There are many questions hanging in the air as we get set for the NFL Divisional Round of playoffs. One of the biggest has to do with Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who hasn’t been able to get over the hump in the postseason.
This year’s Chiefs team is undoubtedly talented enough to make it happen. Oddsmakers concur with that line of thinking, as the Chiefs are currently number two on the list of favorites to win Super Bowl LIII, behind the New Orleans Saints.
That said, the playoff field is loaded with contenders. Just getting out of the AFC is far from a sure thing for the Chiefs, and the team has been exposed on defense a number of times during the regular season. Did the Chiefs use the bye week wisely and shore up deficiencies on that end? Can we count on Reid and company to get the job done against a red-hot Colts team?
We’ll take a look at the answers to those questions and several more as we dig deep into Reid’s chances to finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Andy Reid has been the Chiefs head coach since 2013. Prior to that, he had a 14-year stint at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles. One does not remain gainfully employed as an NFL coach for such a lengthy stretch of time at both stops without bringing a lot to the table. Reid has had plenty of regular season success, as evidenced by his .611 winning percentage and 13 seasons with 10 wins or more.
Reid has delivered ten or more wins four out of five years, and his team has won the AFC West for the last three years. That doesn’t happen by accident. Reid is a fantastic regular season coach who has demonstrated a great gift for developing signal callers throughout his lengthy coaching career.
Unfortunately for Reid, that success hasn’t transferred over to the postseason, as he has an overall mark of 11-13. The Chiefs have made it to the playoffs four out of five times under Reid, but the team’s record in the second season is a dismal 1-4 over that span.
A Rough Postseason History
To get a full grasp on how tough of a time Reid has had in the playoffs on an overall basis, we have to go back to the early days of his tenure with the Eagles. After a 5-11 mark in his first season at the helm, the Eagles quickly improved and made it to the playoffs five straight years. The postseason record over that span was 6-5, but that doesn’t place the heartbreak into proper perspective.
The Eagles made it to the NFC Championship game three consecutive years from 2001 to 2003, but they fell short in that game each time. They would finally get over the hump in 2004 and advance to the Super Bowl versus the Patriots where they would fall by a score of 24-21. While a run of four straight appearances in the final four is undoubtedly impressive, this is where the rumblings of Reid not being able to push teams over the top began to take root.
The Eagles would make it to the playoffs four more times under Reid, reaching the conference title game once again in 2008, where they would fall to the Cardinals. Reid’s postseason record for those four runs is 3-4, bringing his total playoff record during his Eagles tenure to 10-9. Reid and the Eagles parted ways after 2012, but he wasn’t looking for work for long.
He signed on as the head man for the Chiefs, a team which has contended every year under his watch. The team has made the postseason in four of his first five years, racking up a playoff record of 1-4. The Chiefs are back in the dance this year, and the general expectation is that they’ll go much further this time around.
This Year’s Chiefs Team
The Chiefs burst out of the gates with a mark of 5-0 to start the year. Second-year pro Patrick Mahomes was handed the keys to the offense from the get-go, and let’s just say that proved to be a wise decision. The Chiefs scored at least 38 points in their first three games, and followed that up with 27 and 30 points in the following two weeks.
The team was dished a little comeuppance at the hands of the Patriots the week after that, as they fell by a score of 43-40 points. This is where one of the big flaws of this year’s Chiefs team was exposed for all to see. They can score on anyone, but they also have far too tough of a time stopping opponents who can also get it done on offense.
The team put up another 40-spot on the Raiders the following week, but the league as a whole began to shift down the stretch run. In the beginning of the year, rule changes which were clearly skewed towards generating more offense had the desired impact, and video game-like numbers were prevalent. Defenses adapted as the season got long in the tooth, and teams that were having an offensive field day in the first half of the year found that points weren’t so easy to come by any longer.
The Chiefs produced plenty over the final month – their lowest output was 28 points over that span – but it began to become clear that outscoring opponents into submission was no longer a viable strategy. That’s partially why the Chiefs went from a team with a record of 9-1 to one that went 3-3 down the stretch to finish 12-4. A 12-win season is undoubtedly impressive, but those who subscribe to the theory that teams need to be playing their best at the tail end of the season as opposed to the beginning are having doubts about the Chiefs overall strength.
The Current Playoff Picture
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Despite the middling finish of 3-3, the Chiefs were still able to secure the #1 seed in the AFC. That gave the team last weekend off, and they got to watch a solid Wild Card weekend of football along with the rest of us. In the two AFC tilts, road underdogs ruled the day. The Colts went to Houston and took the Texans out to the woodshed on Saturday, while the Chargers had their way with the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.
That sets up a pair of incredibly interesting AFC Divisional Round contests for this weekend which match up the top two seeds in the conference versus Wild Card squads. The Chargers have been rewarded for their efforts with a trip to Foxboro to take on the defending AFC champion Patriots, while the Chiefs will be welcoming a red-hot Colts team to Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
As the Chiefs were lighting up the league in the early part of the season, the Colts were struggling their way to a start of 1-5. The flip was switched in dramatic fashion from that point, as the Colts closed out the regular season on a 9-1 run. They clinched a playoff berth in Week 17 with a victory over the Titans, and they entered last week’s tilt with the Texans as 2-point underdogs.
We should see some fluctuation between now and game time, but the bottom line is that the Chiefs will be favored by more than a field goal at kickoff. As the #1 seed in the AFC, the Chiefs are expected to take care of business at home and advance to the conference championship game.
As we saw last week, what should happen and what actually occurs are not necessarily the same thing. The Chiefs deserve to be favored over the Colts, but make no mistake about it: the visitors are live dogs who could absolutely walk off the field with a win.
The stage is set for the Chiefs to make some serious noise in the postseason. They will not have to leave Kansas City for the playoffs, and they are the current favorites to win the AFC. Will Reid and the Chiefs live up to expectations, or is this destined to be yet another disappointing postseason run for Reid to include on his resume?
Kansas City clearly have the offensive chops to get the job done, but that comes with a caveat. Defensive play has improved across the league down the stretch, and the Colts are one of the teams who have really stepped it up. Highlights over the team’s impressive recent play include a shutout victory over the Cowboys, and holding the AFC South champion Texans to seven points in the playoff opener.
The Chiefs have shown some signs of improvement over the second half of the year, but that also comes with an asterisk. Five of their final six opponents scored 24 points or more. The lone outlier over that time frame came in Week 17’s dominating 35-3 victory over a listless Raiders team.
Add it all up, and it’s clear that the Chiefs have their work cut out for them to reach the Super Bowl, let alone make it out of the AFC. We can’t rule out the team surviving this weekend and living to fight another day, but this postseason looks like it will end with another playoff defeat for Reid to add to his record.