Yesterday, for the first time in 22 years, the Kansas City Chiefs won a playoff football game. The 30-0 blowout over the Houston Texans is the organization’s first postseason win of the 21st century, and first playoff win overall since all the way back in 1994 (against the Houston Oilers). At the time, I was a 4 year-old attending Calvary Baptist Pre-School, with no conception of the Chiefs or football as a sport.
Next Saturday, they will take on the defending Super Bowl Champions — the New England Patriots — for the right to play in the AFC Championship.
The Chiefs are currently riding out the wave of a truly improbable season. In Week 1 they, too, played on the road against the Texans… a game they eventually won, 27-20. They wouldn’t win another game until Week 7, their second without star running back Jamaal Charles (who was lost for the season with his second ACL surgery). I remember coming home from work that night and thinking, of course! At 1-5, right when I arrive to the conclusion that it would be best for the Chiefs to begin the tanking process for a top-3 pick in the 2016 draft, that’s when they decide to win a fucking game. What good is being 2-5 when the Broncos are undefeated and running away with the West?
I didn’t know it then — because I couldn’t have known it then — but over the remainder of the regular season the Chiefs would not lose again. After starting 1-5 they ran the table to finish the season 11-5, a perfect record over the final 63% of the schedule.
Meanwhile, while Kansas City ascended, the AFC’s early frontrunners started breaking down. The Patriots lost their top two running backs and best wide receiver, the Bengals settled on A.J. McCarran instead of Andy Dalton, and the Broncos tried to conceal the fact that Peyton Manning is probably beyond help at this point. Denver and New England — the conference’s top-two seeds — finished the season 2-2 and 2-4, respectively, to create the type of postseason climate Kansas City could capitalize on.
None of this, of course, guarantees good fortune next week for the Chiefs. But there isn’t a hotter team in the NFL and I’m about done trying to project what my teams are capable of doing. Right when I get optimistic, they plummet. When I stop giving an emotional fuck, they miraculously prove me wrong and win.
This is twice in the span of, like, four months this has happened. The Rangers did it, and now the Chiefs are doing it to me.
But there are legitimate reasons to have hope. Not only are the Chiefs relatively healthy, especially compared to the Patriots, their strength is New England’s present weakness. Over the last 6 weeks of the regular season the Patriots have averaged just 15.5 points per game; Kansas City, meanwhile, have allowed 20 points or fewer in 12 of their previous 13 matchups.
FiveThirtyEight has the Patriots as the slightest of favorites in what basically amounts to a coin-flip.
More to come, I’m sure.