Healthy bull markets (and bloggers) need to take a breather at times.
When the stock market has been on a tear — going up with high trading volume nearly every day — it’s considered good when there’s a down day before moving back up again. The idea is that a full-on crash is less likely if there are steps down along the way up.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams took our collective breath away last week. We’ll never see another game quite like that one. The entire Kansas City season has been a thrill ride, with Patrick Mahomes and the offense leading the way. The loss to the Rams — and the bye week that followed — couldn’t have come at a better time. The team and the young quarterback have had a chance to step back, rest and adjust before the stretch run.
Given the bye week, this stock report is a bit more forward-looking than usual. As is often said about the market, the Chiefs season “feels different this time.” But many of us are waiting for proof in the form of a deep playoff run. The Chiefs appear to have some players ready to help get them over the hump, some that may hold them back, and others that still have something to prove.
The Chiefs defense: Craig Stout explained it better than I could. The pass rush is legit. They just contained Todd Gurley. Justin Houston is back, getting sacks and forcing fumbles. Allen Bailey and Chris Jones are having career years. Dee Ford has become a threat that teams must address in their game plan. Defense alone can’t win championships, but opportunistic, clutch defenses that can get to the quarterback and cause turnovers can sure help.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill: It’s really no longer a question — and it hasn’t been for a long time. Hill is clearly among the absolute elite receivers in this league. He embarrassed the Rams secondary last week, and made one of the best catches of his career. The combination of Hill and Mahomes is truly something special, and is the reason this offense can win shootouts — despite what happened against the Rams.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones: I’m still not sure we’re giving Jones enough credit for the season he’s having. Aaron Donald is showing the league just how much damage can be done when an interior defender can win with quickness and power. This season, Jones looks like he belongs in the same conversation.
Chris Jones is definitely playing lighter, and the added speed means that the opposition can't sell the blocking as well on PA passes. The Rams OL shift and appear to be blocking down, as if it's a run, but Jones is able to beat the RT to the spot, force a hold, and get a sack. pic.twitter.com/nmjp5sKx9g— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) November 21, 2018
Head coach Andy Reid: One of the most successful and copied coaches in the league deserves some credit for guiding this team to another winning season. They’ve endured injuries to their best offensive lineman, best secondary player, center, pass rusher and others. Reid brought the rookies along slowly — even when it appeared guys like Breeland Speaks and Dorian O’Daniel would be able to help. Under Reid’s guidance, Mahomes is the talk of the league, and the offense looks nearly unstoppable. The Chiefs really couldn’t be in much better shape at this point. They’re sitting atop the AFC, with plenty of positive trends, improving health, and developing players. It starts at the top, and it appears Reid will get another shot in the playoffs.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes was brilliant for much of the Monday night game — as he has been all season — putting up video game numbers and highlight-reel throws. But he also was responsible for five turnovers — including two that were returned for touchdowns. Mahomes brought the Chiefs back and kept them in the shootout until the end, when his final two interceptions doomed the team’s chances. Mahomes has been everything we could have expected — and more — but to take the next step, he’ll need to prove he can carry his team to victory against top opponents. If the Chiefs do win in January and February, Mahomes will be the reason why.
Others trending in a bullish direction: Dorian O’Daniel, Kareem Hunt, Allen Bailey, Justin Houston, Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz
Safety Daniel Sorensen: Perhaps he’s still working his way back into football shape, or he’s not quite trusting his knee yet. But Sorensen looks like the guy opposing quarterbacks can target and take advantage of when he’s in coverage.
Sorensen is struggling to get back to what form he had. That's understandable given his injury. Why, then, is he isolated against a TE on the outside in single-high? Parker shows the deep coverage early, Goff knows he's got man outside, and Dan hops and releases late. Easy money. pic.twitter.com/l3BIhrbBKz— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) November 21, 2018
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick: We’ll all remember the missed opportunity to seal the game, when Scandrick couldn’t hold on to an interception. But the new number 22 in the Chiefs secondary struggled all night to keep up with Rams receivers. The holding and pass interference penalties are a symptom of a guy that’s getting beat and trying to compensate by using his hands.
Penalties: We’ve been talking about this all season, and it’s not getting better. Granted, some calls in the Rams game were (again) suspect... but 13 flags for 165 yards is outlandish. Three more that were declined would have put them just under 200 yards lost — in one game. Six were on the secondary — once again evidence that they weren’t able to cover without grabbing. Great teams don’t beat themselves with turnovers and penalties.
Others trending in a bearish direction: Jordan Lucas, Ron Parker, Eric Murray, Cameron Erving, Tanoh Kpassagnon
Tight end Travis Kelce: Early in his career, drops and ball security were knocks on Kelce. He seemed to have taken care of both issues en route to becoming the NFL’s best tight end. Against the Rams, the box score looked good, but the drops showed up again. The Chiefs need Kelce to be on top of his game down the stretch.
Wide receiver Chris Conley: Coming off his career game against the Rams, has Conley turned a corner? Or was his production merely a result of Watkins being limited? Conley is a guy who still has a lot to prove.
Inside linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland: It hasn’t been an ideal year for these two, as Hitchens hasn’t lived up to his big contract, and Ragland is losing snaps while playing for his next deal. But things might be looking up at the right time. Hitchens and Ragland are both better when playing downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage. The emergence of O’Daniel has allowed them to focus on that role. O’Daniel’s speed makes him more useful on passing downs, where Ragland and Hitchens have been exposed this season. As strange as it sounds, playing fewer snaps — and becoming more one-dimensional — might be a good thing for these two, and for the Chiefs.
One of the points of emphasis this week was definitely getting Hitchens to attack the LoS better and sell out to stop the run. On this play, he does well to hit the A gap hard and get a hand on the RB, slowing him up. Jenkins' split of the double and Jones' pursuit close the play pic.twitter.com/RMKcdjo2IW— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) November 21, 2018
Others who still have something to prove: Eric Berry, Sammy Watkins, Steven Nelson, Kendall Fuller