Justin Houston, LB: Houston, in his first complete season since 2014, has 9.5 sacks, which is tied for 16th. But he drops into coverage more than many elite pass-rushers. He’s had a superb all-around season.
Brady is clearly the best quarterback in the AFC this season. An argument could be made that Roethlisberger is right behind, though that’s far from a sure thing.
Either way, Smith is in the top three. That’s beyond debate.
Making the squad are tight end Travis Kelce, rookie running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who joins the AFC roster as a return specialist.
Over the past several years, many of the new head coaches who have had success in their new position are guys who worked under Andy Reid for all or some of their careers. Guys like John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson and Sean McDermott all spent several years learning under Reid. It has almost gotten to the point where the Reid tree is where you go to find a head coach.
Nearly every other NFL team has a streak of division titles in their background. The Patriots just clinched their ninth straight AFC East championship. Even expansion teams like the Texans, Panthers and Jaguars have won consecutive division titles at least once.
The Chiefs are the West’s ultimate one-timer. Including the West title won by the original Dallas Texans in 1962, the Chiefs have finished first nine times. Each was followed by someone else winning the division.
In the last few weeks, that’s been simplified. I also trust Geoff Schwartz on all O-line matters, particularly with the Chiefs, and he’s repeated a point that I believe is at least tangentially related to Terez’s: The Chiefs have dropped a lot of what they weren’t doing well, and focused on what they do well, especially outside-zone runs.
While the Chiefs did use their TEs and RBs to chip edge rushers a bit more than normal (they help their tackles less than anyone in the league, and it’s not even close), Fisher spent a ton of snaps on an island against Bosa or Ingram. That’s a tough way to make a living, and Fisher held his own the vast majority of the game, so I’m willing to still call his game a good one despite being above my magic line.
Now, because of his style of play, Marcus does give up a lot of completions. He’s great at guessing, playing percentages and jumping routes, but you can beat him on pump-fakes, especially deep. He’s also got the benefit of a great pass rush, so a lot of times, the quarterback doesn’t have time to set him up and beat him deep. The safety also cheats over his way a little sometimes because he understands that Marcus jumps a lot of routes and can get beat if he misses. So the rest of the defense gives him a little extra help to allow him to make those big plays.
The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West title — for the first time ever in back to back years! — by one of these three things happening.
1. Chiefs beat the Dolphins OR
2. Chargers lose to Jets OR
3. Chiefs tie and Chargers tie
Through their first four years as starters in the NFL, here are the totals:
Gonzalez: 3,590 yards
Kelce: 3,853 yards