The Kansas City Chiefs currently own the number one seed in the AFC. The Chiefs also have a commanding two-game lead in the AFC West. If you were to tell someone this before the season began, odds are that they would believe you. Flashback to week seven when the Chiefs got embarrassed by the Tennessee Titans. Not only did the Chiefs’ defense continue to struggle in this game, but the offense also had no signs of its former self.
The final score of this game was a 27-3 defeat for the Chiefs. At this point everyone outside of the Chiefs’ locker room thought the same thing, the Chiefs are broken. Although it was easy to say early on, now everyone has been reminded of one thing, never doubt the Chiefs.
Defensive Concerns Magnified
Coming into the year there were concerns about the Chiefs’ defense. Most of the concerns were with the linebackers and the cornerbacks. It did not take very long for these concerns to become reality. Throughout the first five weeks of the 2021 season, the Chiefs’ defense allowed an average of 32.6 points per game. This was bad enough to put the Chiefs’ defense in the bottom two in virtually every defensive category.
Broken Beyond Repair?
Patrick Mahomes was dominant from the moment he took the reigns as the starting quarterback for Kansas City. There were a few games in his first three years where he looked off, but that is very common, especially for a young NFL quarterback. However, the way Mahomes was playing through the first half of the season had Chiefs fans everywhere doubting his greatness.
Starting the year with three touchdowns and 337 yards against the Cleveland Browns, most thought Mahomes was on his way to another MVP caliber year. This confidence however quickly faded into concern and doubt across Chiefs’ kingdom. In the Chiefs’ next 6 games, Mahomes would throw for 15 touchdowns, but also 9 interceptions. More concerning was the Chiefs’ 2-4 record over this 6 game period. This led to people such as NFL analyst Ryan Clark calling Mahomes “Broken“.
Finding a Way
Having a slow defensive start is nothing new to the Chiefs and Steve Spagnuolo. Spagnuolo’s defenses dating back to his time working as the defensive coordinator with the New York Giants were not particularly good early in the season. In two of those seasons, Spagnuolo’s defense would find a way to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
What had Chiefs’ fans concerned was the way the offense was struggling. Moving the ball was not the concern though. The main concern was the turnovers and lack of touchdowns in the red zone. Through the first 8 games of the season, Kansas City was second-worst in the NFL in turnover margin. Solving the turnover problem would be the key to turning around a dismal season.
Those that have followed the Chiefs closely since Andy Reid arrived knew it was inevitable. There have been moments during Reid’s tenure where you question what’s going on. But by the end of the regular season, Andy Reid finds a way to get his team in winning form. The Chiefs were a team that was last in their division and ranked 11th in the AFC through the first seven games.
A lot of people thought that the Chiefs’ schedule was too much to overcome. Despite all of that, heading into week 16 the Chiefs have a chance to clinch an unprecedented sixth straight AFC West crown. Patrick Mahomes has had his worst statistical year in his short career. Despite this Mahomes is tied for third in the latest MVP odds.
The lesson to be learned here is to doubt the Chiefs at your own risk. Are they as flashy as they have been in the past? The answer to this is no. But that might be why they are more dangerous than ever. The Chiefs are finding new ways to win. The past two years it has felt like the Chiefs had to get in shootouts to win.
Behind a resurging defense, the Chiefs are winning games thanks to a complete team effort. And that should scare other NFL teams. Units that were in question at the beginning of the year like the offensive line, linebackers, and cornerbacks are performing at a high level. While they are not as flashy, this could be the most complete team that the Chiefs have had in the Mahomes era.
What Lies Ahead
Kansas City will look to finish their season strong in the last three weeks of the NFL season. Tyreek Hill was among 6 Chiefs who were added to the Reserve/Covid List on Tuesday. That puts a total of 9 Chiefs on the Reserve/Covid List. Despite being without starters on both sides of the ball, the Chiefs will look to continue their momentum.
The next game up for the Chiefs will be Sunday, December 26 as the Steelers come to Kansas City. If the Chiefs win on Sunday they will clinch a spot in the playoffs and win their record-breaking sixth straight AFC West crown.
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