Getting To Know The Kansas City Chiefs
The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off a very disappointing loss at the hands of Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. It was a big opportunity to have their home opener on the CBS National Broadcast and show the country what they are about, instead, they played a very sloppy game that they just as easily could have won by multiple scores.
2020 Season In Review
The Chiefs are coming off their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance, and although they lost, the game was much closer than the final score would have you believe. Still, the Chiefs had a wildly successful season in which they rattled off ten wins in a row after losing to the Raiders in week five. They likely would have won their season finale against the Chargers too if they had not wrapped up the number one overall seed in the conference, and the only playoff bye. The Chargers won that game against Chad Henne and the rest of the Kansas City backups and the Chiefs ended the season 14-2.
Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense seem to get better each year, and in 2020 he threw for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just six interceptions for a passer rating of 108.2. He was dominant all year long, as were his two best weapons: Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
Kelce broke the single-season record for most yards by a tight end in NFL history with 1,416, and he now owns three of the ten best seasons by a tight end in terms of yards. He even finished second in the league in receiving yards, trailing only Stefon Diggs, which is just absurd production for a tight end. Hill wasn’t far behind him in receiving yards at 1,276. Hill however had four more touchdowns than Kelce and finished second in the league behind Davante Adams.
The offense is as lethal as ever and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Key Additions And Departures
Similar to the Chargers, the Chiefs overhauled their offensive line after the 2020 season. They suffered a plethora of injuries during the course of the season in that unit, including long-time tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Fisher is now on the Colts trying to recover a torn achilles, and Schwartz had season-ending back surgery that he is still not recovered from. Schwartz remains unsigned and is doing weekly podcast recordings for The Athletic Football Show with Robert Mays.
As a result of the injuries, and the visual appearance of Mahomes running for his life in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs are starting the 2021 season with five new starters along the offensive line. They traded for Orlando Brown Jr before the draft, who is making the switch to playing left tackle after starting his career as a right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. They also signed guard Joe Thuney to a massive deal in free agency and brought in Kyle Long and Austin Blythe to compete for starting positions/provide depth. Those two lost the starting battles to rookies Creed Humphrey (I will forever be salty about Humphrey falling in their laps), and Trey Smith. Former third-round pick Lucas Niang out of TCU rounds out their starting five after beating out veteran Mike Remmers. Niang is essentially a rookie after he opted out of the 2020 season due to covid concerns. They also have the return of Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff after he spent the 2020 season putting his medical degree to use in his native Canada.
Other than the offensive line, most of the Chiefs’ free-agent additions were minor. Veteran Mike Hughes was brought in to shore up a cornerback spot after another disappointing season from that group. The Chiefs are experimenting with moving Chris Jones to the edge and signed former Seahawk Jarran Reed to fill his spot on the interior. Chris Burton will take over as the team’s fullback after Anthony Sherman Retired.
The Chiefs are coming off a loss at the hands of the Ravens on Sunday Night Football, but their overall outlook remains the same. The roster has its warts, and their schedule remains difficult, but as long as Mahomes, Kelce, and Hill, they should be considered the best team in the AFC. Like every team, there are potential things that could elevate their ceiling.
In order for them to win another Super Bowl, there are two things that are paramount this season and beyond. First, their offensive line needs to gel quickly and be better than what they had when Fisher and Schwartz were healthy, not just be better than the group that we saw take the field against the Buccaneers vaunted defense. Second, the Jones experiment HAS to work out because they don’t really have any other options. The pass rush has not been good enough in the past few seasons, and it is off to a slow start again this year.
As for the division, the other three teams all seem to be improved but Reid and Mahomes have been outstanding against the AFC West during their tenure. Barring major injuries, the Chiefs should win another division title rather easily.
History Against The Chargers
The Chiefs and Chargers are one of the oldest rivalries in professional football, but it’s been rather one-sided throughout its history. The Chiefs will dominate for a time, then the Chargers will have their turn and so on they go. In the early 2000s, the Chargers had their turn, and really ever since Reid became the head coach of the Chiefs after the 2012 season, it’s been the Chiefs turn. The Chiefs have the series advantage over the Chargers 64-57, with one tie. They have won 12 of the last 16 matchups.
This is a very tall task for Staley and the Chargers. If you had asked me to make a prediction for this game a few weeks ago, I probably would have been more inclined to take the Chargers. However, the overall operation has not been as smooth as I would have liked at this point – a sentiment I think Staley himself would agree with. For now, I’ll say the Chiefs win 27-23.