HomeFootball DirtChiefs travel to New England hoping to minimize postseason travel

Chiefs travel to New England hoping to minimize postseason travel

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Travis Kelce could be spending some more time on the road in 2024 — and not just to see Taylor Swift in concert.

The diva-dating tight end and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) are in an unexpected fight for the division title and might have to play their first AFC playoff road game of the Patrick Mahomes era. The Chiefs are the No. 3 seed in the conference heading into Sunday’s game against New England (3-10), which could force them to play twice on the road to defend their Super Bowl title.

“The division is tight. The AFC is tight,” Mahomes said this week as he prepared to try and snap a two-game losing streak. “We have to go out there and play our best football and try to get better this week and try to find a way to get a win.”

With the Denver Broncos winning six of their last seven games, Kansas City is down to a one-game lead in the division — closer than it’s been in more than two months. Even if the Chiefs hold on to win the AFC West for the eighth straight year, the NFL’s 14-team playoff bracket could force them onto the road for the first time since 2015.

The good news: Their remaining schedule pits them against New England, Las Vegas (5-8), Cincinnati (7-6) and the Chargers (5-8).

“It’s week-to-week in the league. I think our players understand that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They know what they need to do. We just have to get it done.”

SWIFT SIGHTING?

There’s been no word on whether Swift, who has been watching Kelce’s games when she isn’t on tour, will attend. Swift is familiar with Gillette Stadium, having played three nights there on her current Eras Tour and in other concerts as far back as 2010.

The pop icon and Time magazine Person of the Year does not head back on tour until February.

OUT AND ABOUT

The Patriots have already been eliminated from the playoffs with four games remaining — the first time that’s happened for New England since 2000. In the ensuing 22 seasons — combined — they only took the field twice with no hope of reaching the postseason.

The poor showing led to Sunday’s game being flexed out of “Monday Night Football” — an NFL first. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the season is meaningless.

With the worst record in the AFC — and tied with Arizona for the second-worst in the league — New England is on track for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 draft. The Patriots are two games better than Carolina (1-12), which has traded its first-rounder to the Bears.

Many Patriots fans have turned their attention to the draft, where the six-time Super Bowl champions could begin with a top pick like Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, North Carolina QB Drake Maye or Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

But that’s not the mood in the locker room.

“We ain’t here to give games up,” defensive lineman Christian Barmore said. “We’re here to play football.”

CLOSE CALLS

One thing the Chiefs have lacked this season is the killer instinct they displayed during Mahomes’ first six seasons as the starting quarterback. They have had eight games decided by one possession, including four of the past five — and three of those were losses. In fact, four of the Chiefs’ five losses this season have been by a touchdown or less.

“We all want to win. We all believe in each other,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “We just have to pull a little bit harder and find one or two plays to go out and get the win.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE

With so much anxiety surrounding the Kansas City offense these days, it is easy to overlook just how well its defense has played, especially in the secondary.

Defensive back L’Jarius Sneed held Buffalo star Stefon Diggs to four catches on 11 targets for 24 yards last week. Trent McDuffie has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league when he hasn’t been a terror on the blitz — he has three sacks — and as a whole, the secondary held the Bills’ Josh Allen to 233 yards on 42 attempts.

“We have everything we need to go be great out there,” McDuffie said. “I think it’s just a little details thing.”

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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