It’s tempting to not move on from Week 1 this year because it was such an incredibly compelling victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. It was an offensive explosion for the Chiefs with Alex Smith, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt at the top of their respective games. The Chiefs displayed the type of offense that forces defenses into un-winnable situations. The defense played well, but the offense was the story of the week.
Alas, the league waits for no one, and the Chiefs are on to their home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles matchup offers some interesting storylines, not the least of which is the connection with Andy Reid.
Here are a few questions we’re watching to see how the Chiefs answer this week.
Is the Chiefs offensive line becoming elite?
One of the biggest causes for excitement is the most boring position group. Eric Fisher, Bryan Witzmann, Mitch Morse, LDT and Mitch Schwartz are a BIG part of why the Chiefs were successful in Week 1. Former GM John Dorsey and current GM Brett Veach as well as head coach Andy Reid made upgrading the offensive line a priority in their rebuild that started five years ago. They’ve invested heavily at the position, including a couple of early contract extensions in addition to a first, second, fourth and two sixth round draft picks.
It appears the Chiefs investment is starting to bear fruit. Against the Patriots, Alex Smith enjoyed fantastic pockets and Kareem Hunt had plenty of room to run. It wasn’t just that the offensive line was better, but also that Alex TRUSTED them more. You could see the evolution even within the game. In the first half, he panicked and stumbled into a sack. That’s what it looks like when he doesn’t trust the line.
As the game went on, and they had some success, Smith stood in there and delivered the ball without getting happy feet. Look at the deep pass to Hunt for an example, Smith was comfortable enough to wait for that play to develop and unleash one of the best passes of his Chiefs career.
If this continues, and the Chiefs offensive line is among the league’s best, it’s going to be an incredible year for the offense as a whole, and especially the team’s emerging playmakers. Week 2 will present a potentially bigger test against Fletcher Cox and the Eagles front seven. If the Chiefs have a good game offensively, be sure to give some credit to the big uglies up front.
Do the big plays continue for Tyreek Hill?
Tyreek Hill had one deep catch in Week 1 for a touchdown, and some other shorter routes on his way to a 133 yard game. The Chiefs need to target him deep and often to keep defenses on their heels. They should give him the ball on a jet sweep or two in order to keep the fake effective. If you’re always faking but never giving him the ball, teams will stop falling for the fake. The question about whether he can be a No. 1 receiver is being answered quickly in the affirmative, even as he’s still getting involved in some gadget plays.
However he’s used, Tyreek Hill is the difference between this offense being good and potentially great. He’s on an insane run of scoring on 60-plus yards in five consecutive games. Watch to see if Hill gets the opportunity to be great again this week.
Can Dave Toub’s crew get back on track?
I love the aggressiveness shown by the Chiefs on kick and punt returns. With a strong defense and (apparently) explosive offense, I’m good with the Chiefs taking some chances. That said, they HAVE to look more decisive and be more successful at it than they did against the Patriots. New England is known to have elite coverage units, so I’d assume the Chiefs will find better return lanes against the Eagles. Let’s see if the Chiefs special teams units can capitalize and influence the outcome of the game this week.
How do they make up for the loss of Eric Berry?
It’s been talked about all week, and we all agree you can’t truly replace Eric Berry. For this week, I’d predict that we see a lot more of Eric Murray and a little more of ‘Dirty Dan’ Sorensen. Between the two of them, someone will have to step up and help be the enforcer on the defense, cover tight ends and stay aggressive in run defense behind the line of scrimmage. I think we know how the snaps will be divided, but let’s watch and see how these guys cover Berry’s responsibilities on the field.
Will CJ Spiller be active (and on the roster)?
With the somewhat mysterious cutting of Spiller last week prior to the game, and the breakout performance of Kareem Hunt in New England, we can assume that Spiller was going to be among the inactives for Week 1. Back on the roster, with a different game plan, will Reid include Spiller this week? I believe he can contribute in the right circumstances, but it’ll be hard to take carries away from a certain rookie back.
How can Kareem Hunt top THAT?
After his record breaking performance last week, Kareem Hunt is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on NFL.com and in everyone’s fantasy football league. He appears to be an ideal fit for what the Chiefs want to do in the zone running scheme and in the passing game. He showed better than expected speed and big play ability in game one, but his signature ability to break tackles is what will keep the chains moving for the Chiefs offense. I don’t expect Hunt to have 200 yards and three touchdowns every week, but he’s one to watch every time he touches the ball this season.
Can the student become the master?
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spent the bulk of his career with Reid as a quarterback, assistant, quarterback coach and coordinator. Logically, Pederson’s offense, play calling, and eye for talent were developed under Reid and will be similar to his mentor.
“Nobody spent more time with Doug than I did. Nobody spent more time with me than Doug spent because we were always working on the offense together and would meet together,” Reid said this week.
Last week, Andy out-dueled Bill Belichick with some offensive and defensive creativity that got everyone talking. Reid has also done well against his former position coaches thus far sporting an 8-3 record. Can he out-scheme Pederson and the Eagles this week, given the level of familiarity between the two coaches and franchises? Pederson will likely have his team well-prepared and is less likely to be surprised by many of the wrinkles Reid will throw at him. So, perhaps it won’t be as much about scheme, but it’ll be more about execution.
Can they keep the flags in the pockets and footballs off the ground?
Speaking of coaching and execution, let’s talk about mistakes. Last week, the Chiefs were caught with 15 penalties, costing them 139 yards. Terrance Mitchell was flagged four times. The special teams units were flagged four times. Dee Ford was offsides twice. The offensive line was flagged four times. You get the point, it wasn’t good. Hunt also lost a fumble on his first carry, and the defense didn’t take any back, so the Chiefs were minus one on turnovers. This isn’t the Chiefs brand of winning football. Look for improvement in turnovers and penalties this week because they won’t always be able to overcome them.
Was Week 1 a fluke or a sign of things to come?
I’m not just talking about the fact that they beat New England, but let’s look at how they won. The Chiefs started slow, came back to answer each time the Patriots took a lead, gave up some easy rushing touchdowns, but made huge stops on fourth and inches, got a lead with explosive offensive plays, bounced back from a key injury then proceeded to BURY their opponent in the fourth quarter. A lot of that is contrary to what we’ve come to expect from this Chiefs franchise. This Chiefs team looks more resilient, more explosive on offense and shows more of a killer instinct than iterations we’ve seen in recent years. Will these trends continue?
Will there be a letdown game?
Speaking of what we’ve come to expect from Chiefs teams, we’ve often watched our favorite team come up big with a dramatic victory only to watch them fall flat in the following week. Going into last week, I made the case that the Chiefs could rally around the idea of being underdogs. That’s no longer a factor, as they racked up ‘all the Escalades’ this week, and shot up to the top of the power rankings. How long can the Chiefs exceed expectations as a contender? It starts this week.