In the NFL, it’s always a good to live in the present and keep an eye on the future. The fact the Chiefs are going to do no worse than finish with an 8-8 record this season is still quite an accomplishment after their 11-5 season a year ago.
However, the stakes are much higher than a year ago as Kansas City prepares to travel to Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon in what could amount to a playoff elimination game for the loser.
To say this is the most important game of Andy Reid’s tenure in Kansas City, can’t be ignored. Yes I said the same thing when he faced the Denver Broncos at home a few weeks ago, but that result was more of the same for a franchise, which had yet to figure out in two years how to win big games in December.
The Steelers are a microcosm of the Chiefs. Both teams own a few impressive wins and lost to some horrible NFL teams. The phrase ‘Any Given Sunday’ fits these franchises perfectly, because each team has played both roles in 2014.
Still none of that really matters this Sunday because the Chiefs control their playoff destiny with a win over the Steelers, and a home rematch with the San Diego Chargers, to close out their 2014 campaign.
Yet next week matters very little if Kansas City doesn’t attack this contest as if there is no tomorrow. Though they did defeat the Oakland Raiders last weekend to make the Steelers game far more meaningful, Pittsburgh also understands how big this game is for their playoff hopes.
Granted the Steelers have flaws – most notably a terrible run defense and offensive lapses – but they’ve proven to be a team that can win ugly. In the NFL, that’s a big item for any team striving for a post-season birth.
At this time a year ago, the Steelers were on the verge of making the playoffs. However, their post season ticket wasn’t validated after the Chiefs lost to the San Diego Chargers to close out the 2013 season. Thus Pittsburgh missed their chance to join Kansas City as the other AFC Wild Card team last January.
I’m sure that omission a year ago will play into the Steelers mindset on Sunday but that doesn’t mean they’re going to defeat the Chiefs. Pittsburgh has had issues at home, and knowing this game is a precursor to their AFC North title hopes against the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend, they might not take the Chiefs as serious as they should.
On paper, the Chiefs have just as many play makers on both sides of the ball as the Steelers but both teams need to bring their ‘A’ game to be the last team standing in victory.
The Chiefs have already proven they can win ugly this season but they’ve also shown the chops to win a physical game on the road. Though Kansas City is once again displaying a weakness against better competition much like they did in 2013 down the stretch, I’m not sure Pittsburgh falls in that category.
The Steelers remind me a great deal of the San Diego Chargers. Both teams have terrific quarterbacks, an efficient offense and average defense. If Reid takes the same approach in this game as he did against his AFC West counterpart on the road in October, he might just get his first big win in December as a member of the Chiefs.
That’s still a pretty big if for Reid and his team but my sentiment this week is that the Chiefs head coach has his teams attention. In fact, it’s been all business in practice this week and that’s a good thing for this football team.
Despite some issues I’ve had with his play calling, Reid has done a terrific job in maintaining order and respect in his locker room despite some glaring holes on his 53-man roster.
Reid has been handicapped all season with a roster that still relies on players from two previous regimes. Though that list is dwindling by the season Kansas City must rely on some of them to win this game.
Thus these two final games with something on the line could determine a great deal in regards to the direction the Chiefs go in 2015. They have some aging players, big contracts, and some of those leftovers I mentioned, which might be released before free agency begins next March.
Which players those might turn out to be in Kansas City probably will be answered based on their sole performances against Pittsburgh and San Diego.
For now, it’s playoff time or bust with this football team and at least to a man on the Chiefs roster they control that very looming roster decision and their playoff dancing shoes simultaneously.