By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The date is October 7, and yet we are going to sit here and discuss home-field advantage for the AFC Championship Game.
Yes, it is that kind of season for the NFL, and the AFC in particular.
While there is the obvious caveat that there remain many, many miles left between now and Super Bowl LIV, those of us in New England have witnessed the Patriots reach the AFC Championship Game every single year since 2011. They’ve made it the Super Bowl in four of the last five years and five of the last eight years, winning it all three times since 2014. We’ve seen this movie before.
With that in mind, it’s not outrageous to note that the Chiefs’ loss at home on Sunday night to the Colts could have massive implications in the battle for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
With the loss, the Chiefs fell to 4-1 on the year. The Patriots, 33-7 winners in Washington, are now 5-0.
Those two teams have a head-to-head matchup in Week 14 in Foxboro, a game which will carry the most implications in terms of playoff seeding. But the Chiefs’ loss on Sunday now gives the Patriots a head start.
In terms of schedule difficulty between now and that head-to-head meeting, the two teams have a similar slate.
Chiefs Opponents, Week 6-13
vs. Texans, 3-2
@ Broncos, 1-4
vs. Packers, 4-1
vs. Vikings, 3-2
@ Titans, 2-3
@ Chargers, 2-3
vs. Raiders, 3-2
Chiefs opponents’ combined record: 18-17 (.514)
Patriots Opponents, Weeks 6-13
vs. Giants, 2-3
@ Jets, 0-4
vs. Browns, 2-2
@ Ravens, 3-2
@ Eagles, 3-2
vs. Cowboys, 3-2
@ Texans, 3-2
Patriots opponents’ combined record: 16-17 (.485)
The NFL’s tiebreaking procedures can get a bit complicated, but fortunately, that won’t matter much this year if the Chiefs and Patriots do indeed end up as the conference’s top teams. If the Patriots and Chiefs finish the season with identical records, then the head-to-head winner will own the tiebreaker.
But thanks to the Colts’ shocking defensive performance on Sunday night, the Patriots now have a leg up on the Chiefs.
If folks in New England really want to get carried away, they could note that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are just 2-6 in prime-time games since the start of last season. (That includes the home playoff loss to the Patriots, which had a 6:40 p.m. ET kickoff.) The Chiefs are 15-0 in all other games.
Perhaps that struggle in prime time is a coincidence or an oddity. Perhaps it’s an indicator that Andy Reid’s team doesn’t function at full capacity when the lights shine the brightest. Whatever it may be, it’s worth noting that the Chiefs have four prime-time games remaining on their 2019 schedule. (If you’re curious, the Patriots have gone 7-1 in prime-time games since last season. They have four more left on this year’s schedule, too.)
We of course must list the usual caveats. Any given Sunday, injuries, bad calls, bad breaks, etc., etc., etc. OK, have we gotten that out of our system? All right. Good. Because we know where this story is headed. It’s almost certainly going to involve the Patriots, and the Chiefs’ involvement carries close to the same level of certainty.
There’s a long way to go, yes, but the Patriots may end up looking back fondly at the events of Oct. 6, 2019. They were able to overcome a January trip to K.C. a year ago, but they’re currently in position to prevent themselves from having to make the same trip this time around.