Over the past six seasons, Gregg Rosenthal authored the QB Index -- a weekly ranking of starters at the NFL’s most important position. But in the league’s 100th season, this file’s originator has decided to take his talents to Game Picks, thus passing the QBI torch to a ragtag group of his editors: Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr.
1 Patrick Mahomes
AB: 1 | TB: 1 | GF: 1 | DP: 1
2018 stats: 16 games | 66.0 pct | 5,097 pass yds | 8.8 ypa | 50 pass TD | 12 INT | 272 rush yds | 2 rush TD
Bhanpuri: Expectations for the reigning MVP are sky high and yet don’t feel remotely out of reach. Admit it, a part of you is legitimately surprised any time a Chiefs drive doesn’t end with seven points and some silly celebration. Easy consensus on this one.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
2018 record: 12-4
2018 DVOA: First on offense; 26th on defense
Best-case scenario: Witness the firepower of Andy Reid’s fully armed and operational battle station. Last season, Reid took the most innovative, quarterback-friendly scheme in the NFL and dropped in one of the most gifted passers who’s ever lived. It went about as well as you would have thought. Patrick Mahomes threw 50 touchdown passes en route to being crowned league MVP and emerging as the sport’s next great star. This year should bring more of the same. The Chiefs will return every key member of the offensive group that finished first in DVOA last season. Kansas City has a great tackle duo in Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, the NFL’s top receiving tight end in Travis Kelce, the league’s most valuable vertical option in Tyreek Hill, and a system that gets receiving production from its running backs, no matter who’s catching the ball. This should be a top-three offense, even if Mahomes does take a small step back in his second season as a starter. And I don’t think he will.
The Chiefs will win the AFC West — no surprise — but won’t get homefield advantage. They have a habit of losing a game or two later in the season they shouldn’t, and I think that bites them here, especially with the Patriots’ easy schedule.
The Chargers are supremely talented at important positions, even if injuries to safety Derwin James and tackle Russell Okung are issues. I trust Philip Rivers to get the job done and get the team back in the playoffs.
Boring, I know. But we can almost guarantee the winner will be a quarterback, and until I see any sort of evidence that Mahomes or the Kansas City offense is headed for a regression, I won’t believe it. — Hardy
Screw it, let’s go all in on the hype train. Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns last year, setting a new NFL rookie record despite not starting until Week 4. Now he’s got another year’s worth of development and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. working in his favor. Expect a ton of touchdowns. — Stites
New England, the defending Super Bowl champion, remains the favorite at many sportsbooks on the East Coast. In Las Vegas, the Chiefs sit atop the odds boards at the Westgate SuperBook, the South Point casino and CG Technology sportsbooks.
”We just think the Chiefs are the best team in football,” John Murray, executive director for the SuperBook, said.
The Chiefs are at New England in Week 14. The Patriots are listed as 3-point favorites in an early line at the SuperBook.
Caesars moved the Chiefs in front of the Patriots on Aug. 26, after taking a big Super Bowl bet on Kansas City that could pay “well into five figures,” according to head of risk Jeff Davis.
CG Technology reported taking $15,000 and $10,000 Super Bowl bets on the Chiefs at 6-1 from the same unnamed customer in late August. Kansas City is now 5-1 at CG Technology.
Rookie of the year
Oliver Connolly … Mecole Hardman, Chiefs. Hardman might be the springiest athlete in the league. He was drafted to replace Tyreek Hill. Now, he’ll play alongside him. If Hardman has four “Wow” highlights, he’ll clinch the award.
3. Outside of Jalen Ramsey versus Tyreek Hill, which matchups are you most excited to see on Sunday?
Pete: With Jalen Ramsey occupied by Tyreek Hill, AJ Bouye vs. Sammy Watkins becomes a battle on my radar. Watkins, who has had to deal with injuries throughout his career, says he feels healthier than ever after changing his offseason regimen. Watkins, like many pass-catchers on the Chiefs roster, can be a dangerous player with any amount of space in front of him.
On the other side of the equation, I’m looking forward to seeing wide receiver Chris Conley against his old teammates. The Chiefs selected Conley in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played for the Chiefs for four seasons before moving on to the Jaguars.
2. Rattle Foles
Foles, who signed as a free agent from Philadelphia in the offeason, does not like being pressured. It speeds up his reads and forces him to get rid of the ball earlier than he would like.
If he feels the pocket collapsing, he will immediately look for his check down. The key is getting Foles to pat the football, which means that his preferred reads we not open and he wants to check it down.
The throws he likes on the check down are to the back or crossing and slant routes.
Foles believes he has a natural arm similar to Mahomes’ but he needs the proper stance, footwork and launch point to make that happen. A free rusher makes Foles want to throw the ball immediately to his primary read.
The Chiefs’ defensive line should gets arms up in passing lanes, if they can’t reach him with the rush, because he changes his launch point and his placements are poor.
Foles is certain about this: He wouldn’t be the quarterback of the Jaguars, preparing to face the Chiefs on Sunday in Jacksonville, without that year. He would never have taken the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl after the 2017 season or been named the game’s MVP.
In fact, Foles said, “I wouldn’t still be playing football without that season with the Chiefs. Going there and being with people that actually cared about me as a person more so than as a football player ... it provided me the love and the joy of the game again.”
Dede Westbrook vs Kendall Fuller
The Chiefs’ slot cornerback, Kendall Fuller, was a liability throughout the 2018 season. In addition to getting torched by Edelman in the AFC Championship, Fuller allowed 81 catches for 1,040 yards during the regular season, according to PlayerProfiler.
The Jaguars are likely to see negative game script in this contest. New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo seems to enjoy drawing up plays for his slot receiver, as Adam Thielen averaged 11 looks per game during their time together in Minnesota last season. Dede Westbrook was targeted seven times in his one game with Nick Foles, so Fuller could have his hands full. Westbrook slots in at number 25 in our PPR projections this week.
Cleveland Browns fans are clearly ready for the 2019 NFL season.
Fanatics shared the sales numbers of its top-selling NFL jerseys from this preseason, and quarterback Baker Mayfield came in at No. 1. What’s more, teammate Odell Beckham Jr., his go-to option in the passing attack, was No. 7.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Chicago Bears pass-rusher Khalil Mack, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley rounded out the top five.
Has any athlete in Kansas City’s sports history had the national appeal of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes?
I’m not sure of the answer, but Mahomes is being sought out for commercials that will be aired not just locally, but across the country.
Mahomes’ Head & Shoulders commercial was released last month, and when fans watch Thursday night’s Bears-Packers game to kick off the NFL season, they’ll see Mahomes during the commercial breaks.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been in State Farm commercials for years, and a pair of new ones will includes Mahomes
Erving was joined by defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and kicker Harrison Butker at the Ronald McDonald House, which supports families that have children in the hospital. In a sense, Wednesday’s visit was meant to let those kids – even for just a little while – experience the joy of simply being a kid.
“Families are never here because of good news. It is bad news to be here – it means your kid is really sick,” said Tami Greenberg, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City. “To have the Chiefs come support the families that we serve is special, and it brings a bit of childhood back into their lives.”
It was a responsibility that the players didn’t take lightly as they led the kids through a variety of hilarious “minute-to-win-it” games, such as racing to find a gummy worm in a pie.
“I’ve had family members that have struggled with a lot of different things, and it’s hard,” Erving said. “It’s hardest on the parents, so for us to come here and for them to see their kids having some fun, letting loose and smiling – that’s the biggest thing.”
“Zeke did a great job,” Garrett told reporters Thursday. “Like I said, he was in all the meetings and the walkthrough and he was limited in practice, but he did a good job working through it all. We’ll just see what he’s able to do today.”
Garrett says the team will keep Zeke on the same plan Thursday as they ease him back to action.
”We’ll start him off the same way -- dynamic warm up, individual period and just see what he’s able to handle,” Garrett said.
“He’s a game changer,” said Brown, who was teammates with Clowney for 3½ seasons in Houston. “I think he brings a lot of attention in ways that you have to scheme for him. I think he can definitely help us a lot.”
Adding to that optimism is that Ansah is on track to play opposite Clowney when the Seahawks open their season Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals now that he’s recovered from shoulder surgery and a more recent groin injury.
”To have both Ziggy and Jadeveon on our team, that’s different, that’s a unique matchup right there,” Carroll said before recalling Chris Clemons, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
The highest level the Chiefs have experienced at quarterback in recent memory is purgatory: good enough enough to win, but not good enough to win it all. There hasn’t even really been a ramp-up to Kansas City’s new normal; this ride went from 0-60 faster than the league has ever seen.
It’s hard to completely grasp what has happened — which makes it hard to grasp that there could not only be room for growth, but also for new levels of performance. Mahomes is a rarity in almost every respect. He’s wanted to be a professional athlete his whole life — and had the rare opportunity to learn at the feet of professional athletes. He is driven the same way as the world’s best: he doesn’t just want to just be great. Instead, he wants to be the greatest.
“They have a really good defense,” he said of the Jaguars during his press conference on Wednesday. “There’s depth everywhere. It’s not about just having a great player here or a great player there; they have great players all over the field. They are going to play fast, they are going to play sound and I have to take what’s there — when it’s there — and take the shots when they’re there. I felt like last year, I just kind of missed the shots when they were there and I kind of tried to force some things that didn’t work out in my favor. When you play against a great defense like that, you have to make sure that you’re on top of your game the whole entire game. That is something that I’ll have to do this year.”
Antonio Brown’s divorce from Pittsburgh began when he unfollowed the team on social media. Brown is now following suit in Oakland.
On Thursday evening, hours after it was reported that the Raiders are determining whether or not to suspend Brown after the star receiver reportedly got into a heated argument with GM Mike Mayock, our own Will Brinson observed that Brown has unfollowed the Raiders and quarterback Derek Carr on social media.
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