KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Only once in the first four season of the Andy Reid era in Kansas City did the Chiefs enter the final day of the season facing a game with no meaning to the playoff picture.
What can the season finale of the 2013 season foretell about this weekend’s game? Probably a lot.
One notable difference between then and now is that this week Reid dismissed with any subterfuge about his intentions this week. In 2013, Reid used the phrase “mix and match” to describe his substitution plans. The team didn’t disclose that quarterback Chase Daniel and other backups would start until warm ups just before the game.
Reid announced rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the starter for this week on Wednesday. Other backups have also been informed they will start this week.
A plethora of Chiefs starters did not play during the 2013 finale against the Chargers. The team listed seven starters among the team’s inactives: quarterback Alex Smith, running back Jamaal Charles, left tackle Branden Albert, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, defensive tackle Dontari Poe and linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali.
Six more starters were active but did not play: cornerback Brandon Flowers, safety Eric Berry, linebacker Justin Houston, defensive lineman Mike DeVito, tight end Anthony Fasano and defensive end Tyson Jackson. Backup quarterback Tyler Bray also did not play. That’s 14 total players who did play.
Seven active players not playing is a lot. Last week against the Chargers, the only one of Kansas City’s 46 active players not to take field was Mahomes.
If Reid uses the same method of operation, all seven inactive players will be starters. Smith, Houston, Hali and Johnson are all good candidates as inactives once gain. Running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and defensive tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Marcus Peters are all strong candidates as inactives.
Even starters who did play contributed few snaps. The Chiefs carry only eight offensive lineman, so some starters will play and likely rotate through the lineup. Eric Fisher, then the starting right tackle, played 31 percent of the snaps. Starting cornerback Sean Smith played just 10 snaps. With the game on line at the end of regulation and in overtime, the Chiefs sat 20 of their 22 starters.
The same numbers game impacts the defensive line as well. While Logan appears unlikely to play, much of the rest of the defensive line may be active. But expect backups such as Justin Hamilton to get extended playing time and the team to play a deep rotation. Remaining in the nickel or dime packages also lessens the demands on the defensive line.
Reid may also take playing streaks into consideration. Right tackle Mitchell Schwarz brings a 95 consecutive games started streak into Week 17, the longest active streak among offensive linemen in the league. He has also never missed an offensive snap in his six-year career. It seems likely Schwartz starts, but it’s up to Reid’s discretion if he keeps the snap-streak alive.
Other Chiefs also have iron man streaks alive. Fisher has played in 68 straight games while linebacker Frank Zombo owns an 86-game streak, fullback Anthony Sherman 79 games and Kelce 63 games.
Zombo, Sherman, safety Ron Parker and punter Dustin Colquitt have also played every game coached by Andy Reid since 2013. Zombo, Sherman and Colquitt appear locks to play.
Reid also expects to take injuries into significant consideration as well. That means that a player such as linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who continues battling a shoulder injury, may not play or see little playing time.
Who will play versus the Broncos? Bet on draft picks, young players and backups. This game should provide a chance to see much of the 2017 draft class on display. Linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon has played 94 defensive snaps this season while wide receiver Jehu Chesson played just 18 on offense. Linebacker Ukeme Eligwe and safety Leon McQuay have yet to play any defensive snaps. All four should see significant playing time this week.
Deeper position groups may be manned almost entirely by young players. Inside linebackers Johnson, Pierre-Louis and Reggie Ragland may see little if any playing time with Eligwe, Terrance Smith and Ramik Wilson taking most of the snaps. Cornerback is another position where young players expect to dominate. Keith Reaser should get a look with Terrance Mitchell, Kenneth Acker and Phillip Gaines manning the secondary as well.