Cornerback Kendall Fuller: Fuller might have been overrated when the Chiefs acquired him this offseason. We tried to talk ourselves into him being the next Marcus Peters — or even an upgrade over him. But now it seems he’s been underrated. Fuller has been quiet this year — outside of some fearless open-field tackles and a few pass breakups — but I’d argue he’s been quietly solid. This week — in the fourth quarter, when the Chiefs needed it most — Fuller made this diving interception to help seal the victory. He also continued to make plays with his ability to diagnose, close and finish.
After having a quiet first half of the season thus far, it was nice to see Kendall Fuller make a couple splash plays on Sunday. This one may not be as eye-popping as the interception, but the agility to slip the downblock and make the stop for no gain on the screen was fantastic. pic.twitter.com/a7Bh165ncl— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 30, 2018
Linebacker Dee Ford: Ford has always been a streaky pass rusher. He’s struggled to stay healthy and has been one-dimensional. We assumed he’d be better in a contract year, but we didn’t think he’d be Defensive Player of the Year good. Displaying a wider variety of pass-rush moves, he’s leading the NFL in QB pressures, and even showing flashes of brilliance against the run. Don’t just take my word for it — see Matt Lane’s film review. Ford seems to be making plays when it counts this season, and he’s a big part of the reason the Chiefs defense has been able to help close out games. We used to ask, “Should the Chiefs keep Ford around?” Now we’re asking, “Can Ford repeat this performance on the franchise tag in 2019?”
Ford outside another EDGE is difficult to defend. I.D.s potential RB chip and adjusts pass rush plan from speed rush to inside counter, converting his speed to power. Good pad level & hand placement 4 leverage, drives the OT back/inside and keeps working the inside rip. pic.twitter.com/JxEVF4vzeD— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) October 30, 2018
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins: As Kent Swanson predicted, this was the week Watkins would shine. After he’d been dutifully carrying out his role as a blocker and a decoy in previous weeks, Sammy was featured against Denver, and he delivered — with eight catches for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns. When the offense is this loaded, that’s to be expected. When Watkins is on the field, he’s one of the main reasons the offense can be so varied and so dangerous; when he isn’t there, defenses have a shot at slowing down Hill, Hunt and Kelce. With Watkins, matchups rarely favor the defense, and the Chiefs offense has been taking advantage. Sammy can be the featured playmaker on any given week, and it seems his connection with Mahomes has developed. Watch Watkins in the second half of the season.
Offensive Tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher: Arguably, the only reason the Denver team is competitive is their ability to rush the passer from the edge. The Chiefs’ antidote has been the strong play of their offensive tackles. Some credit goes to Patrick Mahomes, who has a knack for escaping pressure and getting the ball out quickly. But these two tackles are starting to get recognition from opponents — and broadcasters — for good reason.
Mitchell Schwartz is your midseason RT1. Yes, I know Von beat him for a sack this game, but otherwise he pitched a shutout. He is balling right now: pic.twitter.com/7StpEJLn9G— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) October 30, 2018
Linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon: AP alumnus and friend BJ Kissel pointed out that it was Kpassagnon’s tackle for loss that helped turn the momentum against Denver in the first half. It was an encouraging play from the second-year linebacker, showing that he’s able to apply what he’s seen on film, fight through blocks, and make big tackles. He’s still not getting the bulk of the snaps, but he’s making an impact when he’s on the field.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones and the new Chiefs pass rush: The edge rushers often get the attention, but it’s the consistent threat from the inside that has helped the Chiefs quietly become one of the best pass rushing defenses in the league. Jones has been disruptive all season, and now has a QB sack in four straight games. His ability to beat blockers from inside or outside with quickness and power has become a weapon for which other teams must account. I wondered after the draft if this was the new model for the Chiefs pass rush: big, athletic guys with length that can move around the line. Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks — along with Jones — appear to be emerging as key pieces in a defense that will wreck offenses that trying to come from behind.
Others trending in a bullish direction: Dorian O’Daniel, Kareem Hunt, Derrick Nnadi
Safety Ron Parker: Unfortunately for Parker, he’s being singled out again this week. He plays a difficult position — one where he has to cover a lot of ground — and can’t afford to read a play incorrectly. At this point in his career, he doesn’t appear to have the speed to make up for mistakes — and sadly, he seems to be making too many of them. This week, miscommunications between him and Fuller resulted in huge passing plays that gave the Broncos a glimmer of hope. Given the emergence of Jordan Lucas and the (hopeful) return of Daniel Sorensen and Eric Berry, Parker shouldn’t continue to be out there for 100% of the defensive snaps. But right now, he’s being exposed — and exploited.
The Chiefs offense: Only 30 points this week? Sure, it was a division game against a tough defense, and they were working with a patchwork interior offensive line, but we’ve come to expect more from Mahomes and company. Speaking of Mahomes, he barely broke 300 yards passing this week, but it was enough to extend his streak of 300-yard games to seven. Where were all the big plays? The longest pass of the day went for... what, 40 yards? That’s a sad state of affairs for a team with an offensive genius for a head coach. Do better. Eliminate bad football. And, yes, I’m being facetious with all of that.
AFC West rivalries: 19 out of the last 20 division games have ended in a Chiefs victory — and it should have been 20 out of 20. The rest of the West struggled to compete with the Alex Smith-led Chiefs, and now that there’s an elite QB in town, it seems likely they’ll have even less success. Sure... these games will still be close and contentious, but it appears that the Chiefs’ division rivals are now reduced to whining instead of winning.
Safety Jordan Lucas: Bob Sutton put the brakes on the Lucas Locomotive this week, electing to use Eric Murray and Ron Parker for the bulk of the snaps, and pushing the impressive young player to the third safety role. From what we can see, Lucas has earned more playing time, but the coaches are operating with more information, and — at least this week — preferred the other guys. If (and when) the Chiefs get healthier at the position, snaps will be hard to come by. Lucas has to continue to impress in order to secure his role and convince the coaches to agree with the fans. We’re much smarter.
Others trending in a bearish direction: Spencer Ware, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson
Patrick Mahomes: He’s elite. It’s that simple. The new reality in KC is that the Chiefs have a franchise QB that can re-write the record books and erase their history of playoff suffering. His stock can’t really get any higher until the postseason, so I’m keeping him on the flat list again this week. But that’s not a knock on Mahomes — it’s just that expectations have ratcheted up, and he is still who we thought he was.
The Chiefs secondary: Expectations were low from the moment the Chiefs traded Marcus Peters. The first few games seemed to confirm that teams would be able to complete passes at-will against this downgraded group of corners and safeties. Then the injuries piled up, and panic set in among fans and analysts. But the trade deadline came and went on Tuesday, and the Chiefs kept the status quo. The corners have been better than expected in recent weeks, while the safeties have been worse. But the lack of moves here could mean that Berry and Sorensen are coming back for a stretch run to help save the day. Or it could just be that the Chiefs are convinced they can win without elite play in the defensive backfield.
Others who are who we thought they were: Reggie Ragland, Harrison Butker, Tyreek Hill