HERE COMES THE D IN K.C.
“It’s progression,” Chiefs DT Chris Jones said Sunday night. “I still feel like we can get better. I’m not excited about allowing 122 [yards] on the ground. That’s too much. We’ve definitely got to get better at that. Progression is the biggest thing, and a win. It’s always good to get a win. But we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to always look for ways to get better and that’s what I’m focused on. How can we get better on something we didn’t do well this game going into next game?”
Having a bye ahead of the Oakland game didn’t hurt. The Chiefs implemented a 4-3 defensive scheme this season under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to mixed results. Mathieu said the Chiefs used the extra time to refocus on areas that needed improvement, and the coaches challenged the defense to play better than they did against the Chargers.
”The system isn’t new anymore,” said Mathieu, who had an interception on the game’s first drive to set up a Chiefs touchdown. “We’re in December. I think everybody’s got a good feel for what they need to do, what they can do and what they can’t do. We’ve got a long way to go, but I like what we’re putting on tape.
But now more than ever, it seems like we have reached the stage where the AFC will be alright without those titans of the game at quarterback. Mahomes, the reigning MVP, is still on an elite perch despite his team’s 8-4 record and his two-game absence with a knee injury. Watson has his team in the third slot of the AFC playoffs today with a one-game lead in the AFC South. And Jackson is coming off another huge win for this special season for the Charm City team.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
In their last three games against the Raiders, the Chiefs have won by a combined score of 103-22. They own the Raiders and Derek Carr, and now likely own the division again for the fourth season in a row. They have a two-game lead in the standings, but in theory it’s a three-game lead as they hold the tiebreaker against the Raiders.
However, the Kansas City offense continues to be off this season. It was predictable that we’d see some regression, but Patrick Mahomes hasn’t looked all that comfortable this season in the pocket. Yes, he’s playing well, but not as well as we saw last year. He’s still drifting out of the pocket too often and missing on throws he’s made in the past.
Nonetheless, the Chiefs are going to win the division and either get the third or fourth seed. A first-round bye isn’t going to happen.
Whitehead jumped offside, and his unimpeded run at Patrick Mahomes forced officials to blow the play dead. The linebacker didn’t hear that, though, and while Mahomes chucked the ball away, Whitehead shoved the QB to the turf — earning a predictable 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty that granted Kansas City a free first down. Three plays later, the Chiefs would kick a 50-yard field goal on their way to a 40-9 win.
This time a year ago, Mahomes looked like a historically valuable Dynasty QB asset, in the midst of a massive season in just his first as a starter, surrounded by similarly youthful weapons and paired with a coach as adept at any at creating an efficient offense. However, he looks to have been surpassed by at least one quarterback in the 2020 field, and just hasn’t been the same guy this season. Knee and ankle injuries have obviously played a part, but he still wasn’t great coming out of the bye in Week 13 against a soft Raiders defense (admittedly in some windy conditions). Mahomes has really only had one truly massive game over the last seven, and his 16-game pace in that span (4,565 yards on 7.54 Y/A with 24 TD when removing his injury-shorted Week 7) looks positively pedestrian. You’re probably not benching Mahomes for Week 14 against the Patriots — Deshaun Watson penalized anyone who considered that in Week 13 — but after he was the unanimous top QB off the board and a borderline second-round pick in many leagues before this season, Mahomes’ stock has clearly taken a hit, and he hasn’t done much to turn things around of late.
The Chiefs always seem to take the ball away in divisional matchups.
With three on Sunday, Kansas City now has 10 takeaways against AFC West opponents on the season, which are the second-most for any team vs. their own division in the NFL. That’s been a trend for a while, too, as the Chiefs have forced a league-most 63 turnovers vs. divisional opponents since 2015. The next closest team, New England, is 10 takeaways behind.
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“I mean, that’s the thing, as crazy as this is, I would say it’s a long shot, but we’re not out of it,” he said. “We do have four of our division opponents coming up. The guys gotta understand that, and it’s my job to make sure they do understand that -- that we’re still fighting and coming to work this week and ready to go and try to figure this thing out. But I’ve gotta show them exactly where we are and what we need to do with these next four games.”
“They came in at 10-1 or whatever their record was,” Ravens defensive end Chris Wormley said, again via ESPN. “That was a team that was looking to seal up the NFC West. We knew we had a little more work to do to kind of get some recognition out there, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But definitely a playoff game, definitely a team we could see in the Super Bowl if we both go on a nice playoff run. ... It was amazing.”
What made this seem different than a typical midseason Patriots loss, of course, was how their quarterback played. Tom Brady alternated between frustration and helplessness for most of the game, yelling at teammates who were either dealing with the aftereffects of a midweek flu raging through the locker room or placed into roles they weren’t capable of filling at a high level. Before the three late scoring drives, Brady was 9-of-25 passing for 90 yards with an interception and at least two other picks that were either dropped or taken away by penalty.
Cook was injured on the first play of the Vikings’ second drive after halftime. Upon receiving a handoff at the 8:56 mark, Seattle defensive end Rasheem Green punched the ball free from Cook’s arm, forcing a fumble. Cook was tripped up and fell to the ground, where he remained for several minutes and looked to be in apparent pain while being tended to by athletic trainers on the field.
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As we’ve done the last several weeks, we’ll use the New York Times playoff calculator to assist us. Here’s the top-line result: with Sunday’s win, the Chiefs have greater than a 99% chance to make the playoffs, a 98% chance to win the division (thereby hosting at least one playoff game) and a 7% chance for a first-round bye.
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