DE Frank Clark: Chiefs eager for conference title ‘fight’ wherever, vs. whoever

Top-seeded Kansas City awaits AFC title game opponent, location
Bills Chiefs Football
Posted at 11:11 PM, Jan 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-22 00:11:14-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the fifth consecutive year, the Kansas City Chiefs are in the AFC Championship Game.

It’s tied for the second-longest streak of conference title game appearances in NFL history, but the top-seeded Chiefs don’t yet have clarity on where the game will be played.

And they’re OK with that — at least publicly.

“It don’t matter to me,” defensive end Frank Clark said. “I’m a dog. They’ve got to fight me anywhere I go. It’s a dogfight no matter what the environment. I zone out — whether it’s Chiefs Kingdom, Atlanta or my backyard, somebody’s got to get it.”

He added, “It doesn’t matter where we go. You already know it’s a show.”

Cincinnati plays at Buffalo on Sunday in the other AFC Divisional game. The teams previously met Jan. 2, but the game was canceled in the first quarter after Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field.

If the Bengals top the Bills, the Chiefs will extend their NFL record for consecutive home conference championship games to five straight next Sunday.

If Buffalo wins, Kansas City would play next Sunday’s AFC title game in Atlanta after the NFL owners adopted a change to the playoff format in light of the Hamlin injury.

The Chiefs’ players (again, publicly) didn’t express a preference — Bengals at home or Bills at a neutral site — after Saturday’s win against Jacksonville in the AFC Divisional round.

“The mentality for this team right now is just, ‘Let us know where we’re playing, let us know who we’re playing and let’s roll,’” center Creed Humphrey said. “I think we’re fired up, ready to get after it this week in practice and play a really talented opponent next week.”

Kansas City lost 24-20 against Buffalo at home in Week 6 and lost 27-24 at Cincinnati in Week 12, but they are ready for a high-stakes rematch against whichever team emerges victorious Sunday.

“I think the whole team probably feels like we don’t care who it is,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “We’re grateful to be in it and we want to handle our business. It’s about us handling our business, so I’m not going to slight one way or the other. That’s like saying, ‘Oh, I want a boy when you get a girl.’ Now you’ve got to live with that. I’m not getting into that.”

Kansas City finds itself in an eerily similar position to two years ago after Mahomes suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter against the Jaguars.

During an AFC Divisional round win against Cleveland that season, Mahomes got knocked from the game, and the week leading up to the conference title game was dominated by questions about his status.

Ultimately, Mahomes cleared concussion protocol that week and went 29 of 38 for 325 yards with three touchdowns in a 38-24 rout against Buffalo to secure a second straight Super Bowl berth, a game in which he was plagued by a turf-toe injury also picked up against the Browns that required offseason surgery.

But first things first, Kansas City needs an opponent next week.

“I’ll be watching the game, for sure,” Mahomes said. “Playoff football is the best time of the year, man, just to be able to watch that. So, I’ll get the treatment and stuff like that, but the family’s going to have to wait for a while because I’ll be getting that stuff done.”

The Chiefs are 4-3 all-time in conference championship games.

The Oakland Raiders also reached five straight conference championship games from 1973-77, while New England owns the NFL record with eight in a row (2011-18).

Kansas City set an NFL record last season by hosting a fourth consecutive conference championship game.

The Chiefs have split the previous four games, bookend overtime losses against New England and Cincinnati sandwiched around wins against Buffalo and Tennessee.

Three years ago, the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV after beating the Titans, and a year later, they lost Super Bowl LV after topping the Bills.