Ten days ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were dealt their first loss of the 2013 season by the Denver Broncos.
This past Sunday, having already tasted defeat, Kansas City was served a second heaping, heartbreaking helping on the late rally by Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
Is this Sunday’s home game against Denver a must-win for Kansas City?
Now clearly, Kansas City is sitting pretty as far as their playoff hopes go. The standings make it clear that unless they face a total system collapse, the chances of making the postseason are pretty good. Right now, Kansas City has the first wildcard berth with a.818 win percentage—a wildcard! The other AFC wildcard team, the Tennessee Titans, has a losing record. And, as ESPN’s Adam Teicher points out, Kansas City can officially lock up a playoff spot as early as Sunday.
But that involves the Chiefs defeating Denver in Kansas City’s home, Arrowhead Stadium. That involves Kansas City’s defense getting their hands on Denver QB Peyton Manning, namely linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali—the only line-backing duo in the National Football League with a combined 20 sacks. It involves Kansas City QB Alex Smith stepping up his passing game as the Chiefs’ running attack faces the Denver defense that has allowed the fifth-least rushing yards per game.
Sunday’s game is a must win for Kansas City for a few reasons. First, the Chiefs need to get off this skid. Yeah, losses happen, but it took more than half the season for the first one. The second one came right after. Now, instead of the pressure to keep the undefeated streak alive, Kansas City faces the pressure of getting back in the saddle; eventually, stopping the skid overshadows winning the game. Not a good mentality to have.
Kansas City also needs a win to take back the AFC West from the Broncos. It’s a psychological edge that will come in handy come playoff time. As one of only three AFC teams with eight wins or better, the 9-2 Chiefs can go a long way toward a Week One playoff bye with a win against Denver.
The Kansas City Chiefs can afford to lose this Sunday and still safely make the playoffs, but in some respects, this game is a must-win.