The Patriots are dead. (I know that’s been said before, but it’s true this time! I think. I hope.) But any optimism that the NFL’s larger structural issue of the last generation—that the AFC is mostly garbage and it’s too easy for a decent team to come out of it—should be dampened by the Chiefs’ leisurely stroll to the Super Bowl.
Do not get me wrong. The Chiefs are very good and very fun to watch, and are slightly favored and I think they’ll win. This blog’s observation is no slight on the Chiefs, but instead on their competition: It should be much, much harder to win a conference than just beating the fucking Texans and Titans. Making the Super Bowl should be an accomplishment! Beating the two NFL franchises most forgotten on Sporcle quizzes is not an accomplishment. Not according to my hastily generated and universally ignored standards.
But, mew mew mew, the Chiefs had to win during the regular season to earn that first-round bye!
Sure. By playing AFC teams. Resolved: the conference is regularly garbaggio except for two (at most) teams. These days that seems to be the Chiefs and Ravens, and K.C. was able to avoid Baltimore thanks to the Ravens’ playoff choke to Tennessee. That choke could mean that the Chiefs made it painlessly to the Super Bowl mostly by some blessed luck, or that the Ravens aren’t actually as good as advertised and the Chiefs are the only competent team in the conference. Either, or both; whichever best supports my thesis.
When the 2019 Chiefs did play the NFC, the senior and far superior football conference, they didn’t have so easy a time. They needed a last-second field goal to beat the Vikings, and lost to the Packers—incidentally, the two teams the Niners needed to beat in their half of the playoff bracket. Am I saying that if they had to play more games against middling talentedish teams like the Rams and Bucs, to say nothing of the real cream of the NFC, K.C. would be a .500 team? I’m not saying that. But I’m not not saying it.
Instead, Kansas City cruised to six gimmie wins in their trash division, and that’s a horrifically familiar scenario, reminding me of nothing so much as the last 20 years of Patriots dominance. The most infuriating thing about the Patriots dynasty was not that they always won, it was that everyone they played was consistently dogshit and didn’t even give them much of a challenge. (The entire rest of the AFC East somehow went two decades without fielding a quality quarterback. This still makes me mad.)
But, mew mew mew, those Patriots had to play the Manning Colts, and the Steelers, and Rex Ryan’s Jets!
Get out of here with that.
Two years ago, the Patriots famously cruised to a Super Bowl appearance by beating the Titans and Jaguars. Yechh! Is it really any wonder these Brady/Belichick Pats have struggled so hard in Super Bowls, losing to NFC East teams that weren’t even considered the class of their own conference, and needing miracles to beat the Seahawks and Falcons? Does this mean we should expect the Chiefs to struggle against the 49ers, because the Niners will be the first real challenge they face? Maybe.
In conclusion, the AFC is awful, which doesn’t necessarily mean the Chiefs are frauds, and doesn’t predict anything for Sunday’s game. But there’s a reason no one gets excited when they hear Jim Nantz’s voice.