The Kansas City Chiefs will look to finish the regular season on a high note this Sunday with a matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs cannot improve or damage their playoff position this weekend – they're locked into the No. 3 seed – but the game will serve as a tremendous opportunity for some young and reserve players to gain meaningful experience.
Here are five things to keep in mind heading into game day.
1. Here's a look at the final injury report for both teams.
The Chiefs ruled out wide receiver Rashee Rice (hamstring), offensive tackle Donovan Smith (neck), cornerback L'Jarius Sneed (calf) and wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle) for Sunday's game due to injury.
Additionally, with the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff picture all locked up, the Chiefs listed several players as "Questionable" for Sunday: tailback Isiah Pacheco (quad/shoulder), linebacker Nick Bolton (wrist/abdomen), cornerback Trent McDuffie (shoulder), defensive end George Karlaftis (non-injury related) and defensive end Mike Danna (non-injury related).
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (ankle) is listed as "Doubtful" for the game.
[UPDATE: Patrick Mahomes was ruled OUT of the game on Sunday morning]
As for the Chargers, they'll be without wide receiver Keenan Allen (heel) and defensive end Joey Bosa (foot).
2. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert will make his first start since 2018.
Gabbert will take the field as a starter on Sunday for the first time since Week 17 of the 2018 season, when he was a member of the Tennessee Titans. The 34-year-old Gabbert has made 48 starts in his career, throwing for 9,333 yards and 51 touchdowns.
"It's a great opportunity," Gabbert said. "I told the young guys out at the walkthrough, 'Just have fun.' A lot of guys are going to have a great opportunity to go play for the first time and make a start for the first time. I've been fortunate to start quite a few games in the NFL, and these opportunities don't come around very often, so [you have to] make the most of them, have fun, cut it loose and just go play ball."
3. Sunday's game will provide an opportunity for several young players to show what they can do.
The inconsequential nature of Sunday's game means that several players who normally man reserve roles will have an expanded opportunity to show what they can do.
"It's a way to build your resumé in this league," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "[It] gives you an opportunity to also strengthen our team as we go into the playoffs [by giving guys] a little more experience gained in a game like this, so that's invaluable."
Now, it's important to remember that it's not possible to rest all of the Chiefs' starters on Sunday. The roster is only so large, and Kansas City can elevate just two players from the practice squad via the standard procedure. Still, it's quite likely that several individuals who normally don't see significant action will receive a major uptick in playing time this weekend.
4. The Chiefs have a shot to finish as the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL.
Kansas City currently owns the league's No. 3 scoring defense at 17.6 points-per-game, trailing only the Baltimore Ravens (16.4) and San Francisco 49ers (17.3). If the Chiefs surrender six fewer points than San Francisco and 20 fewer points than Baltimore this weekend, Kansas City would finish the season with the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL.
It's also worth pointing out that scoring defense includes all points allowed, including scores that the defense wasn't actually responsible for, such as pick-sixes. When looking at only offensive points allowed, the Chiefs rank second in the league just 15 points behind Baltimore.
5. Here are the playoff scenarios to keep in mind this weekend.
There are five teams currently in contention to face the Chiefs in the first round of the postseason next week: Miami, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Houston and Pittsburgh. Here's a quick look at the current likelihood of each courtesy of the New York Times' prediction model:
- Miami: 46 percent
- Indianapolis: 20 percent
- Buffalo: 19 percent
- Houston: 13 percent
- Pittsburgh: 3 percent
In terms of scenarios, the game on Sunday night between the Bills and Dolphins is key. A Bills' victory over Miami would ensure that Kansas City would face the Dolphins next weekend no matter what else occurs. If Miami beats Buffalo, however, things could get interesting.
Here's a look at every potential possibility courtesy of NFL tie-breakers expert Joe Ferreira:
A few things to watch:
- The only way that Kansas City can host Buffalo in the first round is if Tennessee defeats Jacksonville on Sunday. That result would not guarantee a Chiefs vs. Bills matchup, but it's required in any scenario that ends with Buffalo as the No. 6 seed. In fact, Buffalo enters this weekend with the possibility of landing the No. 2 seed (with a victory) or missing the playoffs entirely (with a loss, a Pittsburgh win and a Jacksonville win).
- If Jacksonville defeats Tennessee and Miami defeats Buffalo, the Chiefs will host the winner of Saturday's Colts and Texans game.
- If Pittsburgh defeats Baltimore, Tennessee defeats Jacksonville and Miami defeats Buffalo, the Chiefs will host the Steelers in round one.
The common denominator between all five potential opponents is that each of them is fighting to make the playoffs this weekend, which could prove to be an advantage for Kansas City when the postseason begins considering that this Sunday will be inconsequential for the Chiefs and, relatively speaking, low-stress.
Catch the Chiefs and Chargers at 3:25 p.m. CT on CBS.