Chiefs top Raiders in finale, clinch top seed, bye in AFC

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The Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and the conference’s only first-round bye with their 31-13 win over the Las

However, that’s not what brought a smile to Jones’ face after the Chiefs secured the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed with a 31-13 win over the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. It was the thought of a week off.

“We came in with intention, knowing what’s at stake and what we were fighting for,” Jones said. “We were able to win the game, most importantly. So, heading into the playoffs, we get the bye week.”

The No. 1-seeded Chiefs (14-3) will be the AFC’s only team to get the first-round bye. They will begin their postseason with a divisional round game in two weeks at Arrowhead Stadium. Home-field advantage for the AFC Championship Game should they advance that far is not guaranteed after the NFL changed some of its playoff seeding rules in the wake of Monday’s canceled Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game.

The game under certain circumstances could be played at a neutral site. But it would be played in Kansas City if the 12-3 Bills lose Sunday to the New England Patriots, assuming the Chiefs advance.

For now, at least, the Chiefs were happy with the bye. They haven’t had a break since Week 8 of the regular season, or more than two months ago.

Coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs planned to practice some during the bye, but also have some time off.

“Just take a step back and get yourself where you feel stronger and healthier,” Reid said of what he will tell the players. “You still gotta take care of business. Our guys understand that.”

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has never played an AFC playoff game in a stadium other than Arrowhead. All nine of his postseason games leading up to a Super Bowl have been played in Kansas City. The Chiefs are 7-2 in those games with both losses coming in overtime.

Mahomes said the Chiefs set three goals each year when they gather for the start of training camp. The first is to win the AFC West championship, which the Chiefs accomplished this year for the seventh straight season with their Week 15 win over the Houston Texans. The second is to get the AFC’s top playoff seed. The third is to win the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs’ 6-0 record against AFC West opponents this season fueled their rise to the top of the AFC. Mahomes is 27-3 against divisional rivals in his career, 16-0 on the road.

“Something that was instilled with me right when I got here is we were gonna focus on the AFC West opponents,” he said. “We believe we have one of the best divisions if not the best division in football, so we know if we can handle business in the AFC West, it’s going to put us in the position to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”

The Chiefs have advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past four seasons. They are the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the third time in five years.

 

NFL roundup: Chiefs rout Raiders to clinch AFC’s top seed; Jaguars win AFC South

The Kansas City Chiefs don’t believe in simply wrapping up the AFC’s top seed. They want to have fun doing it.

Late in the first half Saturday against the host Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs huddled and spun in a circle, then broke out into a shotgun formation with running back Jerick McKinnon taking a direct snap. He faked a handoff to wide receiver Kadarius Toney and pitched to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who then threw to Toney for a nine-yard touchdown.

But it didn’t count. A holding penalty brought back the play. The Chiefs then scored anyway to take full control of what became a 31-13 victory.

The play is called the Snow Globe or Arctic Circle, depending on who is asked. Even if it didn’t count, it underscored the Chiefs’ creativity and willingness to have fun, even while playing for playoff positioning and a week off.

“We talked about it on the side, ‘Let’s see if we can get some confusion going and throw something back,’ ” Mahomes said. “It worked. We just had the holding penalty. We got some good things going for the playoffs, and whatever we run has to work.”

That, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, was the bottom line.

“You do [want to make it fun], but you want to score too,” Reid said. “It’s not fun when you’re not doing that.”

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Almost lost was the NFL record for total yards in a season that Mahomes set. He passed for 202 yards and rushed for 29 against the Raiders, giving him 5,608 total yards this season. That surpassed the record of 5,562 yards set by Drew Brees in 2011 with the New Orleans Saints.

Mahomes finished with 5,250 yards passing and 358 yards rushing this season.

“Pat was on fire,” Reid said. “He’s throwing these [statistics] out there like they’re nothing.”

More than setting the mark, Mahomes helped ensure the top seed for the Chiefs (14-3) and a bye in the first round of the playoffs, which begin next weekend. Kansas City, however, is not assured of home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Because Monday night’s Buffalo-Cincinnati game was canceled, the Chiefs could wind up playing the Bills or Bengals in the AFC championship game on a neutral field. The Buffalo-Cincinnati game initially was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest. Hamlin remains in critical condition but is improving.

This was the first NFL game played since Hamlin was hospitalized. Both teams wore black shirts in warmups that read “LOVE FOR DAMAR” with his No. 3 in the middle. Mahomes also wore a hoodie that had a drawing of the player with “HAMLIN STRONG” below it.

Instead of a moment of silence before the game, the Allegiant Stadium public-address announcer asked fans to cheer on Hamlin’s recovery.

“It was definitely weird,” Mahomes said of returning to the field. “It’s a game that you love, you play your entire life. It’s brought so many great things to you. But, obviously, with the situation that happened Monday night with Damar, you still have that in the back of your mind. You want to be there for him, and there is so much stuff bigger than football.”

The Chiefs matched their franchise record for regular-season victories, set in 2020, and they set a team mark with their 17th consecutive game of at least 300 yards of offense.

The Raiders (6-11) ended their first season under coach Josh McDaniels with three consecutive losses and four defeats in five games. They made the playoffs a year ago but face serious questions at quarterback, offensive line and throughout the defense.

Jarrett Stidham started his second game in a row in place of the sidelined Derek Carr, and this performance didn’t go nearly as well as the first one. Stidham completed 22 of 36 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He was sacked six times.

Last weekend, he threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Stidham said he hasn’t thought much about trying to retain the starting job next season with the Raiders.

“Do I feel like I’m that caliber player in this league?” he said. “Absolutely. I just tried to be ready for my opportunity these last two weeks and try to take full advantage of it.”

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who was dealing with hip and oblique injuries as well as a reported family emergency, was a game-day decision but played. He rushed for 45 yards and could win the NFL rushing title with 1,653 yards.

But Jacobs fell short of the franchise rushing record of 1,759 yards set by Marcus Allen in 1985. This was potentially Jacobs’ final game as a member of the Raiders because his fifth-year option was not picked up. His performance this season has given Las Vegas officials plenty to consider.

The Jaguars are AFC South champions for the first time in five years, a title secured when linebacker Josh Allen returned a fumble 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:51 remaining for a win over the Titans.

Jacksonville safety Rayshawn Jenkins forced Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs’ fumble, and Allen scooped up the bouncing ball and ran untouched the other way for a lead that held up against the Titans in a win-and-in game in the regular-season finale for both.

Dobbs fumbled again on the ensuing possession, and the Jaguars (9-8) started to celebrate their most significant regular-season victory in franchise history.

“This was one of those games where our defense had to win it for us,” Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “Us guys on offense, we’re a little frustrated because we left a lot out there. But in these games, just win. Our defense picked us up today.”

Jacksonville earned the No. 4 seed in the conference playoffs and will host either the Chargers or the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round next weekend.

It is the 18th time in the last 20 seasons that at least one NFL team won its division after finishing last or tied for last the previous year.

Jacksonville closed the regular season with its fifth consecutive victory and became the fifth team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a five-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak during the same season.

“We just kept believing,” Lawrence said. “Nobody ever lost faith. Everybody believed in one another.”

Tennessee (7-10) lost its final seven games, a skid that had just about everyone writing off the Titans before Saturday’s finale.

Tennessee rested several starters last week and essentially created a 10-day break to get healthy. The Titans returned to their bruising brand of football and looked as if they would pull an improbable turnaround — until Dobbs’ turnover changed the game.

With quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) out for the season, the Titans leaned on Dobbs — an aerospace engineer who has bounced around the NFL — to be smart with the ball and Derrick Henry to grind out tough yards. And they relied on a defense that has been stout against the run all year.

It worked for 37 minutes — and then it unraveled.

Henry finished with 109 yards in 30 carries. Dobbs completed 20 of 29 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown with an interception and the fumble.

Lawrence completed 20 of 32 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown with a fumble. Lawrence had two would-be touchdowns in the second half fall incomplete. He overthrew Zay Jones in the end zone and underthrew Christian Kirk.

 

Chiefs beat Raiders to secure top seed and first-round playoff bye

Jan 7 (Reuters) – The Kansas City Chiefs secured the top seed in the American Football Conference and a first-round bye with a 31-13 victory over the host Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday in the NFL teams’ regular-season finale.

Given the NFL’s decision to cancel the Monday night game between Buffalo (12-3) and Cincinnati (11-4) after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, the Chiefs (14-3) entered the Week 18 contest in control of their playoff seeding.

But due to a change in the playoff structure given Buffalo and Cincinnati will have played one fewer game when the regular season ends on Sunday, the Chiefs are not guaranteed home-field advantage for the AFC Championship should they go that far.

The Chiefs wasted no time getting on the board in this one as Patrick Mahomes hooked up with receiver Justin Watson for a 67-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage before a short touchdown pass to Jerick McKinnon three plays later.

Ronald Jones, Kadarius Toney and Isiah Pacheco each ran in touchdowns for the Chiefs while Harrison Butker kicked a 44-yard field goal.

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For their efforts, the Chiefs get to sit out the NFL’s wild card round of the playoffs next weekend before returning in the divisional round the following week against the lowest remaining AFC seed.

“Getting that bye, it’s like winning a playoff game,” said Mahomes. “Now we just have to focus on watching tomorrow and then this next week to see who we play and come out with out best football.”

If the Bills, who had control of the No. 1 seed going into Monday’s game, beat the New England Patriots on Sunday and go on to meet the Chiefs in the penultimate round of the playoffs the game would be played at a neutral site.

During pre-game warmups, players from both teams wore “Love for Damar 3” T-shirts in support of Hamlin, who continues to make progress in his recovery as he is breathing on his own but remains in critical condition.

The 24-year-old Hamlin collapsed on the field during a game last Monday in Cincinnati moments after making a tackle and then had to have his heartbeat restored. Hamlin began to wake up two days later and has since had his breathing tube removed.

As part of a unified show of support for Hamlin, Raiders public address announcer Eric Smith addressed the crowd prior to the singing on the U.S. national anthem.

“Throughout this week the entire NFL family has been praying for Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills as he continues his recovery,” said Smith. “And we thank the first responders and medical professionals involved in his care.”

Smith then asked everyone in attendance to observe “a moment of support and love” for Hamlin and cheer for the Bills safety and his family as they continue their fight.

 

Chiefs beat Raiders for AFC top seed in imperfect situation, Mahomes likely wraps MVP

The Kansas City Chiefs presumably didn’t want their path to the No. 1 seed in the AFC to open up like it did. They also didn’t make the rules.

The cancellation of the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game due to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac emergency on the field was terrible and more important than the results of a football season. However, the cancellation also cost the Bills a shot at the top seed in the AFC. The Chiefs needed the Bills to lose once in the final two weeks and never could have imagined the Bills would have a no contest put on their record.

The Chiefs took advantage of the situation and clinched the top seed with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday. They hit a couple touchdowns early and it was clear they weren’t losing with the No. 1 seed on the line. They won 31-13 against a Raiders team that looked overmatched and disinterested in the regular-season finale for both teams. The Chiefs finish the season 14-3 and are the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Bills-Bengals cancellation also removed Josh Allen’s small window to take the NFL MVP had the Bills gotten the No. 1 seed. After Saturday, Patrick Mahomes has that award all but wrapped up.

Patrick Mahomes has another big day

The Chiefs set the tone right away. Mahomes hit Justin Watson for a 67-yard pass down the left sideline, which set up Mahomes’ quick flip to Jerick McKinnon for a 2-yard touchdown.

The Raiders are at the end of a bad season, starting Jarrett Stidham at quarterback because they decided to shut Derek Carr down for the rest of the season and presumably move on from him this offseason. A lot of teams already eliminated play well in the season finale, putting their best foot forward for pride. The Raiders did not.

The Raiders trailed 14-3 and had a long drive inside the 5-yard line during the second quarter. But after an incompletion on third-and-goal, Stidham threw incomplete to Davante Adams on fourth down. It seemed like that was the Raiders’ best shot to make the game interesting.

The Chiefs went on a 98-yard touchdown drive after that to take a 21-3 lead. The hope from Buffalo that Josh McDaniels’ Raiders would put forth a good performance and maybe even have a shot at an upset that would open up the possibility for the Bills to get the No. 1 seed was gone before halftime.

Chiefs lock up top seed in AFC

During the game, Mahomes broke an NFL record that doesn’t get any attention but is still telling. He broke Drew Brees’ single-season record for total yards (passing, rushing and receiving). Brees had 5,562 yards during the 2011 season.

Mahomes has done all of that, and led the Chiefs to a 14-3 record, after the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill. We have seen quarterbacks with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins take a big step forward this season after their teams traded for a No. 1 receiver. It’s an obvious benefit to a quarterback. The Chiefs traded away one of the five best receivers in the NFL and Mahomes set an NFL record for total yardage.

Mahomes was 18-of-26 for 202 yards, one touchdown and a 105 passer rating. He could have put up much bigger numbers if the Raiders kept the game competitive.

The Chiefs have another shot at a Super Bowl championship. They might have to deal with a neutral site AFC championship game against the Bills (if Buffalo wins Sunday) due to the NFL’s ruling after canceling the Bills-Bengals game, but having the No. 1 seed is still a huge edge. Kansas City will be off next week while the six other AFC playoff teams play. If the Chiefs go on to win a Super Bowl, the unfortunate and unusual circumstances will always be a part of that title.

The Chiefs, most of whom wore “Love for Damar” shirts before the game, clearly didn’t want this to be how they got the top seed. But the reality is that they did get it, and now they’re two wins away from another Super Bowl.

 

WATCH: Chiefs deploy spinning huddle on wild gadget play vs. Raiders

Kansas City flexed its creative muscles, but the ensuing touchdown got called back due to a holding penalty

In a Week 18 rout of the Las Vegas Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to do seemingly whatever they wanted on their way to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That included the latest — literal — spin on a pre-snap huddle.

On a 2nd and 3 in the red zone, the Chiefs ran a spinning huddle that resembled a “Ring Around the Rosie” before assembling on the line of scrimmage to run a gadget play. The play saw running back Jerick McKinnon take the snap with quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the backfield, fake a handoff before running to his left and pitching the ball to Mahomes, and Mahomes then tossing the ball in the opposite direction to wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

Toney would end the play with a touchdown by breaking several tackles, but the play would be called back due to center Creed Humphrey committing a holding penalty. The Chiefs would score a touchdown anyway shortly afterwards.

Long before the arrival of head coach and offensive mastermind Andy Reid a full decade ago, the Chiefs had long put their own signature on NFL huddles. Legendary quarterback Len Dawson was known to run a “choir huddle,” which was run by the Chiefs as a preseason tribute to Dawson after his death last August. The Chiefs also used a spin at the line of scrimmage on their first touchdown in Super Bowl LV, a play that was taken from the 1948 Rose Bowl.

 

Bills safety Damar Hamlin honored before Chiefs-Raiders, Titans-Jaguars games

The NFL continued on Saturday, but reminders of Damar Hamlin were everywhere.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders kicked off Saturday afternoon in the first game since Hamlin, the second-year Buffalo Bills safety, had a cardiac emergency on the field Monday night. The NFL had announced that teams would have various tributes to him this week.

The most obvious one before the game was the “Love for Damar” shirts players and coaches from both teams wore, with Hamlin’s No. 3 jersey on them. Both head coaches, Andy Reid of the Chiefs and Josh McDaniels of the Raiders, wore the shirts in warmups.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wore a hoodie with a small heart and “Damar” on the front and “Hamlin Strong” on the back.

Before the second game on Saturday, the Jaguars and Titans gathered at midfield for a group prayer.

When ESPN cut to the broadcast of Chiefs-Raiders, the broadcasters and sideline reporter didn’t talk about the Chiefs going for the No. 1 AFC playoff seed, but Hamlin, his health and how the Bills have reacted to it. The network showed fans with signs supporting Hamlin.

Also, the “3” at the 30-yard line at Allegiant Stadium was outlined in blue, one of the Bills’ colors.

Just before the national anthem, the PA announcer at Allegiant Stadium acknowledged the prayers for Hamlin, thanked first responders and health professionals and asked for a “moment of support and love for Damar” in which fans cheered for Hamlin.

The Bills offered an update on Hamlin’s health on Saturday.

Per the physicians at UC Medical Center, Damar is making continued progress in his recovery yet remains in critical condition.

He continues to breathe on his own and his neurological function is excellent.

— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 7, 2023

The games will go on in Week 18, with plenty of reminders of Hamlin at every stadium.

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