After Thursday night, Kansas City’s dominance of the AFC appears to be crumbling.
The Chiefs led the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium 28-14 (due in large part to Patrick Mahomes and Damien Williams greatly contributing to my fantasy team) with something like four minutes left in the game. After I took to Twitter to tweet about how Chargers fans should expect more of the same from Philip Rivers and their squad in the playoffs, Rivers led back-to-back touchdowns drives, with the last score coming with four seconds remaining. Rivers then hit Mike Williams for the two-point conversion, stealing the win 29-28 from the Chiefs.
Make no mistake about it, this was an epic choke by the Kansas City defense. At Arrowhead Stadium — arguably the toughest NFL stadium for a visiting team to play in — the Chiefs couldn’t protect a 14-point lead for four minutes against a Chargers team that hadn’t beaten them in five years, led by a quarterback who is having a tremendous season but is well known for choking in big games.
What Kansas City fans saw on Thursday night should terrify them straight to their very core.
Though the Chiefs have a top three offense in football, their defense is a colossal disaster, and that’s why I’m not sold on them winning the Super Bowl this year. You need something that at least resembles a defense to win playoff games, and Kansas City doesn’t have one.
After that meltdown, New England’s loss in Miami last week is looming incredibly large. Had the Patriots not lost the game on arguably the dumbest play of all time, they would only be a game behind the Chiefs right now with a game at Pittsburgh, then home games against the Bills and Jets to close the season. That could very well be a 3-0 finish, and it should be when you look at how poorly the Steelers have been playing in recent weeks.
Seeing as how the Pats own the tiebreaker over the Chiefs, and the Chiefs still have a very tough road game in Seattle coming up next week, everything could have come together perfectly for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to once again make the road to the Super Bowl come through Foxborough.
But since they failed once again to care of business in Miami, they would need some serious help for that to happen. They now have to simply hope for more failure from both the Chiefs and the Chargers in their final two games of the season. With the Chiefs losing on Thursday, they have an outside shot. But that’s exactly what it is: an outside shot, and I’m not sure it’s worth getting your hopes up for.
If you’re a New England fan, you should probably just plan on watching the Pats travel to either Kansas City or Los Angeles for the AFC Championship Game — that is assuming they don’t have another choke job or two down the road that keeps them from even getting that far. With this 2018 Patriots team, you never really know.
The lesson to take away from all this? Bad things happen when you can’t win games in south Florida. And yes, I’m probably still going to be going on about that stupid Dolphins game in March.
Let’s make some picks for Week 15.
(As always, home teams are in caps, and lines courtesy of OddsShark.com)
BRONCOS (-2.5) over Browns (Saturday night)
The Broncos pretty much need a win here to stay in the playoff hunt. Let’s ask an honest question though … if they can’t win a must-win game at home in December against Cleveland, a team that is 1-24 in its last 25 contests on the road, do the Broncos really deserve to make the playoffs?
JETS (+7) over Texans
Speaking of blown opportunities, Houston blew a huge one last week by losing to the Colts at home. A win there would’ve given them the edge over the Patriots after their Miami blunder, and would’ve kept them very much in the running for the AFC’s top seed.
They should beat the stinky Jets on Saturday, but they will be playing outdoors in a cold weather environment in December, and there is supposed to be rain — never a good recipe for an indoor and/or warm weather team (though Josh Rosen and the Cardinals might disagree). I might be crazy, but seven points seems a little too high.
BEARS (-5.5) over Packers
If you haven’t bought into this Bears team yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Any lingering doubts I had about them were cleared up last week. I’m convinced that if Mitchell Trubisky can complete just over half of his passes, only throw for 110 yards, throw three interceptions and just one touchdown, and the Bears can STILL beat the best team in football (Rams) by nine points, then there’s nothing they can’t do.
In 20 years, we might be putting the ’18 Bears side by side with the ’85 Bears. OK, that’s probably a stretch, but you get the point.
Dolphins (+7.5) over VIKINGS
All I can say is this: if the Dolphins don’t play a great game just seven days after Kenyan Drake scored the most ridiculous touchdown of the season to completely humiliate the Patriots to no end, I might go a little bit Norman Bates crazy. You might need to call my mother and have her lock me up in a mental institution.
The good news, however, is that this game has serious playoff implications for Minnesota as well, and you just know the $84 million dollar man Kirk Cousins isn’t going to come through in a big game. He’s a younger version of Tony Romo.
BILLS (-2.5) over Lions
Tough game to pick, so I will turn to fantasy implications to make a decision. My team is trying to reach our league’s championship game, and for some reason that I can’t quite figure out, I’m starting Buffalo’s defense again this week (probably because I don’t trust the Jaguars defense anymore).
That’s actually a pretty good way to make tough decisions in life as well. When you’re stumped about something, just look at how it will impact your fantasy football team. Sounds reasonable, right?
RAVENS (-7.5) over Buccaneers
If the Steelers lose to the Patriots on Sunday, the Ravens can take over first place in the AFC North with a win over the Bucs. Considering their defense played a solid game against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense last week, I like their chances.
Cardinals (+9.5) over FALCONS
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to “This Week’s Most Dreadful NFL Game” on FOX.
Raiders (+3) over BENGALS
And now, welcome to the sequel.
GIANTS (-1) over Titans
I was tempted to say that this was the third installment in the “This Week’s Most Dreadful NFL Game” franchise, but this game features Saquon Barkley, who is a fantasy football extraordinaire.
JAGUARS (-7.5) over Redskins
Believe me, I think Colin Kaepernick was a crummy NFL quarterback just as much as the next person. But at this point, the Redskins might as well go out on a limb and sign him as a last ditch effort to salvage their season. What do they have to lose? They are going to lose out with Mark Sanchez, followed by every Redskins fan in the greater D.C. area jumping off the Pentagon.
Cowboys (+3) over COLTS
The Cowboys defense is playing ridiculously well right now, and thus the Cowboys themselves are playing ridiculously well. They’ve rattled off five straight wins, including that stunning win over New Orleans back in Week 13, as well as last week’s overtime win against the Eagles which featured that freaky game-winning catch by Amari Cooper. It’s hard to go against a team that hot and that lucky.
PS: I know the Colts won an impressive game against Houston last week, but that 6-0 game they lost in Jacksonville two weeks ago really turned me off to them.
Seahawks (-3.5) over 49ERS
The Legion of Boom might be dead, but the Seahawks themselves are not. It’s amazing what Russell Wilson can do when you give him just a little bit of life. At 8-5, they are pretty much a lock for the first wild card in NFC, and that’s impressive because they didn’t look overly hot to start the season.
Additionally, Seattle has won 10 straight against the Niners. If they make it 11 this weekend, Richard Sherman might need a shoulder to cry on.
Patriots (-2.5) over STEELERS
I might be biased, but I don’t see why everybody is so high on the Steelers in this game. Is it because all four New England losses have been on the road this season? Is it because the Patriots were brutally and viciously victimized by the Miami Miracle last week? Are we forgetting that the Steelers have lost three straight, are on the verge of conceding the AFC North to a rookie quarterback who has started four games in the NFL? Are we forgetting that just a week ago they lost to the Jon Gruden Raiders, which in 2018 is pretty much the equivalent of losing to the Browns?
I don’t see it. After last week, the Pats know they have to play their best football. They come alive when they are backed up against the wall (and their backs are certainly up against a wall, because if they don’t win this game, they probably aren’t getting a first round bye). I don’t think Bill Belichick is going to give his players any choice but to play a good game on Sunday. The Pats are going to win, and the Steelers are going to eventually lose the AFC North and be forced to enter the playoffs as a wild card. You heard it here first.
Eagles (+12) over RAMS
Well, check this out. Carson Wentz might be out for the season, and the Eagles might be starting Nick Foles from here on out. Does this nightmare ever end?
I think Philly covers in this game, but here’s hoping the Rams win and puts an end to another Foles Super Bowl run before it can get started.
Saints (-6.5) over PANTHERS
I’ve been a Cam Newton fan for years, but I honestly think he’s reached the point in this season where he just doesn’t care anymore. The Panthers have lost five straight and it would pretty much take a miracle for them to make the playoffs now. I think the idea of actually playing hard and trying to win football games just seems pointless to Newton right now.
As talented as he is, I get the feeling that sooner or later we’re going to have to start asking ourselves whether or not Cam Newton can win the big one. If he never does, it wasn’t because he wasn’t good enough, or because his teams weren’t good enough.
Last week: 8-8
This week: 0-1