One of the biggest downfalls to success is change. Teams that win games, advance in the playoffs and win championships tend to lose their best coaches to better jobs at rival organizations.
That was the case when then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson was plucked by Philadelphia, then guided the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. And it was the case a couple of years later, when Chicago took his replacement, Matt Nagy, and the Bears proceeded to march into the playoffs last season.
Bieniemy got some looks for head coaching jobs after last season, too, but ultimately returned to the Chiefs as their offensive coordinator. And with Kafka back to tutor Mahomes, the brain trust that guided the Chiefs to a third consecutive AFC West title is back intact.
This may seem like a big dip from last season, when Mahomes threw for 50 TDs, but 37 would have topped the League in 2017 (when Russell Wilson led with 34) and 2015 (when Tom Brady led with 36). Similar to the passing-yardage projection, Mahomes’ touchdown total is projected to decrease because of an improved Chiefs defense. Think of it like this: Last season, the Chiefs allowed the most yards per game on first down (208.8) and the most 10-play drives (41). They had the most 10-play defensive drives that resulted in a touchdown (22), as well. Thus, Mahomes and the offense were asked to score often (which they did, at a league-high rate of 4.1 touchdowns per game), and quickly. My model projects the defense will do a better job of keeping opponents out of the end zone this season, meaning the strategy of play-calling can reflect more control and necessitate fewer touchdowns. Don’t worry: K.C. will still be electric, just a little more strategic.
“He’s taken this whole community of Whitehouse on this great little ol’ ride you know,” Cook said. “Of striving, trying to get that last win, whether it’s a state championship, national championship at the college level, now it’s the Super Bowl. I think I’m just one of many in this area who, now, really love the Chiefs.”
The boy Cook met barely 15 years ago is now the face of the NFL, and when he watches him play, the kid, or maybe kid’s love of the game, is still there in every snap.
“I catch myself sometimes thinking, ‘Man, Patrick’s a good kid,’” Cook said. “But he’s not, he’s now a great man. When you see that boy coming out of there (the tunnel), fire shooting everywhere, I think all of us are drawn to these athletes that still play the game with that love and that passion, and the only way you can do it is you still have to have an element of a kid in you.”
The three tight ends who give fantasy drafters a high enough floor/ceiling combination that makes them worth an early-round pick in standard scoring leagues are the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce (current consensus ADP of 15th overall in PPR leagues), the Eagles’ Zach Ertz (25th), and the 49ers’ George Kittle (29th). Kelce is fresh off a 150-target campaign in which he caught 103 balls for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to an overall TE1 finish in all formats. Kelce remains perhaps the safest fantasy tight end in the game: He’s still catching passes from Patrick Mahomes, the most dynamic quarterback in the NFL, he’s a central focus in the most explosive and highest-scoring offense in the league, and he’s been incredibly durable, playing in all but one game during the past five seasons. Using a second-round pick on Kelce gives you all the consistency and upside you’re looking for at that spot.
Schwartz, meanwhile, discussed his inclusion in the annual NFL Top 100 rankings for the first time earlier this summer. The seven-year veteran checked in at No. 94.
“It was awesome. I had no expectation for that. I didn’t know it was even starting, but it was really cool. It kind of blew my mind that I could be a part of that and I am grateful for everyone who voted for me,” Schwartz said. “It’s one of those things where some guys might say it doesn’t mean much, but everyone wants to be recognized whether it’s being a good player or being the best at your position, any of those things. When those come in, it’s just really awesome, and like I said, I am grateful that the guys put me on that list.”
They will, however, have to offer some concessions in the next collective bargaining agreement with players. And so we return to that wonderfully absurd proposal. The subtext to Goodell’s pitch is this: let’s grab the money and benefits of the 18-game schedule while feigning interest in the health of our players by limiting them to the current battery of 16 games. Doesn’t everybody win?
It’s not going to wash. You can’t have integrity in a sports contest that actively takes star players such as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes off the field for a significant part of the season.
2. Week 16: Kansas City Chiefs
Bears fans will get to see their offense run to perfection in Week 16. Unfortunately, there is a good chance it is the Kansas City Chiefs doing the operating. The defense will have its hands full with reigning-MVP Patrick Mahomes scrambling around just to throw a no-looker to Tyreek Hill to Travis Kelce.
Nagy will play the role of pupil attempting to overtake his sensei in a battle that could have far-reaching seeding implications. His saving grace will be if the defense does indeed get a bead on Mahomes (something most defenses failed to do in 2018) and maintain it. Luckily they will face the Kansas City offense on the lakefront.
Around the league
LeBron’s still the NBA’s best player, while the Rams and Chargers have flaws
The Lakers will host a championship parade before the other three. LeBron James is still the best basketball player in the world. Let’s not write him off after a rocky, injury-abbreviated 2018 season. Now he has Anthony Davis, the best big man in the NBA, on his team. Sure, the Clippers also made some offseason moves, but I just can’t believe they will win it all next season. The Rams are a great football team, but we saw them stumble down the stretch. Opponents figured out their blueprint, and now that Todd Gurley will get fewer touches, what do the Rams look like? And the Chargers haven’t shown me they can make that final jump late in the year.
A pretty easy candidate for regression, the Bears came out of nowhere to dominate the NFC North last year behind the best defense in football and an improved offense that secretly didn’t put up great numbers. Chicago scored the ninth-most points last year, but they were bottom half of the league in efficiency. Defensively, the loss of Vic Fangio to the Broncos shouldn’t be understated -- Chuck Pagano will be scrutinized heavily early in 2019. Additionally, the attrition of players from the defense, namely Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos in the secondary, should be a concern. Chicago went 6-4 in one-score games, so it’s due for a little regression there. The Bears also outperformed their expected win total (11.5), although by just half a game. This basically comes down to whether or not Mitchell Trubisky can make a big leap in his second year with Matt Nagy. It’s very possible he does. But there will be defensive regression coming for a team that had 27 (!) interceptions last year and a plus-15 turnover differential. The Bears were also third in adjusted games lost per Football Outsiders. Chicago is a good team, but there are red flags here. The Bears could also, as we discussed on the podcast, simply regress to 9-7 and miss the playoffs without being bad. The division should be improved and they drew a first-place schedule that will test them early and often.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Patrick Mahomes isn’t resting on what he did last year. Instead, he’s evolving — which will make it more challenging for defenses to figure him out. This season, he’s going to face new things from some of the best defensive minds in the game, but he’s putting in the work to be prepared for those challenges and stay one step ahead of them. His mental ability is still tied to his rare athletic ability, which will present defenses with challenges of their own — even when they get the upper hand.
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