Friday, December 31, 2010
Final Word: AFC West
By Bill Williamson
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:
Matt Cassel and the Chiefs still have something to play for on Sunday.
Chiefs looking to go perfect at home: In the end, it will not kill the Kansas City Chiefs if they lose to Oakland at home Sunday, but they do have some carrots to play for. The Chiefs will be the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs if they beat Oakland. If the Raiders win and the Colts beat the Titans, Kansas City will be the No. 4 seed. Beyond the No. 3 seed, the Chiefs are playing to finish with a perfect home record. Kansas City is 7-0 at the New Arrowhead Stadium. New England is the only other 7-0 team at home in the NFL.
Raiders look for consolation prize: While the Chiefs are playing to be perfect at home, the Raiders are playing to be perfect in the AFC West. The Raiders are 5-0 in the AFC West. If Oakland beats the Chiefs, it will become the first team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to go undefeated in its division and not make the playoffs. The feat has been accomplishment by 29 teams in that time span. Although Oakland has been impressive in its division, its 2-8 record against the rest of the league is what is keeping the Raiders out of the playoffs.
Chiefs keep hold of the ball: If it weren’t for the Patriots, the Chiefs would be on pace to set an NFL record for fewest turnovers. Kansas City has committed 12 turnovers. The NFL record is 13. New England has turned the ball over just nine times this season. Still, record or no record, the Chiefs’ supreme ball security is a big reason they are headed to the playoffs.
League leads at stake: Several AFC West players can finish the season as the NFL leader in key statistical areas. Denver receiver Brandon Lloyd is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards by 48 yards. Philip Rivers trails Colts quarterback Peyton Manning by 39 yards and Drew Brees by 27 for the NFL lead. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles trails Houston’s Arian Foster by 56 yards for the NFL rushing yards lead. Charles, who has 1,380 rushing yards, is also on the verge of joining rushing royalty. He is leading NFL running backs with a 6.4 per carry average. Only one player in NFL history has finished a season with more than 1,100 yards and a 6.2-plus per-carry average. The legendary Jim Brown had 1,863 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 1963.
McDaniels in Kansas City? Could this be Charlie Weis’ last regular-season game as the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs? Last Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said he wouldn’t be surprised if Weis didn’t return next year. If so, Schefter said a logical replacement could be former Denver coach Josh McDaniels. I know, the first thing you’re going to think of is the handshake controversy with Kansas City head coach Todd Haley in November. Haley was upset with McDaniels and refused to shake hands after a Denver win. Haley apologized the next day and the two embraced after a Kansas City win three weeks later. McDaniels was fired the next day. The Haley-McDaniels tiff was temporary. McDaniels is close with Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, and he was Matt Cassel’s offensive coordinator in 2008, when the two had a great relationship. If this situation ever arose, I think the Chiefs wouldn’t miss a beat offensively, especially because McDaniels is a Weis disciple. I’m not sure this is going to happen, but it would be a huge story if it did.