Jan 9, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers center Lucas Patrick (62) celebrates with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

NFL announces divisional-round playoff schedule

With one game still play in the opening round of the NFL playoffs, the league on Sunday announced the schedule for next weekend’s divisional round.

Saturday’s action kicks off with a matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The top-seeded Titans will be well-rested following a first-round bye, while the fourth-seeded Bengals prevailed against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday 26-19.

The Titans and Bengals did not meet during the regular season.

Saturday’s nightcap (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX) features the NFC’s top seed, the Green Bay Packers, playing host to the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in a rematch from a wild Week 3 contest. Green Bay snuck out of the Bay Area with a 30-28 triumph in that one as Aaron Rodgers engineered a last-minute drive that Mason Crosby punctuated with a 51-yard field goal on the final play.

The Packers, who had a first-round bye, won five straight games late in the season before losing to the Detroit Lions in a meaningless Week 18 matchup. The 49ers closed the regular season with seven wins in their final nine games and then rode the momentum to a 23-17 road victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Next Sunday’s first game will take place at Tampa Bay, where the second-seeded Buccaneers will play host to either the No. 4 Los Angeles Rams or the No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. The Rams and Cardinals are set to square off Monday night in the final game of wild-card weekend.

The defending champion Bucs disposed of the Philadelphia Eagles 31-15 on Sunday. Tampa Bay lost to the host Rams 34-24 in Week 3. Tom Brady and the Bucs did not face the Cardinals this season.

The Kansas City Chiefs will play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET on CBS) in the final game of the divisional round. Second-seeded Kansas City routed the Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21 on Sunday evening, while No. 3 seed Buffalo obliterated the New England Patriots 47-17 one day earlier.

The teams met back in Week 5, when the Bills went into Kansas City and left with a 38-20 victory behind Josh Allen’s three passing TDs and one rushing score.

The conference championship games will take place on Jan. 30 and the Super Bowl will be on Feb. 13 at Inglewood, Calif.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs guard Nick Allegretti (73) scores a touchdown during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs smash Steelers in Big Ben’s likely finale

Patrick Mahomes passed for 404 yards and five touchdowns Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs began their bid for a third straight conference title by downing the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21 in the AFC wild-card round.

The loss likely will be the last NFL game for the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to announce his retirement. The 39-year-old quarterback started slowly before finishing with 215 yards passing, going 29 of 44 with two touchdowns.

Kansas City, seeded No. 2 after winning nine of its last 10 regular-season games, will play at home again next Sunday in the divisional round, hosting the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo won at Kansas City 38-20 in Week 5.

“We’ve been to the Super Bowl the past two years and when you walk off that field with a loss last year, you want to go back and get revenge,” Mahomes said on the NBC broadcast. “For us, we understand it’s a hard division and we’ve got the Bills coming in here next week. We’re going to have to play our best football.”

The Chiefs scored touchdowns on six straight possessions bridging the two halves. A 1-yard lob to tackle-eligible Nick Allegretti and a 31-yard strike to Tyreek Hill boosted the lead to 35-7 before six minutes had elapsed in the second half.

Mahomes, who was intercepted once, went 30 of 39 on the night and reached 400 yards passing before the end of third period.

Jerick McKinnon, who has battled injuries and played sparingly, had 18 touches for a combined 142 yards rushing and receiving with a TD reception. Travis Kelce had 108 yards on five catches and threw a short TD pass on a trick play, one of two caught by Byron Pringle.

The seventh-seeded Steelers did not crack Kansas City territory until the second half when Roethlisberger connected for scores to Diontae Johnson and James Washington.

“He was No. 7,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure, man. I don’t have the words.”

The Chiefs gained 302 first-half yards and Mahomes fired three touchdowns, all in the second quarter, including a 45-yarder to Kelce with 13 seconds remaining for a 21-7 halftime margin.

“You’ve got to possess the ball when you’re playing that team and we didn’t maintain it,” Tomlin said.

McKinnon and Pringle caught first-half TDs of 4 and 12 yards, though the Chiefs had trouble getting untracked. On their first five possessions, they punted three times, Mahomes threw an interception and Darrel Williams lost a fumble.

T.J. Watt returned the fumble 24 yards to provide a 7-0 lead for the Steelers with 10:41 left in the half. However, Pittsburgh finished the half with just 44 total net yards, two first downs and punts on each of its seven series.

–Field Level Media

Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; A detailed view of the NFL shield logo on the field at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-NFL player Junior Siavii dies at 43

Former NFL defensive tackle Junior Siavii died after being found unresponsive in a federal prison. He was 43.

The Kansas City Star reported he was pronounced dead Thursday afternoon at a hospital, where he was taken after being found in his cell at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. He was awaiting trial on gun and drug trafficking charges.

His cause of death was not announced.

Siavii had been at the medium-security prison since Dec. 17, the newspaper reported. He was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of illegal firearms possession and later indicted on charges of trafficking methamphetamine.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Siavii with the 36th overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. He appeared in 26 games with the Chiefs, missed three seasons with injuries and returned to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys in 2009. He later played with the Seattle Seahawks before retiring in 2011 because of injury.

The 6-foot-5 Siavii was a native of American Samoa and played in college at Oregon.

In all, Siavii appeared in 56 games (six starts) and recorded 56 tackles (six for loss), three quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.

–Field Level Media

2. Chiefs (2): WR Tyreek Hill's 110 receptions are a single-season team record. His 11.2 yards per catch are his lowest -- by 3.5 yards -- since he became a starter in 2017. Despite Sunday's stumble in Cincinnati, no one is going to want to see Hill or Kansas City once the playoffs start.

Syndication The Enquirer

Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill to play vs. Steelers, Clyde Edwards-Helaire out

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Darrel Williams are expected to play in Sunday night’s AFC wild-card game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Andy Reid announced.

Hill, who is nursing a heel injury, followed up a limited practice on Thursday by participating in Friday’s session.

Williams was limited in the first two practices this week before participating on Friday. He has been hampered by an ailing toe.

While Hill and Williams are trending in the right direction, Reid announced running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Edwards-Helaire did not practice for the second straight day on Friday while nursing a shoulder injury. The second-year running back missed the final two games of the season after first sustaining the injury in Kansas City’s 36-10 romp over Pittsburgh on Dec. 26.

Williams started Weeks 17 and 18 in place of Edwards-Helaire (517 rushing yards), with Derrick Gore and Jerick McKinnon providing depth.

Williams, 26, finished with 1,010 scrimmage yards (558 rushing, 452 receiving) and eight total touchdowns (six rushing, two receiving) in 17 games (seven starts) this season.

Hill, 27, finished the season third in the NFL with 111 catches for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns. He earned his sixth career Pro Bowl berth.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs with the ball against Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson (55) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tyreek Hill downgraded

Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire both suffered setbacks Thursday ahead of the Chiefs’ wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hill (heel) was limited in Thursday’s practice after being a full participant Wednesday. Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) did not participate after being limited Wednesday.

Edwards-Helaire missed the final two games of the season after first suffering the injury in Week 16, also against the Steelers.

“Clyde is going to do everything he can to be out there this weekend and we will let the people take care of what they need to take care of,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said Thursday.

Chiefs leading rusher Darrel Williams (toe) was able to practice, albeit limited, for the second consecutive day. Williams started Weeks 17 and 18 in place of Edwards-Helaire. Derrick Gore and Jerick McKinnon provide depth.

Williams finished with 1,010 scrimmage yards and eight total touchdowns on the season in 17 games (seven starts).

Hill finished the season third in the NFL with 111 catches for 1,239 yards (seventh-best) and nine TDs.

The Chiefs host the Steelers on Sunday night. Kansas City won the first matchup 36-10 on Dec. 26.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (11) runs the ball against Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Joe Schobert (93) during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers face long odds vs. Chiefs, but neither team feels assured of anything

The Super Bowl defeat suffered by the Kansas City Chiefs last season provides motivation entering the playoffs but remains a setback that can be compartmentalized.

After all, considerable work remains for the two-time reigning AFC champion before booking a Super Bowl appearance in mid-February. The path begins to unravel Sunday when the Chiefs play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round at Kansas City, Mo.

“it’s in the back of my mind but for the most part it’s a new year,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said about the NFL’s ultimate prize. “You’ve got to focus on things that have happened this year. We’re on a goal to prove to ourselves who we think we are, and we know we are, and that’s Super Bowl champions.”

The Pittsburgh matchup will be a rematch of a Dec. 26 clash Kansas City dominated 36-10 with Kelce sidelined in COVID-19 protocol. The Chiefs went on to go 12-5 while winning nine of their last 10 games and claiming their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

Kansas City has reached the AFC championship game in each of the four seasons primarily engineered by stalwart QB Patrick Mahomes.

“When you get to that playoff game day, you have a little bit different intensity knowing that every play is critical and it could really end your season by making a mistake,” Mahomes said. “At the same time, you want to be loose, you want to have fun and you want to enjoy it.”

Mahomes passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with the Steelers. The Chiefs also forced three turnovers and limited Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to 159 yards passing.

The Chiefs’ defensive intensity that day followed a trend that began after acquiring a longtime Steeler, Melvin Ingram. Ingram proved instrumental a week ago when he crashed into the backfield to generate a bone-jarring strip the Chiefs converted into a late touchdown return in a 28-24 win at Denver.

“He’s the swag champ,” Kelce said, adding that “you saw how much more fun people were having” after Ingram joined the defensive front.

At times, Mahomes has struggled with his accuracy, but he overcame an early-season rash of mistakes to lead the Chiefs to the league’s third-best production, 396.8 yards on average.

He passed for 4,839 yards while counting on Kelce and Tyreek Hill as 1,000-yard receivers. The committee approach to the backfield could continue with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams coming off injuries.

Second-seeded Kansas City, a two-time Super Bowl champion, will make its seventh consecutive postseason appearance and last faced Pittsburgh in the 2016 playoffs. The Steelers won 18-16. Pittsburgh, a six-time Super Bowl champion, reached the playoffs for the second straight season but last won a postseason game in 2016.

Roethlisberger, whose career could end with the Steelers’ next loss as he considers retiring from football, lamented the long odds his team faces after going 9-7-1 and drawing the No. 7 seed.

“I would assume, as a group, you understand that we probably aren’t supposed to be here,” said Roethlisberger, who is dealing with a strained pectoral and shoulder.

“We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams I think are in, we’re probably number 14. We’re double-digit underdogs in the playoffs. So, let’s just go play, have fun and see what happens.”

Tongue in cheek? Probably. A dose of realism? Yes, that too.

Still, Pittsburgh got in by defeating Baltimore in the season finale and getting help from Jacksonville beating Indianapolis and Las Vegas beating the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime.

RB Najee Harris (ankle) and CB Arthur Maulet (concussion) were slowed at the beginning of preparations for the Chiefs.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gained some satisfaction getting to restrict the all-out aggression of Harris, a 1,200-yard rusher as a rookie.

“It’s a good issue and problem to have,” Tomlin said, “when you have a guy that’s wired the way that he’s wired.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) attempts a pass as guard Joe Thuney (62) defends against Denver Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris (96) in the first quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Late defensive TD lifts Chiefs past Broncos

Nick Bolton returned a fumble 86 yards for a touchdown to spark a comeback, and the visiting Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 28-24 on Saturday.

Patrick Mahomes completed 27 of 44 passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns and also ran for 54 yards. Jerick McKinnon and Travis Kelce had touchdown catches and Mecole Hardman had eight receptions for 103 yards for the Chiefs.

Kansas City (12-5) secured at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC with its 13th straight win over Denver and will be the top seed if Tennessee loses at Houston on Sunday.

Drew Lock completed 12 of 24 passes for 162 yards and ran for two scores and Melvin Gordon III ran for 110 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos (7-10), who ended the season with four straight losses.

Denver led 21-20 midway through the fourth and drove to the Kansas City 9-yard line when Melvin Ingram III knocked the ball loose from Gordon. Bolton scooped it up at the 14 and ran it back for a touchdown, and Mahomes ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 28-21 with 7:42 left.

The Broncos answered with 31-yard field goal with 4:37 left but never got the ball back after that.

The Chiefs took the early lead when Mahomes finished a 91-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Kelce to put Kansas City ahead 7-0.

Denver, aided by a roughing the punter penalty, tied it when Lock scrambled up the middle for a five-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.

After the Chiefs punted Denver again marched down the field and took a 14-7 lead when Lock ran 23 yards on a third-and-seven with 7:49 left in the second quarter.

Harrison Butker kicked a 34-yard field goal with 2:18 left in the second to make it 14-10 at halftime.

McKinnon gave Kansas City a 17-14 lead in the third with a 14-yard touchdown pass but Gordon’s 47-yard touchdown put the Broncos ahead 21-17 with 9:02 left in the third.

The teams traded punts before Butker kicked a 51-yard field goal with 14:44 left in the game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs to play it straight, not safe, at Denver

Kansas City will cruise into Denver on Saturday with a chance to finish with the top seed in the AFC while knowing a loss to the Broncos could slide the Chiefs down to the fourth spot.

While potential No. 1 seed Cincinnati — Tennessee and New England also could climb into the home-field and first-round bye scenario — declared a week of rest for several starters, Kansas City heads into its final game of the regular season planning to keep its foot on the gas.

The Titans have the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, needing just to beat Houston on Sunday to clinch it. The Chiefs, who currently are No. 2, can put pressure on the Titans with a win Saturday afternoon.

If both Kansas City and Tennessee win in Week 18, the Chiefs will still secure the No. 2 seed, and while it won’t mean a first-round bye, it does ensure at least two home games should the Chiefs get past the wildcard round.

Kansas City (11-5) controlled its fate until a 34-31 loss at Cincinnati in Week 17. That clinched the AFC North for the Bengals kept them alive for the top seed, should the Chiefs and Titans both lose.

The loss to the Bengals – after Kansas City led 28-14 – stung and will be a motivation going into the game against the Broncos (7-9).

“After you lose a game like you lost [Sunday], it shouldn’t be difficult to get ready to go again the next week,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I think guys will be ready to go. We’re playing Denver, and they’re a good football team. They gave us a challenge this last time we played them, like they always do, and we’re playing in Denver, which is a tough place to play. We’ll try to fix some things and play better football this week.”

The Chiefs have won 12 straight against the Broncos, a reversal of fortunes from Peyton Manning’s days as quarterback in Denver from 2012-15.

A 13th straight win looks likely with the Broncos limping toward the finish line. Denver has lost at least three straight for the second time this season and was eliminated from the postseason with a loss at the Los Angeles Chargers last week.

This week has been less about preparing for Kansas City and more about the future of the franchise. The Broncos’ ownership situation is still in limbo, and the fate of head coach Vic Fangio is a big topic. Fangio is 19-29 in his three seasons as the head coach.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur also could be on the hot seat with the offense struggling.

“I don’t think about it, I really don’t worry about it,” Shurmur said. “We as coaches, we are where our feet are, and we’re getting ready to play this game and do everything in our power to put a winning performance on the field.”

Denver’s defense has been the stronger of the two units, and the revolving door of quarterbacks hasn’t helped the offense. Drew Lock, last year’s starter, lost the job to Teddy Bridgewater but hasn’t been able to produce enough points. With Bridgewater going on injured reserve with a concussion, Lock will start his third straight game.

Safety Kareem Jackson and guard Dalton Risner also were placed on injured reserve.

The Broncos activated 12 players from the COVID-19 list, most notably receivers Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, and Bradley Chubb, Baron Browning, Bryce Callahan and Mike Purcell on the defense.

Kansas City’s most notable absence from Wednesday’s practice was running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder injury), but coach Andy Reid won’t rule him out for Saturday’s game.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA;  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates a touchdown  during the fourth quarter as Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Milton Williams (93) looks on at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NFL reveals Week 18 schedule for Saturday, SNF games

The NFL updated the Week 18 schedule Monday with the final pairings of the regular season.

The Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) visit the Denver Broncos (7-9) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC, followed by the Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC.

The final “Sunday Night Football” contest of the year will see the Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) visit the AFC West rival Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.

The specific network assignments for all Week 18 games will be announced later on Monday.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches his second touchdown pass of the game from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) over Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) in the first half of the NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals And The Kansas City Chiefs 442

Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase light it up again as Bengals topple Chiefs

Joe Burrow passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns Sunday, finding Ja’Marr Chase 11 times for 266 yards and three scores, as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched the AFC North title by downing the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, 34-31.

Evan McPherson kicked a 20-yard game-winning field goal as time expired after the Bengals did not score a TD on several goal-to-go opportunities from the 1.

A Kansas City penalty for illegal use of hands gave Cincinnati a new set of downs. The Bengals kneeled the ball on first down and spiked it on second before McPherson came on.

Burrow went 30-for-39 and executed a second-half comeback after the Bengals (10-6) trailed by as many as 14. They used 17 consecutive points to gain their first lead with 11:44 remaining.

Joe Mixon added 86 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches for Cincinnati.

Kansas City (11-5) dropped to second in the chase for the top AFC playoff seed behind Tennessee, despite a 259-yard passing performance by Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes went 26-for-35 with two touchdowns, but only guided the Chiefs to three second-half points as the Bengals capitalized with a 17-3 second-half scoring edge. Kansas City had allowed just 12.9 points on average during its eight-game win streak, which ended Sunday.

Kansas City scored four touchdowns on consecutive drives of 72, 63, 75 and 73 yards to gain a 28-17 halftime lead with 292 yards and 16 first downs. Mahomes fired for 209 yards and two scores, while Darrel Williams added two 1-yard TD carries.

The Chiefs almost closed the half with a touchdown return on a kickoff, but the runback by Byron Pringle got nullified by a holding penalty.

Kansas City played without two tackles after Orlando Brown hurt his calf in warmups and Lucas Niang suffered a knee injury on its seventh play.

Burrow completed his first eight attempts and threw for 193 yards in the first half, finding Chase for touchdowns of 72 and 18 yards before McPherson tacked on a 46-yard field goal with 41 seconds left. Chase had five first-half catches for 111 yards but the Bengals started slow, allowing critical sacks to halt their first two possessions.

–Field Level Media