Now that Russell Wilson is on the Denver Broncos, the AFC West is a deeply unpleasant place for defenses. The division features three of the most physically talented quarterbacks in the NFL and two Super Bowl champions. And also Derek Carr. Before the trade, the NFC West was viewed as the toughest division in football. That is no longer the case.
It is, however, relatively good news for everybody else because it means all four teams will beat up on each other all season. As the rules dictate, each team in the division has to play the other three two times a season. Football viewers get to watch Patrick Mahomes vs. Wilson at least twice and other AFC contenders sit back and relax as they go to war. Good quarterbacks mean competitive games, and everybody in the AFC West has a good quarterback now.
This is the basis of Kevin Wildes' argument made on First Things First this morning. He said Mahomes should be "quite worried" about the Wilson trade. Not because Wilson and the Broncos could steal the division out from underneath them, but because it'll be difficult to clean-sweep the AFC West and put the Chiefs in pole position for a first-round bye.
Wildes is the resident Patriots fan on the program and he's got his history right. In two decades of deep playoff runs with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, New England never made the Super Bowl if they had to play on Wild Card weekend. What's more, only three of their eight AFC Championship Game victories in that stretch came on the road.
This is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy because it stands to reason that if a team gets a bye, it is better than the teams who didn't, and thus has a greater chance of making a deep postseason run. The Patriots also made all those Super Bowls back when two teams got a bye, not just one.
But Wildes has a point because first-round byes are at a premium nowadays. Only the top seed in each conference gets one. It didn't matter this year after the Packers and Titans both lost at home in their first playoff games. But it'll matter in the future. Mahomes and the Chiefs are not well-positioned to cruise to the No. 1 overall seed because they now play in the toughest division in football. Who knows how things would have shaken out this year if they had to go to Buffalo instead of hosting the Bills in Kansas City?
Every edge matters in postseason football. Mahomes will likely lead his team to yet another division title. But it's not going to be easy, and the grind to get there will take its toll come playoff time.