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Arrowheadlines: Chiefs projected to win AFC West by NFL.com model

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Chiefs headlines for Thursday, September 6.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The latest

Fivethirtyeight.com spits out good Chiefs season ... and another AFC West title | Kansas City Star

In a simulated season, fivethirtyeight.com projects 9.5 victories and 6.5 losses for the Chiefs and gives them a 58 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 41 percent chance to win their third straight division title.

AFC win-total projections: Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs own West | NFL

Kansas City Chiefs: 10.39 wins (projected AFC West champions)

Ceiling: 12.2

Floor: 7.9

The AFC’s biggest boom-or-bust team in my model projects to win the West. The Chiefs are handing the keys (and potentially the most well-rounded supporting cast in the NFL) to Patrick Mahomes. To make a big leap, the Chiefs must fix the 29th-ranked pass defense from last season, and they’ll have to do it without star CB Marcus Peters. The good news is that three-time All-Pro safety Eric Berry is on his way back from an injury that basically cost him the entire 2017 campaign. Furthermore, the acquisition of cornerback Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade helps mitigate the loss of Peters. If inside linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland can reduce opponents’ ability to rush against the Chiefs, K.C. could be set up for a deep playoff run.

No shortage of confidence in offense for Patrick Mahomes | KCTV 5

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, making his second career start on Sunday, has confidence in his offensive teammates.

NFL Network analytics expert: Chiefs are the ‘AFC’s biggest boom-or-bust team’ | Kansas City Star

While it appears that quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the offense will be potent this season, the defense is a question mark. Will the Chiefs be able to defend their AFC West crown? Or will the Chargers win the division, as many preseason prognosticators seem to think?

Derwin James can soothe a Chargers headache against the Chiefs | ESPN

The Chargers need the versatility in the back end defensively to be more sound against the run in 2018, and they will be tested by an explosive Chiefs’ offense on Sunday

2018 NFL Predictions: Expert picks for Super Bowl, MVP and all of the major awards | CBS Sports

Breakout Player

Jason La Canfora: Patrick Mahomes

He technically ain’t a rookie after being on the Chiefs roster all season in 2017, and he won’t be making his first NFL start this season, either, after running the KC offense in Week 17 a year ago. But this will be his first Opening Day start and he is going to immediately begin making eye-popping plays in Andy Reid’s offense.

Ryan Wilson: Patrick Mahomes

No coach got more out of Alex Smith than Andy Reid, so there was understandable consternation from fans and media when the Chiefs shipped Smith to the Redskins in the offseason. Mahomes, the 2017 first-round pick, proved more than ready for the starting gig, quickly distinguishing himself as one of the NFL’s best young passers.

Will Brinson: Andy Reid

There’s been so much turnover in Kansas City and the switch from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes is a massive move that could either burn the Chiefs or pay off dividends. I think it’s the latter, and I think that means we see Reid get rewarded when the Chiefs secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Freefall Teams

Jason La Canfora: Chiefs, Titans, Bills, Lions

Pete Prisco: Chiefs

I love Patrick Mahomes and think he will be a star. But there will be growing pains and the defense isn’t good enough.

Week 1 Fantasy Preview: Travis Kelce | NBC Sports

There’s a chance that Travis Kelce could see fewer looks with Patrick Mahomes and the addition of Sammy Watkins, but his role shouldn’t change much.

How Many NFL Teams Really Have a Franchise QB? | Sports Illustrated

Eight teams have drafted a first-round quarterback in the last two years: Browns (Baker Mayfield), Jets (Sam Darnold), Bills (Josh Allen), Cardinals (Josh Rosen), Ravens (Lamar Jackson), Bears (Mitchell Trubisky), Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes) and Texans (Deshaun Watson).

NFL 2018: Which division is the best in the league? We rank all eight of them | Yahoo! Sports

This division isn’t top heavy, but it has four interesting teams. And maybe the Chargers will finally be an elite team. You can make a case for any of the four teams winning the division, if major coach or quarterback changes hit big for the Broncos, Chiefs or Raiders (though it’s getting tougher to believe in the Raiders after their unusual offseason).

NFL Preseason Power Rankings, Part 3: Let the Deshaun Watson and Jimmy G Takeover Begin | The Ringer

11. Kansas City Chiefs

2017 Record: 10-6

2017 DVOA: fourth on offense; 30th on defense

Best-Case Scenario: My god, the Chiefs’ offense could be exciting this fall. After bringing in Sammy Watkins this spring on a sizable free-agent deal and pairing him with Tyreek Hill, Kansas City has arguably the fastest wide receiver duo in the league; tight end Travis Kelce is back, hurdling dudes and ripping off touchdowns; Kareem Hunt, who’s coming off an incredible rookie campaign, is already one of the better backs in the game; and leading it all is second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has the type of arm and “Eh, fuck it” attitude to casually drop 70-yard dimes whenever he feels like it.

Worst-Case Scenario: The bad news is that the depth chart on the opposite side of the ball leaves a lot to be desired.

Stat of Note: 166. That’s how many tackles the Chiefs broke as a team last season, making them the league leaders in that statistic, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac.

Breakout Player: Mahomes. I mean, c’mon.

Around the league

Football is here — and the NFL still doesn’t know what to do about protests | NBC News

Player protests, pending collusion grievances against team owners and a sitting president’s scorn does not sound like a typical lead-up to another NFL season.

But in 2018, it’s the current state of America’s most-watched sport.

Since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started protesting police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem before games in 2016, the NFL and its owners and executives have been trying to find ways to manage the controversy.

NFL Panic Index 2018: What are the Raiders even doing? | SB Nation

The NFL sells hope better than any other sport, and there’s no better time to be full of brazen confidence than right before the season begins. But deep down, there’s also that doubt creeping in.

What if those free agent signings don’t work out? What if the draft picks end up as busts? What if a key player goes down with a major injury? What if my team DOESN’T win at least 10 games?!

Now that the new season is almost here, it’s time to start figuring out what you should be panicking about right — or not.

Can suburban Chicago native Jimmy Garoppolo become the face of the NFL? | Chicago Tribune

New England Patriots in a trade last season, Garoppolo went 5-0 as a starter and threw for 1,542 yards, the most ever by a quarterback in his first five starts for the 49ers.

If you think that face is everywhere now just wait until the Arlington Heights native plays, like, a full season or something.

Akiem Hicks: Packers O-line ‘can’t block Khalil Mack’ | NFL

Regardless if it’s the starting five or perhaps a fill-in, Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks didn’t hold back during a Wednesday teleconference with Packers media when asked what he knew about the offensive line heading into Sunday’s game.

Kirk Cousins, Ezekiel Elliott among those under pressure in 2018 | NFL

Below, I’ve identified seven players and one coach facing tons of pressure to perform in the 2018 season. Each of these figures -- presented in alphabetical order -- is under a microscope for one reason or another. Soon we’ll see how they respond to the tests they’re all facing.

Punting phenom is taking the NFL media by storm | New York Post

Australian punting prodigy Michael Dickson is NFL reporter Peter King’s pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Dickson, a somewhat surprising selection by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round of this year’s draft, is riding a wave of publicity after some sparkling punts in the preseason.

Cowboys’ Zack Martin: Elliott ‘ready for a big year’ | NFL

The outside world hasn’t seen much of Ezekiel Elliott this summer as the Dallas Cowboys running back didn’t see a snap during the preseason. His teammates, however, report that we should expect a new and improved Zeke in 2018.

”Just the way he’s running, the way he’s approaching every day,” offensive lineman Zack Martin said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “Something just feels different. I think he’s ready for a big year.”

In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride

Eric Berry won’t practice Wednesday, plus other injury updates

“I know there has been a lot of questions about Eric Berry,” Burkholder said. “I know coach (Andy Reid) has said that it’s day to day. It is literally day to day. He won’t practice [Wednesday], but he’s spent a lot of time with us. He’s improving, he’s getting better every day and so we’ll continue with that process.”

10 bold predictions for the Chiefs in 2018

Editor’s note: With it seemingly being “prediction week” in the NFL, John’s serving up 10 bold Chiefs predictions for the upcoming season.

Making sense of the Chiefs’ injury updates from Wednesday

Editor’s note: Kansas City Chiefs head athletic trainer and VP of sports medicine and performance Rick Burkholder provided updates on Eric Berry, Daniel Sorensen and Byron Pringle on Wednesday. Our in-house medical expert, Aaron Borgmann, provides further interpretation here.

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