The Chiefs have had a winning record in every season since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013. They’ve been the measuring stick in the league since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback in 2018. Will that level of success continue for Kansas City in an absolutely loaded AFC West? Let’s take a closer look at the Chiefs.
Opening Win Total: 11
Current Win Total: 10.5
Schedule Difficulty: The Hardest
A bet on the Chiefs relies on the stability that head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes provide. Those two pillars serve as the foundation of a Chiefs passing attack that has been top-five in net yardage in every season since Mahomes took over in 2018, per Sports Info Solutions.
Kansas City marches out a strong offensive line that’s capable of being a top-ten unit, which adds to the offense’s already rock-solid foundation. That line will be challenged by every AFC West opponent, as the Raiders added Chandler Jones, the Broncos Randy Gregory, and the Chargers Khalil Mack this offseason. Each of those division rivals now has a premium edge duo, especially the Raiders and Chargers.
The departure of Tyreek Hill and his game-breaking speed will fundamentally change how the Chiefs’ offense operates. For the first time in his NFL career, Mahomes will rely on a group of receivers with no obvious headliner.
Fourth-year speedster Mecole Hardman was a big part of the Chiefs early gameplan in Super Bowl LV. While that usage spike, on that stage, indicated some measure of confidence from the Chiefs’ coaching staff, that was two years ago and Hardman has yet to show any consistency as a pro. Newly acquired burner Marquez Valdes-Scantling never breached 700-yards receiving in four years with Aaron Rodgers. In essence, Valdes-Scantling was Rodgers’ Mecole Hardman. JuJu Smith-Schuster had a monster year in 2018 with the Steelers; but entering his sixth season that 2018 campaign looks more like an aberration than an indicator of things to come.
If you’re a receiver that needs someone to breathe life into your career, Mahomes and Reid are your guys. But let’s be clear here, all three of these veteran wide receivers enter opening day as role players. No. 54 overall pick Skyy Moore is a promising prospect that will push, if not surpass these veterans this season.
Tight end Travis Kelce turns 33 years old this October. This might not be today’s problem, but at some point Kelce’s production will likely begin to slide.
Given the departure of Hill, it will be interesting to see if the Chiefs try to run the ball more and/or rely more on passes to running backs this season. Kansas City has a middling group at the position: they feature nearly-failed former first rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire, one dimensional runner Ronald Jones, and 30-year-old Jerick McKinnon. Seventh-round rookie Isaih Pacheco is making a positive impression in camp, and Derrick Gore saw a few usage spikes last season, often in blowouts. If anyone can get the most out of this group, it’s Reid.
The Chiefs ranked an underwhelming 28th in sacks last season. Despite that, Kansas City was still a disruptive defense finishing in the top ten in pressures (5th), knockdowns (9th), hits (6th), and hurries (3rd), per Sports Info Solutions. The Chiefs add No. 30 overall pick George Karlaftis to this already disruptive front. Karlaftis was one of my favorite players in last year’s draft, and he should be an immediate asset as a power-rushing edge. As long as stud defensive lineman Chris Jones stays healthy, the Chiefs front should continue to be a disruptive unit.
The disruptive pass rush was the good news for the Chiefs pass defense, as they were 24th in yardage allowed through the air last season. Kansas City will indirectly swap safety Tyrann Mathieu for former Texan Justin Reid. They’ll do the same with San Francisco bound cornerback Charvarius Ward for 21st overall pick Trent McDuffie. Much like Karlaftis, McDuffie was among my favorite players in this year’s draft class, and Reid is a good safety. That said, you could argue Kansas City downgraded in this indirect 2-for-2 secondary swap, at least for this season.
The Chiefs were a below average 21st in rushing yards allowed last season, per Sports Info Solutions. We expect the Chiefs run defense to remain in a similar position this year.
Kansas City has the hardest schedule in the league, with a whopping ten games against opponents with a double-digit win total. Kansas City’s whole schedule is rough, but the first seven games are particularly brutal: at Arz, vs LAC (TNF), at Ind, at TB (SNF), vs LV (MNF), vs Buf, and at SF before entering their Week 8 bye.
The Chiefs’ post-bye schedule is still littered with contenders; however, they draw a few softer opponents in the second half with home games versus the Jaguars and Seahawks along with a trip to Houston. Additionally, Andy Reid is an astounding 20-3 coming off the bye in the regular season, which spells trouble for Tennessee when the Chiefs host the Titans in Week 9.
The Chiefs have been a top tier offense in each of the last four seasons. Given the loss of Hill and their schedule, it wouldn’t be a surprise if their offense regressed a little. Still, even if the offense slides some we can remain confident in the Chiefs finishing the year as a top-ten offense..
Kansas City started 3-4 last season, before going 9-1 the rest of the way to finish 12-5. A similar start is very much on the table for the Chiefs this season. However, it’s going to be very difficult for them to duplicate a 9-1 type finish. They face the Titans, Chargers, Rams, Bengals, Raiders, and two games against Russell Wilson’s Broncos looming in the final ten games.
I don’t make a habit of doing things like betting against Aaron Rodgers or Bill Belichick long-term; so, I’m not that interested in betting against Reid and Mahomes over a full season. Decisions like that are unnecessary with 31 other options out there. That said, I have the Chiefs as a 10-7 team given the loss of Hill and their league toughest schedule. I preferred the under when it opened at 11 wins. I’d still lean towards the under on 10.5 even though I loved the Chiefs draft.