It’s late Friday afternoon, and as I take time to reflect back on the slowest week that was (anyone I have spoken to this week—friends, media members, players—has reported the same), I wanted to bring to light a couple of moments.
The first came earlier this week as I was preparing to head out to Arrowhead Stadium for press conferences. I was listening to Show and Vern on 610 Sports Radio, and my colleague Ron Hughley brought up an excellent point about Patrick Mahomes, originating from the Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito interviews he listened to on Fescoe in the Morning (follow the links to hear from yourself).
I think we all know by now that Mahomes isn’t ordinary. You can see it by watching his tape or by looking at his numbers. Only one other quarterback has thrown for 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in the same season, and his name is Peyton Manning. By the way, Manning did it in his 16th season at the age of 37. If you’re wondering, Manning’s first season as a starter resulted in 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
The point here is that the league has never seen someone like this. The league has never seen quarterback production like this. Kansas City has a player that is making former Chiefs wish they had been born later.
If that is too hard to fathom, let’s put this way. Kansas City, you have Mike Trout, you have LeBron James, you have Tiger Woods, you have Lionel Messi (hi, Craig). I could go on but you get it.
There is no guarantee the Chiefs win the Super Bowl in 2019. But the championships will come, and Saturday is just the beginning of the story.
I don’t like this matchup for the Chiefs—that is no secret. Here is my prediction from our weekly staff picks:
Pete Sweeney, Chiefs 31-28
I don’t believe this is a good matchup for the Kansas City Chiefs, which scares me. That being said, I wouldn’t have especially loved the Chargers or Ravens matchups either. The Chiefs, with a lot to play for, are taking on a Colts team playing with house money, as nobody expected them to make it this far. This is always the case, but I find it especially in this matchup — it’s a race to a 14-point lead. If the Chiefs can get there, it would force the Colts to become one-dimensional (welcome back to Sack City), and if the Colts can get there, they can utilize Marlon Mack and their offensive line to drain the clock, as they did against the Houston Texans in the wild card round. I watched the Colts hold DeAndre Hopkins to only 34 yards last week, so to me, Sammy Watkins’ game status and production are all the more important. I’m not sure the Chiefs have another Keke Coutee (who had 110 yards last week with Hopkins equalized) on the roster. Both tight ends (Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron) will be a problem in this game. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, which I believe gives them a slight edge, but don’t get it twisted. This will be a dogfight. For the sake of Kansas City, the Chiefs need to have the ball with under four minutes to go.
I know some of you Chiefs supporters feel comfortable and believe the Chiefs will roll over the Colts. Others have told me there is no reason to be impressed with the Colts given their schedule. To that, I say you only can play who you can play, and the Colts have won 10 our of their last 11 games—they are the hottest team in football.
I think this game will be close, and I know you know I have not been afraid to pick against the Chiefs this season.
The reason I gave the Chiefs the slight edge Saturday? Because they have Mahomes, and the Colts do not.
There is reason to believe that Mahomes may have been a little overhyped at the beginning of some of the Chiefs’ most high-profile games this season. Mahomes’ completion percentage on the season was 66 percent, but that dipped to around 57 percent in the first quarters of the Chiefs’ six primetime games.
There was thus a question this week about whether the playoff game on Saturday may be too big a moment for Mahomes, the 23-year-old still in his first year as a starting quarterback.
“So far I haven’t seen anything that is too big for Pat,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “I’m not worried about that. He’s going to get himself ready just like he does every week to play against a good football team. I don’t think he is wired the other way. I am not predicting anything, that’s not what I am doing here. I’m just telling you matter of fact that is how he is wired and how he goes about his business.”
Reid has done everything in his power to make this week’s preparation feel like any other week for his players. That idea is so ingrained in the team that Kendall Fuller nearly had his days mixed up when discussing his meal routine.
The routine should help with the jitters, and so too should the confidence Mahomes’ teammates have in him ahead of the biggest game of his life.
“It doesn’t seem like any moment’s too big for him, so I don’t see why that would change now,” right tackle Mitch Schwartz said. “Pretty much that’s thrown at him throughout the year—he’s handled really well. I think he gets more excited for these games than anything. I’ve never seen him be nervous or be anxious or any of that. I think he’s always ready and excited to show himself and lead this team.”
When it came to Mahomes’ readiness, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy credited his upbringing.
“His parents did a tremendous job of raising him,” Bieniemy said. “With him being around his dad (former MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes Sr.) his entire life, who’s played on the big stage—I think that has a lot to do with it. And the kid wasn’t too bad in college either. He played on some big stages then as well ... he just loves to play, whether it’s outside in the parking lot, in front of the Chiefs country, or any stadium around. He just loves that opportunity, to get out there and compete and play.”
At the end of the week, Reid added a bow to Bieniemy’s point.
“He loves playing,” Reid said. “He’s one of those guys you could put in a McDonald’s parking lot and he’s going to come out and play hard and do his thing. It doesn’t matter.”
Tight end Travis Kelce was the final Chief to speak to the local and national media in the locker room on Friday—remember, the 29-year-old Kelce is now one of the elder statesmen (I felt old typing that).
After a team representative said that Kelce was done speaking, a reporter snuck one more question in.
What will he say to Mahomes ahead of his first playoff game?
“Oh, there’s nothing you got to say to him, he’ll be ready,” Kelce said.
Every Chiefs fan wants to wash away the 25-year home playoff victory drought. I’m here to tell you the Chiefs understand, and their calmness, while strange, is palpable. There can only be one reason for that.
In Mahomes, they trust, and so should you.