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Press Box: Picking the Chiefs in the postseason a losing proposition again

Press Box: Picking the Chiefs in the postseason a losing proposition again

January 14th, 2018 by Tom Rackers in Sports Pro

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith walks off the field at Arrowhead Stadium after last Saturday's playoff loss to the Titans

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

I didn't listen to myself.

Way back in Week 6 of the season in the News Tribune Picks, I said the great start for the Kansas City Chiefs was nice, but all that really matters is what happens when the postseason starts in January.

I should have known better than to pick the Chiefs last Saturday against the Titans. Optimism got the better of realism and I figured Kansas City would roll past the Titans, who snuck into the postseason on the last Sunday of the season.

But I was battling against history and any Chiefs fan can probably recite the awful postseason numbers by heart. But as a reminder:

The Chiefs have won just one playoff game since the 1994 season. One in 20-plus years. That was a win against victory against an offensively challenged Texans team that committed six turnovers in Houston.

Kansas City has won just two of eight postseason games at Arrowhead Stadium, supposedly one of the toughest places for the opposition in the league.

Only four times in the history of the NFL has a team blown an 18 or more point lead in the playoffs. The Chiefs have two of them.

Picking out the Chiefs playoff loss that hurt the most is akin to deciding which version of the flu you liked the best.

Is it 1996? That's when the Chiefs were 13-3 in the regular season to claim homefield advantage, only to have Lin Elliott miss three field goals in a 10-7 loss to the Jim Harbaugh-quarterbacked Colts.

Maybe 1998? This should sound familiar. The Chiefs were 13-3 in the regular season to claim homefield advantage, but lost 14-10 to the Broncos. At least Denver had John Elway at quarterback.

Gosh, let's not forget 2004, the next time the Chiefs made the playoffs. Neither team punted when Kansas City hosted Peyton Manning and the Colts, which ended with a 38-31 loss for the Chiefs at Arrowhead.

My favorite dry-heave memory has to be 2014. In the wild-card round, the Chiefs led the Colts by 28 points in the third quarter at Indianapolis. The Colts then rallied to win 45-44, helped in no small part when quarterback Andrew Luck scooped up a fumble on a perfect bounce back to him and dove for a touchdown.

Just last year, the Chiefs were 12-4 in the regular season to earn a No. 2 seed and the right to host the Steelers. Pittsburgh didn't score a touchdown. How could this go wrong? But Pittsburgh did kick six field goals and led 18-10 before Kansas City cut the deficit to two with a late touchdown. The Chiefs converted a 2-point conversion pass that appeared to tie it, but a holding call negated the points and it ended 18-16.

And then there's last Saturday. A 21-3 lead at the half appears safe against the Titans. But another fortuitous bounce of the ball, this one a Marcus Mariota pass that was deflected back to the Tennessee quarterback that turned into a touchdown, turned the tide in a 22-21 loss.

What's the common denominator? That's the problem, there isn't one. There are different coaches, different quarterbacks, different defenses. But the same result.

Changes are coming to the Chiefs this offseason.

There are a lot of positives heading into 2018. Kareem Hunt gives the Chiefs a potent running back behind a good offensive line. Travis Kelce is one of the NFL's best tight ends.

But Alex Smith is almost assuredly gone, with Patrick Mahomes taking his place at quarterback. But he needs receivers. The defense is getting old, especially at linebacker.

It's not a team that needs to be blown up, especially in what looks to be a pretty weak AFC West. The Raiders will be in their first season under Jon Gruden and one of their last in Oakland. The Chargers will be the Chargers, they're going to have an ugly streak sometime in the season that keeps them out of the postseason. And the Broncos don't have a quarterback. The Chiefs figure to enter the 2018 regular season as the division favorite.

I just can't forget to pick against them when the postseason begins.