Chiefs stumble at the last second to ... miss the playoffs: Rivers guts out an excellent Week 17 performance to topple Mahomes and the Chiefs 27-24. Andy Reid’s team finishes 9-7 with a cluster of other teams and ends up on the wrong end of the tiebreaker. It never truly felt like the Chiefs were going to miss the postseason, but after three straight losses to close the year, here we are.
Week 1 at Jaguars. The Jaguars are hard to figure. Good defense, lots of injuries a year ago, and a presumed improvement at quarterback with Nick Foles replacing Blake Bortles. But they remain a borderline playoff team. I do worry about the Chiefs’ ability to stop Leonard Fournette, particularly if I’m right that the defense will be much weaker early than late.
Chiefs 31, Jaguars 27. 1-0.
Instead, Lewis is sticking in the AFC, but going to the Midwest for his answer.
“I tell you, it’s going to be tough. But I tell you one of the biggest additions of this offseason I really believe was LeSean McCoy to the Kansas City Chiefs,” said Lewis. “People say he had his lowest production last year, whatever. You put him around that many athletes on a football field, with Patrick Mahomes. I think Pat Mahomes learned a lot. I think he’s poised to take them to a championship.”
So what should you expect from Mahomes this season? There is no ideal comparison. Marino started nine games as a rookie in 1983 before his breakthrough season. Stafford had made 13 starts over two seasons before he went bonkers. In terms of game experience, Mahomes was as raw as it gets, which combined with the eye test suggests he might have an unparalleled level of preternatural talent. He is also in an ideal system, with an ideal coach and ideal weapons around him. The game has sped up to an ideal pace for statistical domination. And there’s an ideal acceptance — and celebration — of what Mahomes is doing. There’s no stigma and little discomfort about a quarterback being able to win while slinging the football so much.
Chargers at Chiefs, December 29
This will not be the first time these two teams play. The Chargers and Chiefs will go head-to-head November 18 but the later matchup could have bigger playoff implications. Los Angeles punched their playoff ticket last season with a key win over Kansas City and this final regular-season game could again be crucial.
It could be a close race to the top of the standings, but if Mahomes has a year close to last season it is hard to see any team in the division dethroning the Chiefs, who have won it for the past three years.
“When I had time to reflect on just how the season went last year and what type of scheme I wanted to be in, there were a group of teams that called in and I thought that this probably was the best fit for me,” McCoy said. “You see the offense, I’m just trying to get in here and fit a small role. These guys are rolling. To be a part of that, I think we have a great chance at a championship. You have to pick a team that you want to play for, and I think the best part about it is Andy Reid, who has been one of my favorite coaches of my NFL career. He’s had me since I’ve been 20 years old, now I’m at 31. We had a long talk. Brett Veach, [too, is] a guy that believed in me for years. This was the right fit, I think so.”
Chris Jones Wins AP Defensive Player Of The Year: +2800
Jones is listed as the eighth favorite (along with Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey) to capture the award.
The defensive tackle is an intriguing pick because you know he will ball out this season. He’s in the final year of his four-year contract he signed in 2016.
The Chiefs drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft and signed him to a four-year, $6.2 million contract, including a $2.7 million signing bonus, $3.4 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $1.6 million. And he’s slated to earn a base salary of $1.2 million this year while having a cap hit of nearly $2 million. Jones will be motivated to put up huge numbers so that he can earn a longtime deal with an average in the neighborhood of $15 million a year.
Avoid Kansas City Chiefs running backs
LeSean McCoy was cut by Buffalo Bills and signed shortly thereafter by the Kansas City Chiefs, reuniting McCoy with Coach Andy Reid. The 31-year-old veteran joins a crowded backfield that already featured Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson, making it difficult to suss out who will get the majority of the workload.
Williams was the favorite to get the most opportunities in 2019 — he carried the ball 34 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns in his three games as the team’s starting running back last year, adding 14 catches on 14 targets for 119 yards and one touchdown out of the backfield — and is a second-round pick in most mock drafts. Thompson was also expected to be featured prominently. Per the game charters at Pro Football Focus, the rookie out of Utah State ranked fourth in forced missed tackles per touch (0.35) and second in yards-after-contact per touch (6.9) among the 210 FBS backs with 100 or more touches in 2018.
Now, it’s unclear who will be at the top of the Kansas City depth chart. With Williams still likely to go early, it’s a situation worth avoiding.
Around the league
The Rams have decided Jared Goff is worth it, and they are not letting him go. General manager Les Snead proposed a four-year contract extension to Goff on Tuesday, and Goff said yes. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the deal is worth $134 million including an NFL-record $110 million guaranteed. The four years are tacked onto the final two remaining on Goff’s existing deal, so the Rams have him under contract through the 2024 season. The Rams signed head coach Sean McVay and Snead to contract extensions through 2023 earlier this offseason, and have given expensive, long-term deals to defensive tackle Aaron Donald, running back Todd Gurley, and receiver Brandin Cooks in the last year. Adding Goff into the mix locks up the Rams core for the next few seasons, which is as far into the future as NFL teams can reasonably look. But in football, a core group can get a team only so far. Goff and McVay’s marriage is the heart of the Rams’ success, and the organization is hoping their partnership continues to blossom.
“Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have earned their rightful place in the pantheon of greatest coaches ever, across all sports, and this film intimately spotlights their woven history from Navy to Cleveland to now,” said Nelson. “It will capture for the first-time ever some of the most engaging and personal conversations held every year by the two most towering figures in the game today. We are excited to partner with NFL Films to tell this unique story of friendship and mentorship.”
”Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have become the modern versions of Vince Lombardi and John Wooden - symbols of success not just in sports, but in life,” said Ross Ketover, Chief Executive of NFL FILMS. “Their lessons on leadership are an inspiration; not just for those of us who love football, but for anyone who wants to thrive at whatever passion they pursue.”
Most Rushing Touchdowns 2019: Lamar Jackson (40-1)
A quarterback leading the league in rushing scores is a stretch but not impossible. Cam Newton was second in the league with 14 rushing scores in 2011, and he did it in 126 carries in 16 starts. Last year Lamar Jackson had 119 carries in seven starts. With the nine games in which Jackson got 28 carries as a gadget option before he took over the starting role from Joe Flacco, he set the record for the most by a quarterback in a single season. Baltimore wants to scale back Jackson’s rushing this year, but a 16-game season would put him on pace to shatter his own record. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says that Baltimore’s offense will revolutionize the game and use concepts not seen since the 1950s, and that could mean a lot of read-options near the goal line. Jackson is 40-1 now, but he could be 15-1 by the end of September.
Pat Shurmur, Giants
Shurmur is stuck in no-man’s land. His Giants are rebuilding in 2019, and he’ll almost certainly finish the year with his second straight losing record. With Eli Manning inching toward retirement, jettisoning a coach who’s low on victories could be the first step in restoring the team’s identity.
The former Browns head coach (and interim Eagles HC) went 5-11 last fall, then saw some of the best players from that team depart this offseason. Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon were both traded to the Browns. Landon Collins escaped in free agency. Now Shurmur has to hope additions like Golden Tate (who will miss the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension), Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers, and preseason all-star Daniel Jones can improve on last year’s lost season.
How does he save his job?: By making Daniel Jones look like the franchise’s savior.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
King is a little giddy on the Chiefs (and Mahomes) himself. In the column, he picked the team to claim the AFC West for the fourth straight season and capture the first seed in the AFC playoffs. Then he said they’ll defeat the New England Patriots 27-25 in the AFC Championship and the New Orleans Saints 37-27 in Super Bowl LIV.
And he predicted Mahomes will repeat as NFL MVP.
I checked: The word “regress” was never mentioned.
For the third regular season in a row, the Chiefs will have to travel to Foxboro and play the New England Patriots. This year’s battle will be in Week 14 and should have huge implications on playoff seeding and home-field advantage. Yes, the Chiefs couldn’t get it done at home in last year’s postseason contest, but it’s obviously still an easier route than playing at Gillette Stadium.
This will be Mahomes’ third crack at beating future hall of fame quarterback Tom Brady. It will be a test for him and the offense to see if they can put together a good performance for all 60 minutes. In the two matchups in 2018, the Chiefs scored 9 combined points in the first halves and 62 combined points in the second halves. The defense will get its first opportunity to look better than the 2018 defense did against the Pats. The cornerback talent didn’t improve much, so it’ll be interesting to see if the scheme is enough to give Brady more fits and less easy throws.
The quest for a Super Bowl will require beating Brady and legendary coach Bill Belichick — whether it’s in Week 14 or a month later in the postseason.
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