the playoffs. And Kansas City has a few more weeks to gain momentum.
The Chiefs were in a great spot to finally make a Super Bowl last season, and broke the hearts of their fans again. But don’t sleep on them this postseason. Maybe they just needed to go through one more ridiculous loss before getting over the hump.
Here are the Power Rankings after Week 14 of the NFL season:
32. Cincinnati Bengals (1-12, Last Week: 32)
It’s still interesting to see if A.J. Green plays this season. I’m not sure there’s a reason for him to return, but it’s weird we haven’t seen him weeks after it was anticipated he’d be ready to go. We’ll see.
31. New York Giants (2-11, LW: 31)
Everyone was rooting for Eli Manning to pull off a game-winning drive at the end of Monday night’s game right? Even though it didn’t happen, it was still fun to see Manning giving us a few more fun moments.
30. Washington Redskins (3-10, LW: 30)
It’s so tough to see Derrius Guice go down with another injury. He is exceptionally talented but just can’t seem to catch a break.
29. Detroit Lions (3-9-1, LW: 29)
Here’s Matt Patricia after another loss on Sunday: “We don’t look at our record and say, ‘That’s who we are.’ We look at our record and say, ‘That’s not who we are.’” That sounds like someone who doesn’t want anyone to look at his two-year record with the Lions. Detroit has had injuries and that counts in the evaluation, but if Patricia is back for a third season it isn’t based on anything tangible we’ve seen to this point.
28. Miami Dolphins (3-10, LW: 26)
If Brian Flores gets fined for his outburst, it’s money well spent. First of all, he was right: That was a frustrating reversal on the pass interference call and it cost the Dolphins a game. Also, Dolphins players have to respect a coach who will fight for them like that. Flores isn’t tanking.
27. New York Jets (5-8, LW: 27)
It took way too long for the Jets to get around to using Robby Anderson like they are now, but better late than never. They should sign him before he becomes a free agent next year, to let him grow with Sam Darnold. But this is the Jets we’re talking about.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9, LW: 25)
The Jaguars have a strange offseason coming up. It could end up being a complete sweep of the organization. Doug Marrone hasn’t really done enough to return as head coach. VP of football operations Tom Coughlin has made numerous missteps. Then what would a new regime think about a roster that does have a few good players, but desperately needs some big changes to compete?
25. Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1, LW: 24)
David Johnson got a bump in playing time, but it was still just 21 snaps and he worked behind Kenyan Drake. If Johnson remains buried behind Drake, isn’t that a sign the Cardinals might try to move on from Johnson and re-sign 2020 free agent Drake as their featured back?
24. Carolina Panthers (5-8, LW: 20)
If rookie third-round pick Will Grier doesn’t get a start at quarterback before the end of the season, that surely will seem like a wasted draft pick. But most mid-round quarterback picks are wastes, and teams keep flushing them on draft day.
23. Atlanta Falcons (4-9, LW: 28)
Vic Beasley had two sacks on Sunday. He has 4.5 sacks over Atlanta’s last five games. Of all the players in the 2020 free-agent class, Beasley might be the toughest evaluation. We know what he can do at his peak, and someone will pay big for a pass rusher with that top-end ability. But can he consistently be that guy?
22. Los Angeles Chargers (5-8, LW: 23)
Austin Ekeler is on pace for 1,000 receiving yards. He has been a heck of a revelation for the Chargers, and he probably should have been playing way more snaps than Melvin Gordon even after Gordon’s holdout ended.
21. Oakland Raiders (6-7, LW: 16)
Jon Gruden promised changes to the defense after another horrible performance against the Titans. It’s not like the Raiders have a wealth of depth waiting in the wings, so who knows what Gruden means. It’s tough that the season has turned sour, because the good things from the first half of the season might be entirely forgotten by the time we get to the offseason.
20. Denver Broncos (5-8, LW: 22)
Drew Lock might never again play as well as he did on Sunday. But at this moment, the Broncos should be excited. Almost everything about Lock the past two games has been good. At very least, there shouldn’t be any quarterback questions this upcoming offseason.
19. Cleveland Browns (6-7, LW: 21)
The Browns won and their playoff odds, via Football Outsiders, barely moved. They’re still just 5.4 percent to make the postseason, because the Steelers and Titans got wins too. And then they’ll face an interesting offseason answering the Odell Beckham question that is sure to dominate headlines.
18. Indianapolis Colts (6-7, LW: 14)
That loss probably ends the Colts’ playoff hopes, and that’s a shame because it was a fun story for a while. They’ll wonder if things would have been different with some better injury luck, especially with T.Y. Hilton.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7, LW: 18)
That was not a pretty game Monday night against the Giants, but give Carson Wentz and his teammates credit for battling after a rough first half. And hey, they’re still in the NFC East so they’re still alive.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7, LW: 19)
Jameis Winston is incredibly frustrating, but give him credit for what happened on Sunday as he led the Buccaneers to a comeback win despite a fractured thumb. You have to wonder, with free agency coming up, if we’ve seen the last of Winston this season. But that’s a question for later this week.
15. Dallas Cowboys (6-7, LW: 13)
At some point, what do you really have to lose by firing Jason Garrett now? It’s pretty clear the Cowboys are not going anywhere as is. They’re probably not going anywhere with an interim coach either, but it wouldn’t have hurt much to try.
14. Chicago Bears (7-6, LW: 17)
We know what’s happening right? Mitchell Trubisky is playing just well enough to end this season to make the Bears give him another season. Maybe that’ll work out as they hope. Maybe.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, LW: 15)
Devlin “Duck” Hodges has a 103.2 passer rating this season. He has been one of the NFL’s most surprising players, and looks like Joe Montana in his prime compared to what the Steelers were getting out of Mason Rudolph. If Hodges helps lead the Steelers to the playoffs, he’ll have the team wondering if perhaps they have Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement.
12. Houston Texans (8-5, LW: 9)
The Texans’ weird no-show against the Broncos puts them in some danger of missing the playoffs. The Titans are red hot and have two games left against Houston. If the Texans lose both, they lose the AFC South and the Steelers might pass them for the final wild-card spot. At very least, that was one damaging loss to the Broncos.
11. Los Angeles Rams (8-5, LW: 12)
He won’t get a lot of credit, but tight end Tyler Higbee has been a big part of the Rams’ resurgence. He has back-to-back 100-yard games with Gerald Everett out. Getting Jared Goff out of his funk and feeding Todd Gurley more are probably bigger factors, but Higbee looks like he needs an expanded role in 2020.
10. Tennessee Titans (8-5, LW: 11)
The Titans have the look of one of those teams nobody would want to play wild card weekend. This week’s meeting against the Texans, the first of two in the final three weeks, will be very interesting.
9. Buffalo Bills (9-4, LW: 8)
The Bills still seem like a sure bet for the No. 5 seed, and they should probably be rooting for the Texans to get the No. 4 seed. Houston seems like an easier matchup than the Chiefs or Titans.
8. Minnesota Vikings (9-4, LW: 10)
Don’t forget, the Vikings have been without receiver Adam Thielen for four games due to a hamstring injury. The team is hopeful he returns next week. That would be an enormous boost for an offense that still has done fairly well without him.
7. Seattle Seahawks (10-3, LW: 5)
Rashaad Penny’s ACL injury comes right as he was emerging as a big part of the offense. Chris Carson has been very good, but has also had a big workload this season and now the Seahawks don’t have much choice but to keep giving him the ball.
6. Green Bay Packers (10-3, LW: 7)
All the Packers have to do is beat the Bears and win at the Lions for their Week 16 game at Minnesota to not matter in the NFC North race. As Aaron Rodgers said, ugly wins are just fine (and Sunday’s slog against the Redskins certainly was ugly).
5. New England Patriots (10-3, LW: 4)
I’m not sure what exactly happened and most of the Patriots’ newest videotaping incident is a bad look at the very least. But I just can’t buy that the Patriots are so brazen they’d risk being caught filming the sideline of the 1-12 Bengals from the press box. It really doesn’t make much sense.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, LW: 6)
The one thing the Chiefs will have to figure out is a running game. Injuries have affected that. If Damien Williams returns healthy, that could be a big difference.
3. New Orleans Saints (10-3, LW: 4)
Sunday’s loss wasn’t ideal but as long as the Saints win out they can still get the No. 1 seed. They’ll be huge Seahawks fans in Week 17 — New Orleans has the tiebreaker over Seattle but not San Francisco — but they can still get exactly what they want out of the regular season.
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-2, LW: 3)
We all know what that win means for the 49ers, but for a moment, let’s just marvel at the game itself. That was one of the five best regular-season games this decade right? Amazing action between two really good teams. And do yourself a favor and read Terez Paylor’s recap of George Kittle’s phenomenal play that was the biggest in an epic contest.
1. Baltimore Ravens (11-2, LW: 1)
Lamar Jackson passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark against the Bills, and has 1,017 on the season. The record for a quarterback in a single season is 1,039 by Michael Vick. Even if Jackson sits in Week 17 he’s going to set a mark that might not be reached for a long time ... unless Jackson breaks it himself.
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