Staying Alive — Barely

Once again the Oakland Raiders were there for the Chiefs when they needed them. Losers of three straight, the Chiefs badly needed a win to keep their dying playoff aspirations alive. The Raiders didn't disappoint. Whenever the Chiefs miss the playoffs, which is becoming more and more of a regularity, the only saving grace on most Chiefs' fans minds is sweeping Oakland.

Mission accomplished.

Now, with only the season finale against Jacksonville remaining, the Chiefs must hope that Santa arrives late with playoff contenders Denver, Tennessee, Cincinnati and the New York Jets on his naughty list. The problem is teams like the Titans and Jets actually deserve a playoff spot.

Aesthetically, this has been a very different team from a year ago. Defensively, they've improved. Offensively, they've regressed. However, their destiny in December is nearly a mirror image of a year ago — a costly loss on the road against an inferior opponent that ultimately would doom any chance of playing in January. A season ago losses on the road against the Cowboys and Giants proved to be lethal. This year, succumbing to a Cleveland Browns team with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter is likely to be the death blow.

At this point in the season, to be a Chiefs fan is mentally exhausting. Part of me just wants it to be over. Over, so I can start fresh eight months from now with a clean slate and a better set of tools to work with. The other part doesn't want to let go and continues to toy with potential scenarios that net the Chiefs an undeserving playoff berth. The irony is none of those scenarios end with the Chiefs making an improbable Super Bowl run.

A friend of mine, who shares the same mental approach as I, assured me that things would fall into place in Week 16 as it seems things have. Then, in the final week, he predicted the Chiefs postseason hopes would eventually ride on none other than Sebastian Janikowski making a chip shot field goal to beat the Jets, vaulting the Chiefs into the sixth and final playoff spot.

That scenario brings back haunting memories of the 1996 season which saw the Chiefs at 9-4 before losing their final three games and missing the playoffs at 9-7. Still, the Chiefs had a shot at backing their way into the playoffs if Atlanta's Morten Anderson could hit a 30-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17.

Some things just aren't meant to be.

Nevertheless, this Sunday you will still find me checking that scoreboard with great interest to see if a win against the Jaguars will mean absolutely anything. At minimum the Chiefs might be able to redeem Anderson's missed kick 10 years ago by keeping the Jaguars out of the postseason.

By this time next week, the Chiefs' season will quite possibly be over and the offseason can begin. Even though it seems like a funeral every December when playoff hopes die, one thing remains certain - those hopes will be resurrected again in September.

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