Along with winning the last Super Bowl before the merger in 1970, the Kansas City Chiefs’ greatest claim to fame in over half a century was team founder Lamar Hunt, who invented the expression Super Bowl.
Patrick Mahomes changed all that a year ago when he led a furious fourth-quarter rally that sent the Chiefs to a 31-20 win over San Francisco in Super Bowl 54.
Now there are Mahomes murals all over town, famous restaurants in town have promotions in his honor, and he even has a cereal named after him.
The Chiefs (14-2) are a seed again and are one win away from becoming the first team to host three consecutive AFC championships. The only NFC team to do so was the Philadelphia Eagles from 2002 to 2004, when Andy Reid was their coach.
Even after an extremely long wait, the fortunes of a franchise can change quickly.
Three long-oppressed teams – the Browns, Bills and Buccaneers – qualified for the division round this weekend and are convinced they have as much of a chance as the Chiefs, Packers, Saints, Ravens or Rams to win the Super Bowl 55.
In Cleveland, a strange season has turned surreal.
The Browns play football in January – without looking for a coach or general manager or figuring out what to do with one of their top draft picks.
After a nearly two-decade crawl, the Browns (12-5) are among the NFL’s elite, one of eight teams left with a chance to win it all. It’s an intoxicating thing for a franchise that has never reached the Super Bowl.
Still, under the steadfast hand of first-year coach Kevin Stefanki, the Browns rounded one obstacle after another and took off for a race few imagined.
They won 11 games to advance to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season. Then, with Stefanski unable to make the trip after testing positive for COVID-19 and missing two other key players and four assistant coaches, the Browns won their first playoff game in 26 years last Sunday as they stunned rival Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, where so many Cleveland seasons had previously died.
They did it with Stefanski in his home basement, and they ended their first playoff win since 1969 with a left guard who showed up to quarterback Baker Mayfield in the locker room before kick-off. .
Stefanski took part in the post-game celebration on FaceTime in a scene that looks eerily perfect in a pandemic season of Zoom calls, protocols, and social distancing.
The Browns’ success has provided a much needed boost to a football mad region that is known for most of its loser in an era of expansion with few highlights.
Stefanski can sense Cleveland’s passion.
“I’ve been driving around town a lot the last few days just because I have to get out of here,” he said on a conference call from his basement. “Just to see all the Browns flags and see everyone wearing Browns hats, I really feel it. I think our players understand the scale of this community and we need to maintain it.
Behind Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, the Bills (15-3) erased many franchise records set by Jim Kelly & Co. when the Bills won a record four consecutive AFC titles in the 1990s.
“There has been so much that we have said as former players, ‘These guys have a damn good football team,” said Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas. “Their defense is failing. You probably won’t hold 3 points or whatever, but their offense – their offense is a problem.
The Bills have led the AFC with an average of 30.3 points this season, and they haven’t lost since November 15 …
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Source: Twitter AP