How long can a bull market continue?
As long as the fundamentals persist, the trend may have legs. The Kansas City Chiefs have some fundamental reasons they are winning. They have the coaching advantage in most weeks, and the quarterback advantage every week. They have explosive playmakers, with at least one stepping up each game. They are harassing opposing quarterbacks and getting turnovers. This week, the Chiefs had to overcome some adversity off (and on) the field, but they were able to persist and win. Those are the key building blocks of champions.
Patrick Mahomes: It was already his team. We already knew that the fate of the Chiefs rests squarely on his 23-year-old shoulders. On Friday — while the team was mourning the downfall of Kareem Hunt — Mahomes pulled his teammates together in a players-only meeting, which he later humbly downplayed to the media. When it was game time, Mahomes had some missed opportunities, but he kept firing. He was working without one of his top wide receivers, but he got others like Chris Conley and Demetrius Harris involved. The Chiefs offense was without their top runner, so what did Mahomes do? He led the team in rushing with 52 key yards. The Oakland Raiders tried to make the game interesting, so Mahomes shut the door with touchdown drives when the Chiefs needed them. The last few days are why Mahomes is the MVP of the league: leadership, resilience, aggressiveness, and playmaking ability when it counts.
Travis Kelce: Someone had to step up as a receiver this week, and Kelce responded in spectacular fashion. 12 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns doesn’t even tell the whole story. Watch him run routes and attack the football in the air. It was a monster week for the best tight end in football.
Chris Jones and the Chiefs’ pass rush: If Mahomes is the reason the Chiefs win on offense, the pass rush is the reason the defense can win. Jones is on a ridiculous tear right now, joining Dee Ford with double-digits in sacks. Fret all you want about their inability to shut teams down, but as long as they are getting after the quarterback, they’ll make enough plays to keep winning.
Chris Jones had a sack today… 8th consecutive game w/a sack. It’s number 10 on season for Jones. Joins Dee Ford (10.5) w/double digit sacks. They’re first Chiefs teammates w/10 sacks since Hali/Houston had 11 each in ’13. 5th pair of Chiefs w/double digit sacks in the same year.— Soren Petro (@SorenPetro) December 3, 2018
Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz: Fisher bounced back nicely from a rough game or two before the bye. While it’s true the Raiders don’t have the strongest pass rush, it was good to see a clean game from the left tackle. Schwartz’s Cal Ripken-like snap streak continues, as he plays some of the best football of his career. He has to be an All-Pro (or at least a Pro Bowl) player this year, or it’s an absolute travesty. Protecting Mahomes will be key against a few strong defenses down the stretch, and we’re bullish on the Chiefs’ bookend offensive tackles.
Damien Williams: The forgotten back on the Chiefs roster showed that he can at least be a complementary player when given the chance. He is known as a fantastic receiver with enough burst to break into the secondary. The combination of Williams and Ware weren’t enough to make us forget about Hunt, but 19 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown between them was enough to keep the Raiders honest. Williams’ stock is up this week because he’s been such a non-factor prior to the Raiders game. He’s starting to make the case for an increased role going forward.
Others who are trending in a bullish direction: Mitch Morse, Chiefs turnover ratio, Demetrius Harris, Chris Conley
Tyreek Hill: Hill has been spectacular this year. It’s more unusual that he doesn’t make a big play. Drops are extremely rare. He and Mahomes are nearly always on the same page. This week he was a bit off. Six targets and only one catch, with a couple of drops that could have been touchdowns. I fully expect him to bounce back next week.
Tanoh Kpassagnon: This tweet says it all. Tanoh is buried on the depth chart now. Given the promise we saw in the preseason, that’s very disappointing. Maybe it’s just because Ford and Houston have been so good, but regardless of the reason, zero snaps for KPass isn’t a good sign.
The Chiefs defense has been on the field for 156 snaps over the past 2 games.— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) December 4, 2018
2017 2nd round pick Tanoh Kpassagnon hasn't been on the field for a single one.
The inside linebackers and safeties: Ron Parker, Eric Murray, Anthony Hitchens, Jordan Lucas, Dan Sorensen and Ben Niemann: Can Eric Berry save the back and middle of the Chiefs defense? This is the weakness on the team right now, and it’s clear a change is needed. They are tentative. They struggle in coverage and struggle to tackle. We’ll see if #29 is enough to erase mistakes and elevate the play of others around him.
Others who are who trending in a bearish direction: NFL investigations, penalties
Spencer Ware: The new starting running back had a decent first game. He had a couple of strong runs where he showed tremendous effort to drag a pile forward. He also showed that he needs good blocking, because he wasn’t able to create much when hit in the backfield. Ware is a more than capable back, and he’ll likely have much better weeks. I suspect his stock will be up going forward, but what we saw in the Raiders game is pretty much what we would have expected in Ware’s return to the starting lineup.
Harrison Butker: Yes, he had an extra point blocked this week, but he’s fifth in the league in field goal percentage at 95%. He’s only missed one, and it was over 50 yards. The Chiefs may eventually be in a really close game again where each point counts, so they’ll need to rely upon Butker. It appears they can.
Others who are who we thought they were: Reggie Ragland, Orlando Scandrick, Steven Nelson