Christmas has passed for another year. The New Year is just around the corner. Bowl season is kicking into high gear. This weekend is some of the best football of the year. We have several bowl games on Saturday. The final weekend of the NFL season takes place on Sunday. So without any delay let’s get started.
Here is your daily Dr. Feelgood…
OFF THE TOP:
I heard some sports journalists make the case this week that the Chiefs should sit their regulars if they see New England take a large lead against Miami on Sunday. I couldn’t disagree more.
This question comes up for one team or another every season and my view is that I would never sit all of my starters. If there is one player who is injured and could use the time to heal rather than endure more pain to be more effective in the playoffs then go ahead and rest that player but don’t hurt the momentum and confidence of the team in the final regular-season game. This is similar to when the NCAA tournament is about to start and hearing the people who say a team that has won 20 games in a row needs a loss before the tournament. What?! Crazy!
The Chiefs won’t necessarily know their playoff seed when their game is finished. True, they can’t win the #2 seed if New England wins but there is more to play for on Sunday. If the Chiefs lose and Houston wins then the Chiefs will fall to the #4 seed.
So what is the difference between the #3 and #4 seed? Both seeds have to play a Wild Card team on the first weekend. There will be no bye for these teams. Both will host their first game. The difference is that the #4 seed will host Buffalo. That much we know. The #3 seed will host either Tennessee, Pittsburgh or Oakland. Is there a difference?
There is an argument that could be made that the Chiefs would rather take the #4 seed and play Buffalo than win the #3 seed if they have to play Tennessee. That’s understandable but if the Chiefs are afraid of the Titans they likely aren’t going to the Super Bowl anyway. And I don’t think this Chiefs team is afraid of anyone right now. And having the chance to play Pittsburgh or Oakland doesn’t guarantee a win but that’s about as good of a matchup as you could hope for in the first round of the playoffs and it keeps the momentum of the team rolling.
But let’s look beyond that first game. Should both the #3 and #4 seeds win their first game, the #3 will go to New England and the #4 will go to Baltimore. The Chiefs have already defeated both Baltimore and New England. New England is still a force to be dealt with in the playoffs but the Chiefs know they can win there. They just did that three weeks ago. Can they win in Baltimore? I have no doubt they can but let’s look beyond that and look at the AFC Championship game.
If both the #3 and #4 seeds win the conference semifinals then the #3 seed will host the AFC Championship game. While I think it’s unlikely that both Kansas City and Houston will make that game, if they do, how bad would it be to play on the road knowing they just had to beat the Chargers to have that game at home? No, resting the Chiefs starters doesn’t mean they will lose to the Chargers but the odds go way up. Regardless of what you might think, the Chargers are still an NFL team that can come into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs. We saw that just last season.
And maybe more important than all of this is the idea that the Chiefs are on a roll right now and it’s a bad idea for them to break that momentum themselves. The Chiefs have won their last five games, and just like you want to keep losing teams losing when you play a team that’s struggling, you want to keep winning teams winning if you are that team. Confidence is probably the most important trait a professional athlete can possess. It’s easy to lose and hard to regain.
Regardless of who has been on the schedule in the past five games for the Chiefs, they have won all of them. They dominated three of them and won the other two by a touchdown each.
And the Chiefs are playing their best all-around football in years. The offense is back to playing as well as any time since Patrick Mahomes took over for Alex Smith. The team has scored fewer than 23 points just once this season. That one game was a 13 point outing against Indianapolis.
The defense is playing better than maybe any defense in the NFL in the past 4-5 weeks. They don’t want to take part of a game off and lose that momentum.
Fans often think that good teams can turn their games on and off at will. If they take a game or a half off they can certainly turn it back on the next week when the playoffs start, right? Maybe. But it’s also possible that things go south and doubt creeps into their minds. That’s the last thing any team wants.
We’ll see how the Chiefs approach it. Regardless of their approach, if they make it to the Super Bowl people will say they played it just right. If they lose before then we will have people questioning why they did what they did in this last game. If Patrick Mahomes or anyone else gets injured and has to miss a game the Chiefs will never hear the end of it even if they make the right call and play it as just another game they need to win.
IN THE NEWS:
Patrick Mahomes was not on the injury report Thursday for the first time this season since Week 1.
Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram feels he will be ready for the team’s first playoff game after hearing a pop in the back of his calf in a recent game. The Ravens are the #1 seed in the AFC so he can rest this weekend and then will have the following week off with a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
WHAT I’M WATCHING: There are five bowl games on Friday. My top pick is the Oklahoma State game against Texas A&M. The Big 12 against the SEC. The games start at 11:00am. The last one starts at 9:15pm. That last one is Air Force vs Washington State. If I can stay awake for part of that game I will.
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Thanks for reading…