Chiefs clinch 7th straight division title, keep pace with Bills atop AFC

APTOPIX Chiefs Texans Football
Posted at 3:14 PM, Dec 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-18 18:49:39-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With a 30-24 overtime win Sunday at Houston, the Kansas City Chiefs scratched the first goal of the season off Andy Reid’s checklist.

“When we start every single season, the first thing we get told when we first walk in is, ‘Let’s win the AFC West,’” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “That’s our first goal — to come in and win the AFC West. We believe it’s always a tough division. Obviously, with the players they got in the offseason, it was even tougher. But we accomplished our first goal, so our next goal is to try to establish home-field advantage. It’s not in our hands, but we can do our best to be ready in case we get that opportunity.”

The surest route for any NFL team to the playoffs and the chance to compete for a title is to win their division.

Toward that end, the Chiefs (11-3) have clinched the AFC West for a record seventh consecutive season, tying the second-longest streak in NFL history.

“Seven straight, that’s very hard to do in the National Football League, and I couldn’t be more proud of the team for their accomplishment,” Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said.

Only New England, which won the AFC East 11 straight seasons from 2009-19, has ever enjoyed a longer reign of divisional dominance.

The Los Angeles Rams also won seven consecutive division crowns, taking the NFC West title each season from 1973-79.

“It’s special,” Mahomes said. “I want to make sure guys remember that — it’s special, winning divisions.”

Running back Jerick McKinnon, who scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime against the Texans — certainly doesn't take it for granted.

“Some guys play their whole career and never win the division, never make the playoffs,” McKinnon said. “So, when you have an opportunity to be in this position, you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to cherish it.”

The next goal, Mahomes said, will be to keep winning and hope the Buffalo Bills slip and allow Kansas City to ascend back to the top seed in the AFC.

“Our main focus is to win out and take care of business," McKinnon said.

Kansas City (11-3) has a relatively soft schedule the rest of the way, with home games against Seattle (7-7) and Denver (3-11) and a visit to Las Vegas (5-8) remaining.

The Bills (11-3) own the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record as the Chiefs by virtue of a Week 6 win, but its remaining schedule — at Chicago (3-10) and Cincinnati (9-4) then a home finale against New England (7-6) — is more rugged.

“I really just worry about us — try to win out and do what we need to do, which is win out,” linebacker Willie Gay Jr. said last Sunday. “I don’t care who else loses. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be in Arizona at the end of the season.”

Super Bowl LVII will be played Feb. 12, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

“What we did today was give ourselves an opportunity, an opportunity to get back to the Super Bowl,” Hunt said.

Kansas City has achieved its first goal, has high hopes for its second and is among the few teams with a legitimate shot at the NFL’s ultimate goal.

“That’s going to take us playing great football week in and week out,” Mahomes said. “... You’re not going to play your best football every week, but how can you build on your past week and the rest of the season to make sure you’re playing your best football whenever the playoffs come around.”