Kansas City (Mahomesland) is oblivious to the outside world today. The only thing which matters to most in the city of 460,000, and the metropolitan area of 2.5 million, is what will happen at Arrowhead Stadium starting at 1915 this evening.
For the uninitiated, the Kansas City Chiefs are having one of their best seasons of the 56 the team has played in the City of Fountains. The Chiefs are 11-2 heading into tonight’s game with the Los Angeles Chargers, and barring a collapse, will win the AFC West and have a first round bye in the playoffs.
Should the Chiefs win all three of their remaining games–Chargers tonight, at Seattle Dec. 23 and at home vs. Oakland Dec. 30–they will finish with their best regular season record in franchise history. Only once before have the Chiefs lost only two games in a regular season. That was 1968, when Kansas City and Oakland finished tied atop the American Football League’s West division at 12-2.
Tiebreakers were not in effect in the AFL in 1968. It wouldn’t have mattered, since the Raiders and Chiefs each beat the other in their home stadium during the regular season. Therefore, the Chiefs and Raiders had to play a third time for the West division championship, with the winner heading to New York to face Joe Namath’s Jets for the AFL berth in Super Bowl III.
As fate had it, the Chiefs lost the coin toss to determine the home team, so they had to jet to Oakland. Sure enough, the Raiders were lying in wait, and won 41-6. The Raiders lost 27-23 to the Jets in the AFL championship game, and…most football fans and those who aren’t football fans probably know the rest.
Due to the Chiefs not making the playoffs despite going 12-2 in 1968, the AFL allowed the second place teams in each division qualify for the playoffs in 1969, the last year before the merger with the NFL. Kansas City went 11-3 compared to Oakland’s 12-1-1 that season, and the Raiders won both meetings. However, with new life due to the expanded playoffs, the Chiefs took full advantage, winning in New York AND Oakland before rolling over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.
Back to the present. The Chiefs are on the verge of having the best record in the AFC for just the fourth time since the merger. Each time the Chiefs had that distinction, they lost in their first playoff game: 1971 to the Dolphins in the famous double overtime Christmas marathon, 1995 to the Colts, who had to win their last regular season game just to squeeze into the playoffs, and 1997 to the Broncos, who finally ended their Super Bowl hex when they defeated the Packers three weeks after.
Back to the present. The Chiefs NEED home field advantage in the playoffs (not counting the Super Bowl, which is in Atlanta), since Thomas Edward Brady and his New England Patriots are nearly invincible at Foxborough during the postseason. The Patriots won two AFC championship games in Pittsburgh in 2001 and ’04, but since then, they have failed to reach the Super Bowl when they have to travel in the postseason. Baltimore has won twice in Foxborough (2009 wild card, 2012 AFC Championship), but it is not worth pressing your luck if you’re Andy Reid.
If Kansas City wins tonight, it will need to only defeat Seattle or Oakland to clinch home field. The Seattle game is almost a throwaway, since it’s against an NFC team and has no bearing on tiebreakers. However, the Patriots have the won that counts the most, winning 43-40 over the Chiefs at Foxborough the night after my birthday.
Red is the color of the day. But instead of green, it’s complimented by gold.
I’m in my usual area of Kansas City near KCI. I want nothing to do with Interstate 70 today. Fans are being encouraged to arrive at Arrowhead by 1600 if at all possible, because after that, I-70 will be jammed with cars driving from downtown towards Interstate 435, and further east of the stadiums towards Independence and Blue Springs. Many downtown stadiums, such as the Superdome, don’t have as many traffic worries for weeknight games, since people are coming into downtown, but in Kansas City, it’s different, since the stadiums are 8 to 10 miles (14 to 22 km) east of downtown. Add in the fans who will be coming from Kansas, and it will add up to hell on the highways.
I’m tired. I might not make it to the end of the game. I don’t care who wins. I’m not a Chiefs fan. My loyalties lie with the team in my native city, and to a couple of others. The Chargers are due to win since losing nine straight to Kansas City, including a 38-28 setback on opening day at Carson, when Chiefs fans outnumbered Chargers fans 3 to 2. However, if Melvin Gordon, the Chargers’ top running back and one of the best in the game, doesn’t play, I just can’t see Phillip Rivers carrying the team by himself.
The Chiefs should win. But anything can happen in the NFL, especially in a division game between two teams which are a combined 21-5.