The Kansas City Chiefs just narrowly beat the Denver Broncos in Week 18. A win is a win, though. They are now guaranteed to be at least the #2 seed or better in the AFC for the playoffs. They are still in contention for the top seed in the AFC, too. That will come down to the result of the Houston Texans-Tennessee Titans game tomorrow. If Houston wins, the Chiefs will be the #1 seed. That comes with a first-round bye.

There are a handful of teams that they could face in the first round. Some are better matchups than others. Here are how I believe the possible opponents rank from who the Chiefs should want to play most to who they should want to play least.

1. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have come out of nowhere in some ways. Since firing Jon Gruden, they have played much better football, and QB Derek Carr has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL in that span. Additionally, the defense has been improved, especially on the defensive line.

That being said, they still have some holes. The running game on offense has been inconsistent. This would allow KC to focus more on stopping Carr and the passing game. The backend of the defense does not have the talent of some of the other possible playoff opponents. The Chiefs beat the Raiders by a combined score of 89-23 in two matchups this year. The Raiders just need to beat the Chargers this week to make it into the playoffs.

2. Baltimore Ravens

This ranking is with the uncertainty at QB for Baltimore. If Tyler Huntley is the starter, they are probably one or two on this list. With Lamar Jackson, they may slide to three or four. Regardless, it does not seem likely that Jackson would be fully healthy even if he did start this game.

The Ravens have been decimated by injuries. They are extremely thin in the secondary, and they are rotating veteran journeymen at running back. The offensive line is missing multiple starters as well. Head Coach John Harbaugh has done an impressive job to even keep them in contention for a playoff spot. Patrick Mahomes and his weapons would definitely have a big upper hand against the beat-up Baltimore defense.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are pretty close to the Ravens in terms of these rankings. Their offense, while having some playmakers, has looked sluggish for most of the season. The defense has shown some slips at times, but the talent is undeniable. It is certainly where their strength is, and their pass rush could give the Chiefs some trouble. T.J. Watt and Cameron Hayward are one of the best DL duos in the league.

Regardless, I would expect the Chiefs to be able to put up enough points to outscore Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh.

4. Indianapolis Colts

Indy and the team at number five are in a bit of a tier of their own. They easily are the two toughest matchups for Kansas City. The Colts are one of the best rushing offenses in the league, and KC just got carved up on the ground by Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams for the Broncos.

QB Carson Wentz has not been too impressive over the last few weeks, though. That is the biggest reason that they are not the last team on these rankings. The Kansas City defense could certainly zero in on the run, but they would have to be very technically sound to slow it down and allow Patrick Mahomes to have as many opportunities on offense to score.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

Finally, the AFC West team that easily gave KC the most trouble in the regular season. The Chargers, behind Justin Herbert at QB and a plethora of talented pass-catchers, can be lethal at times. Running back Austin Ekeler and wide receiver Keenan Allen highlight that group. Their defense is experienced and plays with tons of energy. When playing at their peak, their secondary has some very impressive talent. Can’t forget about Joey Bosa off the edge, either.

Los Angeles beat the Chiefs in their first matchup of the season, but Kansas City narrowly got their revenge in overtime in Week 15. Both teams have cannon-like arms at QBs and capable defensive units. Expect another shootout if we get this matchup in the first round of the postseason in the AFC.

 

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