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Hope on the horizon for the Chiefs? Mahomes to face backup QBs for the rest of the season

The Kansas City Chiefs are in a slump, by their lofty standards. Although Kansas City is 8-5 and in little danger of losing its grip on the AFC West, the Chiefs have lost three of their past four and are unlikely to secure the top seed in the conference. Untimely drops and penalties have hurt the Chiefs' typically-explosive offense and raised concerns about this particular group's ceiling.

But hope could be looming just over the horizon for Kansas City. After a difficult stretch of games recently, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense face only one team with a winning record the rest of the way -- and zero teams that will play their week one starting quarterback.

Patrick Mahomes transformed into Disney villains thanks after his outburst in recent Chiefs game

A kind upcoming slate

The Chiefs travel to Foxborough in week 15 to face the 3-10 New England Patriots, who are expected to start Bailey Zappe behind center instead of Mac Jones. On Christmas Day, the Chiefs welcome the Las Vegas Raiders to Arrowhead Stadium -- and the Raiders are expected to ride with rookie Aidan O'Connell, who has thrown four interceptions in the past three games.

Week 17 brings a showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals, but this AFC championship game rematch will see backup Jake Browning tango with Mahomes in place of the injured Joe Burrow. Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers won't have Justin Herbert available for the season finale after the quarterback underwent surgery to repair a finger fracture -- it will likely be Easton Stick going against Mahomes at SoFi Stadium.

Is a road playoff game inevitable?

Although the Chiefs have a "watered-down" schedule to end the season due to all the quarterback injuries this year, Mahomes -- as good as he has been individually -- still has a receiving corps beyond Travis Kelce that will need to step up significantly over the next four weeks.

As it stands, the Chiefs are guaranteed only one home playoff game as the AFC's 3-seed -- and Mahomes has never played a conference playoff game on the road. Kansas City could still jump the Miami Dolphins for the second seed, but that would set up a scenario where the Chiefs could play a conference championship game in Baltimore against the top-seeded Ravens.

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