Timing the stock market is nearly impossible to do. Part of the challenge is that you have to be right twice. To buy low, sell high, you have to be able to call the bottom and the top. You need to know when to buy and when to sell.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, the past few weeks might well have represented the bottom and the beginning of the recovery. Many fans — like investors in a bear market — sold on the Chiefs season after the all-too-familiar way in which they lost to the Los Angeles Chargers.
It was too much for Chiefs fans with the sports version of PTSD. Memories of past playoff collapses came rushing back as we (and the Chiefs) helplessly watched Philip Rivers complete a comeback victory. Then, we had to watch as the Seattle Seahawks kept the game just out of reach. When everything was on the table for Kansas City, the division title and the number one seed would have to wait at another week.
If you sold on the Chiefs, how will you know when it’s time to buy again? What will it take to convince jaded fans to get back on the bandwagon again? A convincing win against the Oakland Raiders (check)? A win in the divisional round against an old playoff nemesis? A Super Bowl appearance? If that was the bottom, it was the perfect time to buy — when everyone else was selling. The problem is that we won’t know it was the bottom until after the market goes back up and continues the new upward trend.
The victory against the Raiders was about as positive and convincing as any we’ve seen all season. Yes, the quality of the opponent is a bit of an asterisk, but there were plenty of encouraging signs that this Chiefs team is on the rise heading into the postseason.
Chris Jones: It’s hard to put Jones’ stock any higher than it is, but he keeps showing up. The should-be-Pro-Bowl defensive lineman set the NFL record for consecutive games with a sack and is living rent-free in opponents’ backfields each and every week.
Bob Sutton: If your biggest complaint about Sutton is that he doesn’t adjust, then you have to give him credit when he does. As Craig Stout pointed out, the Week 17 defense was able to do more of what we’ve been hoping to see. The inside linebackers played downhill with less hesitation, tackling improved, and the defense forced turnovers. The Chiefs have effectively benched Ron Parker and Orlando Scandrick in favor of Daniel Sorensen, Charvarius Ward and Jordan Lucas. Maybe — just maybe — they’ve come up with a combination of players and scheme that work. If that’s the case in the playoffs, Sutton deserves some recognition.
Here's a wrinkle Sutton threw in this week -- a single safety. No, not just single-high...just one safety on the field.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) January 1, 2019
KC keeps their 3-4 front and brings 3 CB's (Fuller, Nelson, and Ward) on with Sorensen deep against OAK 11 personnel utilizing their primarily blocking TE. pic.twitter.com/qP8FngRPy5
Patrick Mahomes: His MVP case was solid for many weeks, but he put an exclamation point on it with the 89-yard touchdown to Demarcus Robinson against the Raiders. We’ve talked all year about the unprecedented nature of the things Mahomes is doing. He just completed one of the top three seasons in the history of NFL quarterbacks — in his first year as a starter. He’s shown the ability to drag the team to victory when they wouldn’t otherwise have won. Mahomes changes everything for this franchise, and he’ll have the opportunity to prove it by exorcizing Chiefs demons versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Justin Houston: Houston has settled in, and appears to be a healthy contributor for the playoff push. He’s a key part of the pass rush and run defense — even if he’s not quite what he used to be. Houston rose to the occasion against the Baltimore Ravens, has recorded at least one sack each game since, and had a couple of forced fumbles, too. Having healthy veterans with a knack for making clutch plays is going to be absolutely critical for postseason success.
Charvarius Ward: It started with a rough game against Seattle, where he was beaten by some near-perfect passes from Russell Wilson. He’s bounced back nicely, appearing to have the short memory and confidence that you need to see a starting corner. He has shown a specific skill set that the Chiefs can use, bringing the physicality of Scandrick and Steven Nelson, but with better size.
This is the prime usage for Ward: Press man against bigger WR that don't have long speed. Good shuffle, mirror, and flip when he ID's the vertical stem. Solid punch to redirect the receiver and squeeze to the boundary. Feels WR looking for ball, turns head and locates for PBU. pic.twitter.com/XYPqexf5jr— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) January 1, 2019
Eric Bieniemy: The latest fruit of the Andy Reid coaching tree has a full dance card in the first round of head coaching interviews. Chiefs offensive coordinator should be the most coveted job in the league because it seems to be a guaranteed stepping stone to a head coaching job. With Andy Reid, I wouldn’t worry about being able to replace an offensive coordinator in general. But Bieniemy’s specific motivational skill and accountability would be missed if he gets hired away.
Others trending in a bullish direction: Jordan Lucas, Tyreek Hill, Dee Ford, Travis Kelce
Kelvin Benjamin: His strengths and weaknesses are clear. He doesn’t separate, doesn’t have great speed, but he does have the size and strength to be a red zone target. Against the Seahawks, Mahomes threw a ball where only he could catch it. Unfortunately, it went through his hands and off of his chest. Coincidentally — or not — Benjamin played only four snaps against the Raiders.
Tremon Smith: Thrust into the lineup because of Kendall Fuller’s injury, Smith did not appear ready. He has some physical tools but hasn’t yet developed the instincts and techniques needed to be a full-time cornerback. Smith has developed into a pretty good kick returner, but for now, the Chiefs may have to look elsewhere for depth at corner.
Eric Berry: We all agreed that the Chiefs need Eric Berry out there to make up for deficiencies across the defense. They need him for the playoff run. But Berry’s snap limitations kept him off of the field during the decisive drives against the Chargers and Seahawks — which was maddening. Then he missed the finale, while his teammates put in a tremendous defensive performance against the Raiders. Can we expect dominant performances in the postseason from Berry? Will he even be on the field? At this point, it’s getting harder to see how this wasn’t a complete waste of a season from the Chiefs legend.
Others trending in a bearish direction: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Ron Parker, Chris Conley
Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland: Against the Raiders, we saw once again that these guys can help... when playing downhill. They aren’t the dynamic duo we hoped to see, but if they play as they did in Week 17, they can help — albeit in a limited role. They are dependent upon the defensive line giving them opportunities to clean up, and upon defensive playcalling to keep them from being in coverage too often.
Demarcus Robinson: On the surface, Robinson’s stock is as volatile as any on the team. But in reality, I think we know what the Chiefs have in him. He’s a guy with some speed and elusiveness but isn’t always the most precise in execution. He’ll make a big play, but then be largely invisible for the rest of the game. And that’s fine, actually. You need role players that can make noise when their number is called. All great teams have them. You just can’t expect the player to be something they aren’t.
When Demarcus Robinson gets significant snaps, he almost always leaves the game with a highlight route. From the skip release to win the outside leverage, to the hard inside fake to fool the trail and get the S lost in a snowstorm, all the way to how well he tracks downfield. pic.twitter.com/JEtRuxg9QK— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) January 7, 2019
Expectations: Understandably, fans and the media are selling their Chiefs stock and buying into the Colts, Chargers and others. The Raiders game didn’t seem to sway too many people into believing that the Chiefs will beat the Colts — much less make a Super Bowl run. Fans are focused on history, and the media is focused on the current team’s defensive shortcomings. I tend to think that the negativity is a bit overdone, and there is certainly a social media movement (#LetsRoll, #BreakTheCycle) reminding people that the Chiefs still have Mahomes. Hopefully, the Chiefs see stuff like this and use it as a rallying cry. It’s us against the world, and the underdog mentality — as much as possible for a number one seed.
Others who are who we thought they were: Breeland Speaks, Derrick Nnadi, Kendall Fuller, Sammy Watkins