It was there for the taking last week. The AFC West title and a first-round bye in the playoffs were among the thresholds that would have been crossed had the Chiefs held on to a late two-touchdown lead against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Poof. All gone in a matter of minutes. But those objectives remain within the Chiefs’ grasp. Win out, starting Sunday night in Seattle against the Seahawks, and the Chiefs will be the AFC’s top seed.
It’s obvious to suggest owning the No. 1 seed is the goal. But here are some supporting numbers.
Over the previous 10 years, the top-seeded team in the AFC playoffs has reached the Super Bowl seven times, including the last five seasons.
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That playoff path has helped paved the New England Patriots’ road to a dynasty. They’ve been the No. 1 seed six times and the second seed twice in their eight Super Bowl appearances since 2001, the first championship season for quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
In the last five years, the AFC’s top seed has advanced to the Super Bowl with two home victories: three times it was the Patriots, and twice it was the Denver Broncos.
In the NFC, the No. 1 seed has won two playoff games and advanced to the Super Bowl in five of the last 10 years .
The playoff record of AFC and NFC top seeds since 2008 is 25-10, not including Super Bowls.
There are many combinations of outcomes that can affect the AFC playoff picture, but because the Chiefs’ top competition is the Chargers — those two teams own the conference’s best records at 11-3 — the most likely finishes for KC and L.A. are the No. 1 and No. 5 seeds. The Chiefs are headed for one spot, the Chargers the other.
How have fifth seeds fared in the postseason over the past decade? No Super Bowl appearances, two trips to a conference title game and a combined playoff record of 9-20. One of those victories belongs to the Chiefs. In 2015, they won a wild-card game at fourth-seeded Houston, the only postseason triumph for Andy Reid in Kansas City.
A Super Bowl run from the No. 5 seed requires starting with a wild-card playoff game on the road. The only way a fifth-seeded team can play a home playoff game is if it hosts the No. 6 seed for the conference championship. That hasn’t happened in the 28 years of the seeded playoff system.
Getting the top seed is that important, and Reid said the Chiefs have the ability to bounce back from a dispiriting loss.
“It is important that you learn from it,” Reid said. “That’s most important. You can hang your head and mope and do all those things you want to do, but that doesn’t get anything accomplished.
“You get in, you learn from it the best you can, and you go do better. That’s the approach I am taking. That is the approach I felt from the guys. On the other hand, if you are going to learn, then you have to dig in and not be afraid to say I goofed here or there, whether you are a coach or a player.”
Goofs like the ones that cost the Chiefs the game against the Chargers — such as not covering a wide receiver on the game-winning two-point conversation — cost Kansas City a clinching opportunity. Continued mistakes could drop the Chiefs’ seeding and odds of postseason success.