LAS VEGAS — Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones finished his regular season with a flourish. He sacked Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham 2.5 times Saturday night, giving him 15.5 for the season, which should put him in the top five when all teams are done for the year.
However, that’s not what brought a smile to Jones’ face after the Chiefs secured the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed with a 31-13 win over the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. It was the thought of a week off.
“We came in with intention, knowing what’s at stake and what we were fighting for,” Jones said. “We were able to win the game, most importantly. So, heading into the playoffs, we get the bye week.”
The No. 1-seeded Chiefs (14-3) will be the AFC’s only team to get the first-round bye. They will begin their postseason with a divisional round game in two weeks at Arrowhead Stadium. Home-field advantage for the AFC Championship Game should they advance that far is not guaranteed after the NFL changed some of its playoff seeding rules in the wake of Monday’s canceled Buffalo Bills–Cincinnati Bengals game.
The game under certain circumstances could be played at a neutral site. But it would be played in Kansas City if the 12-3 Bills lose Sunday to the New England Patriots, assuming the Chiefs advance.
For now, at least, the Chiefs were happy with the bye. They haven’t had a break since Week 8 of the regular season, or more than two months ago.
Coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs planned to practice some during the bye, but also have some time off.
“Just take a step back and get yourself where you feel stronger and healthier,” Reid said of what he will tell the players. “You still gotta take care of business. Our guys understand that.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has never played an AFC playoff game in a stadium other than Arrowhead. All nine of his postseason games leading up to a Super Bowl have been played in Kansas City. The Chiefs are 7-2 in those games with both losses coming in overtime.
Mahomes said the Chiefs set three goals each year when they gather for the start of training camp. The first is to win the AFC West championship, which the Chiefs accomplished this year for the seventh straight season with their Week 15 win over the Houston Texans. The second is to get the AFC’s top playoff seed. The third is to win the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs’ 6-0 record against AFC West opponents this season fueled their rise to the top of the AFC. Mahomes is 27-3 against divisional rivals in his career, 16-0 on the road.
“Something that was instilled with me right when I got here is we were gonna focus on the AFC West opponents,” he said. “We believe we have one of the best divisions if not the best division in football, so we know if we can handle business in the AFC West, it’s going to put us in the position to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”
The Chiefs have advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past four seasons. They are the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the third time in five years.