The Kansas City Chiefs have enjoyed a nice string of success under Andy Reid. They’ve made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons under Reid, including AFC West titles the past two seasons. Last year, the Chiefs began the season 5-0 and looked like the best team in the league. They then lost six of their next seven games, only to win their last four to secure a 10-6 season and a division title. Alas, they suffered another early-round loss in the playoffs, losing at home to the Titans.
On the heels of another disappointing playoff loss, the Chiefs took a risk by trading away Alex Smith and anointing Patrick Mahomes as the new starting quarterback. Reid and the organization have a lot of faith in Mahomes. However, it remains to be seen if he’s the quarterback who can lead Kansas City to the Super Bowl.
The oddsmakers aren’t buying into the Chiefs, who are +3300 to win the Super Bowl. Even if Mahomes proves to be the answer at quarterback, Kansas City is still a long shot to go deep in the AFC playoffs. The Chiefs, however, are projected to win nine games this season. But after winning 10 games a season ago with the boringly consistent Smith at quarterback, it’s far from a lock that the Chiefs will surpass nine wins this year.
Obviously, a lot depends on Mahomes, who we’ve barely seen outside of preseason action. There’s no doubting that he has the arm talent to make all the throws that NFL quarterbacks need to make. But even under the tutelage of a veteran coach like Reid, there could be a steep learning curve in his first full season as a starter.
The only thing that’s certain with Mahomes is that he’ll have a nice supporting cast around him. Tyreek Hill is a game-changer with his speed and should be a good fit for Mahomes, who loves to throw the deep ball. The Chiefs also brought in Sammy Watkins this offseason. He provides the Kansas City offense with even more speed. However, Watkins has had an up and down career and been held back by injuries at times, so that’s a move that may not pay off. The Chiefs also have one of the best tight ends in football with Travis Kelce. But outside of him, there aren’t a lot of proven players for Mahomes to turn to on short and medium routes.
Kareem Hunt in the backfield also provides Mahomes and the Chiefs with another bonafide playmaker. Hunt rushed for over 1,300 yards last season, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He should also benefit from having a healthy Spencer Ware to share some of the carries. However, there are some lingering questions about the Kansas City offensive line. They are solid at the tackle spots but less convincing on the interior. Without good protection, Mahomes won’t have the time to hit his receivers on deep routes in order to create big plays.
The Kansas City defense also has some questions to answer heading into the season. They were middle of the pack a year ago and then parted ways with Marcus Peters, who was arguably their best player. Eric Berry is set to return from injury and should provide leadership. But with his injury history, there’s no guarantee he’s still the game-changing safety he once was. Berry is particularly important with the Chiefs bringing in a lot of new faces to their secondary.
Meanwhile, Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens were brought in to help clean up a suspect run defense a season ago. Chris Jones also leads what should be a solid defensive line group. However, the Chiefs can’t be sure they have enough of a pass rush from the edge. Justin Houston is reliable when healthy, but that’s not always a guarantee. Dee Ford is also coming off a disappointing, injury-plagued season. If those two can’t stay healthy, the Chiefs could struggle to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
To a certain extent, the Chiefs will only go as far as Mahomes is capable of carrying them. But the Chiefs will also need their offensive line and defense to play their part. They certainly can’t expect their young quarterback to do everything. Those uncertainties heading into the season make it difficult to foresee the Chiefs winning a third straight division title and becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
|Sep 9||@ Los Angeles Chargers||4:05 PM|
|Sep 16||@ Pittsburgh Steelers||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||San Francisco 49ers||1:00 PM|
|Oct 1||@ Denver Broncos||8:15 PM|
|Oct 7||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|Oct 14||@ New England Patriots||8:20 PM|
|Oct 21||Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
|Oct 28||Denver Broncos||1:00 PM|
|Nov 4||@ Cleveland Browns||1:00 PM|
|Nov 11||Arizona Cardinals||1:00 PM|
|Nov 19||@ Los Angeles Rams||8:15 PM|
|Dec 2||@ Oakland Raiders||4:05 PM|
|Dec 9||Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM|
|Dec 13||Los Angeles Chargers||8:20 PM|
|Dec 23||@ Seattle Seahawks||8:20 PM|
|Dec 30||Oakland Raiders||1:00 PM|
The AFC West portion of Kansas City’s schedule figures to be tougher than it was a year ago. They also face the three other division winners in the AFC from last season, so this year’s schedule will be no cakewalk for the Chiefs.
Week 1: at Chargers – Win
The Chargers don’t have much of a home-field advantage, even in Week 1, so these teams should be on equal footing in that respect. The Chiefs won comfortably twice against the Chargers a year ago, and they’ll start out 2018 in a similar fashion.
Week 2: at Steelers – Loss
This would be a wonderful coming out party for Mahomes if he can out-duel Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards; the Pittsburgh offense will put a lot of points on the board against Kansas City’s defense.
Week 3: vs 49ers – Win
This will be an intriguing matchup between a couple of young quarterbacks. In the end, neither will have a great day and the Arrowhead Stadium effect will give the Chiefs enough of an edge to win.
Week 4: at Broncos – Loss
With Mahomes making his first career start, the Chiefs won in Denver in Week 17 last season. But this is Monday in the Mile High City, so things will be a little different. Mahomes won’t have time to throw deep against Denver’s pass rush, making it a long night for him.
Week 5: vs Jaguars – Loss
Is Mahomes really going to be ready to face Jacksonville’s defense five weeks into the season? Even at home, that’s going to be a challenge, as the Jags sneak out of Arrowhead with a win.
Week 6: at Patriots – Loss
On a Sunday night on national TV, this is another great opportunity for Mahomes to make a statement. On the other hand, don’t think Bill Belichick hasn’t been stewing about the thumping his team took against the Chiefs Week 1 last season. Belichick and the Patriots won’t let that happen again.
Week 7: vs Bengals – Win
After three straight losses, this is a game that Mahomes and the Chiefs should be able to handle. Confidence will be low, but the home crowd should give the team the lift they need to get back on the winning side of things.
Week 8: vs Broncos – Win
A few weeks after the Broncos got the better of the Chiefs at Mile High, Reid will switch up his game plan to get the better of Denver’s defense.
Week 9: at Browns – Win
Don’t overlook the Browns this season, especially in Cleveland. But Kansas City should have the playmakers to put up points against the Cleveland defense, as Mahomes helps the Chiefs to their third straight win.
Week 10: vs Cardinals – Win
For all we know, Drew Rosen will be starting for the Cardinals by this point in the season. Not too many rookies are ready to deal with the noise at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs catch a break here and get another nice win.
Week 11: at Rams – Loss
The Rams have yet to turn the Coliseum into a fortress, but the Rams are definitely the better team in this matchup. Heading into the bye week, Kansas City will see its winning streak come to an end.
Week 12: Bye
Week 13: at Raiders – Loss
Even with an extra week to prepare, the Chiefs aren’t able to handle the Raiders. Jon Gruden knows Reid well, so he’ll be ready for him. Gruden also has the more experienced quarterback and the home-field advantage, so he’ll find a way to get the Raiders on top.
Week 14: vs Ravens – Win
Much like last season, the Chiefs will start to kick it into gear coming down the stretch. The Ravens will pose a stiff challenge, but again, Kansas City has the playmakers to come out on top in close games.
Week 15: vs Chargers – Loss
The Chiefs fail to show up for a Thursday night rivalry game, uncharacteristically so. Philip Rivers outplays Mahomes and then some, as the veteran is on point from the kickoff in what’s a disappointing loss for the Chiefs.
Week 16: at Seahawks – Loss
Mahomes faces another tough challenge in a nationally televised game and can’t quite carry the Chiefs over the finish line. Remember, the Seahawks are as good as it gets at home, and the Chiefs find that out the hard way.
Week 17: vs Raiders – Win
Now it’s Reid’s time to show how well he knows Gruden. There’s a chance this game has playoff implications, and that will inspire the Chiefs to put their best foot forward and close out the season with a win.