Deciding the AFC’s top seed (and maybe the AFC East, too)
Andy Reid’s team will have to put a lackluster regular season in its rearview as the playoffs approach. A 6-4 start meant Kansas City needed just 10 game to match 2018’s loss total, though part of that slump was attributable to the knee and ankle injuries that kept Mahomes either limited or off the field entirely. Beating the Patriots in New England would give the Chiefs no worse than a two-game lead in the West with three games to play. It would also send a size-60 font headline to the rest of the AFC that Kansas City is all-caps BACK.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 5 | Blair: 4 | Filice: 4 | Parr: 4 2019 stats: 10 games | 64.5 pct | 2,983 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 20 pass TD | 2 INT | 166 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles lost Parr: This is weird. The mighty Mahomes has set career lows (among full games only) in passing yards in consecutive weeks. He’s had fewer than 200 yards passing in back-to-back contests for the first time since entering the NFL and he’s averaged 5.9 yards per attempt in that span, well below his career average of 8.6. Maybe it’s just a mini-slump? Perhaps he’s trying to do too much since coming back from injury last month? He drops a spot in the rankings because Deshaun Watson just lit up the Patriots, but now Mahomes gets his chance to do the same, and I hope no one is foolish enough to underestimate him, even after he didn’t look like his usual godly self against a bad Raiders pass defense. The man still is the reigning MVP, one of just five QBs with a passer rating higher than 106 this season, and the QB with the fewest giveaways in 2019 among those with eight or more starts.
3 Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
Then again, Mahomes is going to have a real shot to usurp Wilson and maybe even Jackson this week. That’s because Mahomes gets to face the Patriots in Foxborough this weekend and if he dismantles them, he’ll deserve a promotion. Interestingly enough, even though Mahomes is still playing at a high level compared to normal human beings, he’s coming off one of the worst two-game stretches of his career. In his past two games, he’s completing only 55.7 percent of his passes and averaging only 5.9 yards per attempt. The Chiefs need him to break out of his funk this weekend.
Last week: 3
New England Patriots 23, Kansas City Chiefs 22
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
It’s disarming how much this matchup has changed since the AFC Championship Game in January. The Chiefs now have a pass defense for the Patriots to worry about, while the K.C.’s passing attack has looked vulnerable and disjointed since Patrick Mahomes returned from injury, more reliant on individual magic than ever. A Patriots win would all but guarantee their 10th straight playoff bye. A Patriots loss would signal an 0-3 record against AFC division leaders, all led by young mobile quarterbacks, a changing-of-the-guard narrative so on the nose it seems scripted. I give New England a slight edge at home because Bill Belichick built the defense of his dreams specifically to slow this Chiefs team, in this game. (And the next time they play.) Look for the Patriots’ steadily-improving running game to be the difference. An ugly game favors the home team with the more precise coach, just like it did for Belichick back in the early 2000s, when Andy Reid’s teams were also often falling just short.
Watkins was joined by two of his Kansas City Chiefs’ teammates - tailbacks Darwin Thompson and Elijah McGuire - on the visit, which led the players through the pediatric wing of the hospital. The trio took photos, signed autographs and – most importantly – provided hope to every child they met.
“The kids get so excited. These players are creating great memories for these families. We can think back on this and talk to them about it later on,” said Andrea Kennedy, Child Life Specialist at the hospital. “It’s nice to see smiles on their faces when they really haven’t been smiling much.”
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has already racked up plenty of accolades early in his career, and now he can add one more to the list.
Forbes magazine named Mahomes one of its “30 Under 30” honorees in the sports category for 2020.
Mahomes, 24, was honored alongside other athletes, including Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen, Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz and St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
“The defense is far from perfect; it would have been nearly impossible to turn it into a league-leading unit in one season,” John added when speaking about the impact Spagnuolo’s arrival had on the unit. “But while a year-to-year comparison of some defensive statistics might give you a different impression, this is a much better defense than it was — one that can make plays when it counts.”
Despite that, there are still some shortcomings Kansas City needs to overcome defensively in order to play successful football. For starters, the run defense is still not up to par: while the Chiefs as a whole rank 15th in the NFL with a DVOA of -2.1% — meaning that the team is above-average when analyzed on a play-to-play basis — they check in as only the 30th best unit in the league when it comes to slowing down opposing ground games (+7.2%).
“He can handle anything you throw back to him. Reflexes. Hand-eye coordination. It’s pretty damn impressive. I’ve seen some really good pingpong players. … I put him up there with like LaMonte Wade Jr., a kid who plays for the Twins right now—his mom plays competitive pingpong and he’s a really good pingpong player. I put Patrick up there with him.
”He could finesse you, and he could just bully you on the table. Slamming and serving like 10 feet away from the damn table. Making the ball curve. It’s a humble experience playing against him.”
Around the NFL
Best deep threat in the NFL?
Courtland Sutton has emerged as the Broncos’ go-to wideout, receiving 25.1% (12th-highest) of Denver’s targets and 44.7% of the team’s air yards (highest in NFL). Sutton had himself a solid rookie season in 2018, catching 42 of 84 targets for 704 yards and four TDs, but he’s already eclipsed each of those figures in 2019. Sutton has particularly outpaced his production on deep targets (20-plus air yards) this season when it comes to his reception total (2018: 8 deep receptions; 2019: 11, T-most in NFL) and yards (2018: 254; 2019: 427) on four fewer targets. Not only has Sutton been better on deep targets compared with his 2018 season, but he’s been one of the best deep-ball receivers in the entire NFL. Sutton’s 144.7 passer rating on deep targets is the highest in the league this season (min. 10 deep targets).
This was a disappointing season for Jack, who signed a four-year extension through 2023 worth $57 million with $33 million guaranteed. Jack will make $14.25 million annually when the extension kicks in, which trails only Bobby Wagner ($18 million) and C.J. Mosley ($17 million) in annual salary among inside linebackers.
Before we go any further, we’ll give a tip of the cap to my colleague Jordan Dajani, who has made the logical case for the No. 1 seeded Ravens to be considered the favorites in the conference. After all, Baltimore did beat New England rather handily earlier this season, and Jackson’s leap in Year 2 has been something to behold. They’re unquestionably a worthy adversary to New England, but let’s not crown them and kick the Pats off the throne before the truly meaningful games are played.
You made that mistake last year with Kansas City.
“That might be the first time my toe’s ever been on the injury report. You know us Patriots. We’re pretty diligent about listing everything, so I guess we have to make mention of my toe now as well,” Brady said with a laugh Thursday night in his weekly interview with Westwood One Sports.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Now in his third season as the Chiefs placekicker, Butker missed just one field goal (on 11 attempts) and one extra point (on 13 attempts) in November, scoring 42 points. His 44-yard field goal with three seconds remaining iced a 26-23 victory against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9.
His one miss was the blocked field goal as time expired during the 35-32 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. The earlier attempt — the one where long-snapper James Winchester and holder Dustin Colquitt got their signals crossed and botched the snap — didn’t go in the record book as a field goal attempt because Butker didn’t kick the ball.
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