The Kansas City Chiefs should use Week 18 as a bye week and rest their starts. I know they can be as high as one seed or low as four, but the rest means more.
It is the biggest question heading into the final week of the season every year. Should a team rest their starters or not? For the Chiefs in 2021, that is a complicated question. There are plenty of good reasons to go either way, but I think the most realistic answers are to rest their starters.
First, I will acknowledge the reasons to play the starters on Saturday. Yes, the Chiefs still have a chance to be the one seed if the Tennessee Titans lose. If the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos and the Titans lose, then the Chiefs would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It is unlikely that the Titans would lose to the David Mills-led Houston Texans, but it is possible.
Even if the Titans win, the Chiefs still need to win to clinch the second seed. If they lose, they could likely slide down to the fourth seed behind the Cincinnati Bengals and whoever wins the AFC East. So if seeding is important to you, you want the Chiefs to do everything possible to beat the Broncos on Saturday.
Those are the positives of the Chiefs playing at full strength on Saturday. They are solid points and should be considered, but there are more positives to sitting the starters on Saturday.
The Chiefs are unlikely to get the one seed, meaning they will be playing wild card weekend. That means there is no bye and no rest for guys who could use a week off on their bodies. The Chiefs have had lots of guys with dings and bruises who have missed games throughout the season. Guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, and Frank Clark could all use a week of rest before the playoffs. So why not give them that rest for a game that is basically meaningless?
Yes, this game is meaningless because the seeding is not that big when you are talking about the two through four seed. If the Chiefs win the second seed in the playoffs, they will likely face the Los Angeles Chargers for the third time. How many Chiefs fans are excited to play Justin Hubert and the Chargers for the third time? They beat the Chiefs once, and it was a coin flip from possibly beating them a second time.
On the flip side, if they are the third or fourth seed, they would likely play the New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts. That means playing Mac Jones or Carson Wentz in Arrowhead. I will happily take either of those two teams over the Chargers if you give me the options. That means losing could benefit the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs.
Whether the Chiefs are playing at home or on the road, the team’s health is what matters. If the Chiefs are healthy and they play their A-game, nobody in the NFL can beat them. No matter the game’s outcome on Saturday, the Chiefs will be playing in the playoffs. What happens if Kelce, Hill, or Patrick Mahomes get hurt during the Broncos game and are out for the playoffs? Is seeding worth that risk to the playoffs?
That is going to be the difference between the play vs. sit crowds. They trust in this team to win anywhere if they are healthy. I have zero doubt that a healthy Chiefs team is the best team in football and will win whether the game is in Arrowhead or anywhere else. I have said since the season began that I do not care if the Chiefs are the one seed or the seventh seed. When you have Patrick Mahomes, all you need to do is make the tournament to be the favorite.
Now, of course, if given the choice, I’d love to have the one seed. I’d love that bye week and the guarantee to play every game at home. But the Chiefs do not need that. We can win on the road against anyone. In any matchup we’ll face in the AFC, the Chiefs have the best coach and quarterback. If you have those two things, you are going to win in the playoffs far more often than not. Oh, and the referees are well known to keep flags in their pockets in the playoffs.
I fully expect Andy Reid to play all the guys on Saturday. But in my opinion, that is a mistake, and the reward is not worth the risk. Hopefully, everyone comes out healthy, and the Chiefs go into the playoffs as healthy as possible. Nobody in Kansas City should be scared of any team in the AFC, whether it is home or away. So get through this meaningless week and let the real games begin!