Chiefs look to secure 1 seed, continue dominance of Raiders in regular season finale
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs now know they control their destiny.
With the NFL’s decision to cancel the suspended Monday night game between Buffalo and Cincinnati, a Chiefs victory at Las Vegas on Saturday makes them the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
There’s a catch, however: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell proposed Thursday night that the AFC championship game would be played at a neutral site if the Chiefs earn home-field advantage over Cincinnati or Buffalo by virtue of having played one more game and end up meeting either of those teams. That proposal will go before NFL clubs for approval on Friday.
The Bills-Bengals game was postponed in the first quarter when Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest. He has shown signs of improvement but remains in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital.
Kansas City (13-3) began its preparations this week for the Raiders not knowing what decisions the league would make regarding playoff seeding or even this weekend’s schedule.
“All I can do is come in here and give it everything I have in the building and then when I go home just appreciate my family,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I know there’s a job to do, and you have to go in there and do it. But at the end of the day, you just want to make sure (Hamlin’s) all right because that’s what’s most important.”
As for the Raiders (6-10), their season ends this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the game is inconsequential for them.
Las Vegas faces a lot of questions in the offseason, most notably at quarterback. Jarrett Stidham will start his second game in a row in place of the benched Derek Carr. Stidham threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s 37-34 overtime loss to San Francisco.
“I think he showed what he’s capable of and what he can do,” Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams said. “Definitely has some potential. I think that sustaining that and doing it again will be something that’d be big for him as far as seeing how (the coaches) view him and how they want to move forward.”
The Kansas City Chiefs have been dominant against the AFC West since Andy Reid took over as head coach nearly a decade ago. But with quarterback Patrick Mahomes playing the position, Kansas City is 15-0 on the road against AFC West opponents. They’ll look to continue that streak on Saturday.
Mahomes -- who threw for four touchdowns in the Monday night win over the Raiders in October -- needs 430 passing yards to set the single-season passing yardage record. He needs 186 yards of passing and rushing he would set the single-season mark for total yards by a quarterback in a single season.
Last week, Mahomes eclipsed 5,000 yards passing in a season for the second time in his career. He did so after losing star wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the off-season.
SPECIAL TEAMS SITUATION
The Chiefs have struggled on special teams most of the season. Last week, punt returner Kadarius Toney lost a fumble, Kansas City missed a point-after because of holder Tommy Townsend’s miscue and a field-goal attempt was blocked.
Making things even worse, kicker Harrison Butker experienced back spasms in practice Wednesday, and it’s unclear whether he will play against the Raiders. The Chiefs planned to sign a kicker to the practice squad as insurance.
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT REEL
Adams made two tremendous catches against the 49ers.
On one, he brought in a touchdown pass on the left side of the end zone, leaping and finding a way to land both feet inbounds.
On another, he somehow grabbed a deep pass barely off the ground and held on to it for a 45-yard gain that set up a touchdown. That play was reviewed and the call of a completed pass upheld.
“What I enjoy more (than watching his highlights) is reading the comments of every Niner fan that said it was incomplete,” Adams said. “That makes me a little bit happier than praising myself and patting myself on the back. I like the people that are pissed off about it.”
CHIEFS INJURY WOES
Kansas City had been charmed all season when it came to injuries until last week. A flurry of them against the Broncos has coach Andy Reid facing some uncertainty on Saturday. Left guard Joe Thuney (sore ankle), wide receiver Skyy Moore (lacerated hand) and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (hip pointer) are all important contributors who missed practice time this week.
The Raiders nearly beat the Chiefs in Kansas City when the teams met on Oct. 10, blowing a 17-point lead in the 30-29 loss.
Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels said only so much can be taken out of the game for the rematch because both teams have undergone significant changes.
“So I think there’s definitely some challenges in terms of just getting to know the personnel that’s out there now as opposed to what it was,” McDaniels said. “But I definitely think that any time you have previous knowledge of an opponent and you’ve played against them (it’s beneficial), especially for the players.
“It’s not always a precursor of what’s going to happen the next game, as we know. The second game of these division rivalries is always a little bit different because you’re going to change some things.”
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.