KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What seemed unimaginable to most NFL observers two months ago — the Kansas City Chiefs nabbing the top overall seed in the AFC — is very much a reality after Thursday’s win at the Los Angeles Chargers.
By rallying for a 34-28 overtime win, the Chiefs seized control of the AFC West, building a two-game lead over the Chargers with three games to play.
Kansas City also became the first AFC team to 10 wins this season, though New England and Tennessee can join them with wins this weekend.
A sixth straight division title, which would mean a top-four seed and guaranteed home playoff game, is a near certainty now, but the path to the top seed and that all-important first-round bye requires some help.
Here’s a handy fan viewing guide for Chiefs fans wanting to know who to root for with an eye on the No. 1 seed in the AFC:
Saturday, Dec. 18
New England at Indianapolis, 7:15 p.m. (NFL Network)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: Go for the Colts in this one. These two teams are probably the biggest threats — along with the Chargers — to end the Chiefs' reign in the AFC. Kansas City and those other three teams probably have separated themselves unless and until Derrick Henry returns for Tennessee.
But the Colts’ early-season struggles already have them behind the Chiefs. It’s more important for the Patriots to take one on the chin to give coach Andy Reid's crew a greater chance to control their own fate.
New England also faces Buffalo and Miami down the stretch, but Indianapolis is the best team on the schedule and best bet to deliver a victory.
Sunday, Dec. 19
Tennessee at Pittsburgh, 12 p.m. (CBS)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: The Steelers. Sure, you’d hate to see Pittsburgh get momentum rolling with their next game being Dec. 26 at Arrowhead Stadium.
A loss would mean a deflated Steelers squad coming in on the day after Christmas, but — as with the Patriots-Colts game — the Chiefs’ path to the top seed requires at least one Titans loss. This game represents a great chance for that to happen, but there are also more potential losses on the Titans’ schedule, including home games against San Francisco and Miami.
Green Bay at Baltimore, 3:25 p.m. (Fox)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: Go, Pack, go! The Ravens are already a game behind the Chiefs, but they also own the head-to-head tiebreaker. That means a loss provides breathing room for Kansas City — and the Chiefs may need it with the Steelers and road games and Cincinnati and Denver to finish the season.
If Green Bay can’t get it done, surely Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Rams or Steelers can get it done down the stretch.
Thursday, Dec. 23
San Francisco at Tennessee, 7:20 p.m. (NFL Network)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: The Niners, no question. Even if the Titans lose to the Steelers on Sunday. The more losses for Tennessee, which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against Kansas City, the better for those top-seed chances.
If the Titans lose to both the Steelers and 49ers, you can probably quit kicking them when they’re down.
Sunday, Dec. 26
Buffalo at New England, 12 p.m. (CBS)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. And if Josh Allen and company can do it against the Patriots, so much the better for the Chiefs’ playoff fortunes.
Losses to the Colts and Bills would be ideal — and possible with a rookie quarterback, no matter how well Mac Jones is playing in non-blizzard games. If things break right, a Chiefs loss at Cincinnati wouldn’t prove bothersome or two more wins would mean extra rest at Denver for the starters, gravy scenarios that were unthinkable two months ago.
Sunday, Jan. 2
Miami at Tennessee, 12 p.m. (CBS)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: ’Fins up, baby! If the Steelers or Niners haven’t gotten the job done, the Dolphins are more than capable of handing the Titans a loss.
The Jaguars — with or without Urban Meyer — aren’t beating the Patriots in Week 17, but maybe Trevor Lawrence will play out of his mind against Jones.
Sunday, Jan. 9
New England at Miami, 12 p.m. (CBS)
Who Chiefs fans should root for?: The ’Fins again. Look, if the Patriots haven’t lost by this point or if the Chiefs have, it remains Bill Bellichick’s bye/home-field advantage to lose. But we’ve seen a Miami Miracle on the last week of the season before, haven’t we, Chiefs Kingdom?
Meanwhile, if Tennessee hasn’t lost yet, I wouldn’t count on Houston to get it done — but maybe Texans coach David Culley can get some help from an old friend and former boss with the game plan.