The Chiefs opened the regular season with a bang, scoring an impressive 42-27 road upset over the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. They followed that up with a 27-20 triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles, who proceeded to emerge as a top NFC contender before Carson Wentz's injury.
The Chiefs went into an extended funk, however, losing six of their next seven games, including three straight coming out of their Week 10 bye. The cold streak brought a playoff appearance, which seemed like a foregone conclusion after the first month, into question for awhile.
Alex Smith, who played like an MVP candidate in the early going, suffered a drop-off during the slump. It raised questions about whether Kansas City could switch to rookie signal-caller Patrick Mahomes II, but head coach Andy Reid refused to place the blame solely on the veteran's shoulders in late November.
"Like I said, I'm not going to tell you it's one thing–it's not one thing," he told reporters. "Sometimes people see something and that might not be the primary receiver and so it might not even be in that part of the progression and read. There's a lot of things that go into it. The thing I can do is stand before you and tell you that this isn't an Alex Smith thing, it's all of us. I know our players understand that and coaches. So we're all going to do better and raise our game up."
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The Chiefs finally got back on track with a victory over the AFC West-rival Oakland Raiders in Week 14 and did enough from that point forward to secure a place in the playoffs.
Kansas City will lean heavily on Smith, running back Kareem Hunt, top targets Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and the rest of its sixth-ranked offense in the postseason with lingering concerns about its 27th-ranked defense.
The Chiefs are heading to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years under the guidance of Andy Reid, but they own a 1-3 record in the prior appearances.