How about Kansas City versus Philadelphia in Miami on Feb. 2? The Chiefs and the Eagles for the Lombardi Trophy. Patrick Mahomes versus Carson Wentz. Andy Reid versus Doug Pederson. Reid versus his former employer.
New faces in new places, and the Chiefs could be favored by 2½ — the number that the Westgate posted as an early line with the AFC winner over the NFC champion. That speaks to one aspect of this Super Bowl possibility: The Chiefs are more likely to make it than the Eagles.
The Chiefs came within a coin flip of making it a year ago, when Tom Brady and the Patriots advanced down the field in overtime. Frankly, I wish the NFL had spent more time on making it fairer for both teams in a postseason overtime than working so hard on sending pass interference up to the replay booth. Having that foul judged by slow motion will lead to all kinds of unexpected problems. But that’s just my opinion.
Exactly six years to the day later, the Chiefs again open a season in Jacksonville. The questions have moved from whether Reid can save the franchise’s dignity to whether he will deliver its first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
This is the perfect moment to examine how the Chiefs got from there to here, through the eyes of five men who’ve been here the whole time: Reid, Colquitt, left tackle Eric Fisher, fullback Anthony Sherman and tight end Travis Kelce.
“Man, how did we get here?” Kelce said. “Back to Jacksonville, Week 1. It’s luck of the draw, but I’m so fortunate to get stuck here with Andy Reid.”
Kansas City Chiefs
Since we’re here at the end, let’s dream out a little scenario. The Chiefs go 12-4 but lose in the regular season to the Patriots, who also go 12-4 and claim home-field advantage in the AFC. The Chiefs host and beat the Texans in the divisional round, but when it looks as if Kansas City is about to head to Foxborough, the Chiefs are saved by an upset win from the same Jaguars team that dominated the Pats in 2018 and came within a quarter of beating them in New England in the 2017 AFC Championship Game.
That leaves the Chiefs at home for the AFC Championship Game and a matchup of Nick Foles against Andy Reid, the head coach who saved Foles’ career. Just for fun, let’s say that the Chiefs advance and face the Eagles in the Super Bowl, giving us Reid vs. protégé Doug Pederson and an organization that still has Reid’s fingerprints all over it after a 14-year stint as head coach. Could be fun, right?
First-and-goal: In his first season as a starter, QB Patrick Mahomes completed 66 percent of his passes for 5,097 yards, 52 TDs and just 12 INTs and won the MVP. He has new toys in rookies Mecole Hardman, a second-round wideout from Georgia who runs a 4.33 40, and RB Darwin Thompson. And DE Frank Clark brings 14 sacks with him from Seattle.
Fourth-and-long: Mahomes relied on TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill, who combined for 190 catches for 2,815 yards and 22 TDs. But no other receiver had more than 40 catches. Can Hill be trusted based on his off-the field issues, which have clouded his career? How much can Reid get out of WR Sammy Watkins, who hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2015 in Buffalo, and RB LeSean McCoy, who at age 31 signed with his ex-Eagles coach after getting cut by the Bills?
Cann’s call: 13-3. It begins and ends for the Chiefs with Mahomes, who was a revelation last season, becoming one of the best players in the league, if not the best.
“It’ll be the first time really playing with my group and playing with my guys in a live game — in a game that counts,” Mathieu said, via the team’s website. “It’s going to be a lot of different emotions, up and down. I think it’s my job to manage the group and make sure everybody’s focused on the next play. Just going out there with a lot of swagger and a lot of intensity. A lot of people here haven’t necessarily seen me play in a Chiefs uniform, so it’ll be important for me to go out there and get off to a fast start.”
2. Break serve. The Chiefs are good enough offensively that they’re going to get points – quite possibly in the mid-to-high 20s. The nature of the NFL is it’s difficult to hold elite offenses under that. The key for the Jaguars’ defense is to create turnovers. A turnover or two created can more than counter a few touchdowns allowed.
3. Win turnovers. The Jaguars were good in 2017 when they were good in this category. They fell off in 2018 when they started committing takeaways and stopped forcing turnovers. It’s hard to imagine them beating the Chiefs with a negative in this category.
Jaguars (+3) vs. Chiefs
This line STINKS. A casual NFL fan who walks into a sports book is going to see “Patrick Mahomes versus crappy Jaguars team and he only has to win by three points?” and hammer the Chiefs. The Action Network has them at 72 percent of the bets. The Chiefs are a public team and this is a juicy line. However, the Jaguars are an improved team on offense and a hungry team on defense. Jalen Ramsey should come out with his hair on fire as he kicks off a contract campaign and Josh Allen has DROY written all over him. There are pieces missing (Telvin Smith for one), but Jacksonville wants to prove 2017 was no fluke for its defense and it starts with the biggest test of all in the NFL. Conveniently, they actually limited Mahomes last year, forcing him into a 22/38, 313, 0/2 line that is pretty generous yardage wise. That game isn’t a blowout if Blake Bortles doesn’t throw four picks and now Nick Foles is in town. At the very least he should be safer with the football. Leonard Fournette might have a monster game this week, showing up in shape and clearly in a better mental state. I think they can hold the ball and grind out drives against a Chiefs defense that might be better but that isn’t good. Jags pull off the upset here
Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Chiefs offense vs. Jaguars defense is the main draw, including cornerback Jalen Ramsey shadowing Tyreek Hill, but the game could be decided on the other side of the ball. By moving from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles at quarterback, Jacksonville has made an upgrade nearly as big as the Chiefs did going from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes—moving from an average quarterback to an elite one is ideal, but upgrading from utter incompetence to average could be just as impactful.
The Jaguars list starting left tackle Cam Robinson as doubtful with a left knee injury, but head coach Doug Marrone indicated that backup Will Richardson would start in his place Sunday. That puts the Jaguars offensive line in a precarious position protecting the blindside of quarterback Nick Foles.
Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said he had looked forward to facing off against Robinson, but he wasn’t prepared to let up off the gas in his first start with his new club.
”Myself just being able to go out there, no matter who it is, whether it’s Cam or whether it’s his backup or his backup, I’m giving my all,” Clark said. “I don’t push the brakes for nobody. At the end of the day, everybody is a victim in my eyes.”
Trubisky won’t be as bad as he was Thursday night — 62.1 passer rating, no touchdowns, one interception, and five sacks — every game this year. I think the Green Bay defense deserves a hat tip for their play. I mean, when was the last time the Packers won a game where the Aaron Rodgers-led offense struggled but they won convincingly anyway?
However, Trubisky’s now in his third year and hasn’t shown any signs he can be the reason his team wins games, especially compared to his fellow 2017 draftees, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. It’s hard to believe he’ll take a significant step forward.
Around the league
On Friday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that now there is a real chance that Brown not only avoids a suspension but could actually play Monday night versus the Denver Broncos, per sources informed of the situation.
Gruden confirmed that report in speaking with reporters ahead of Friday’s practice.
”Antonio is back today. We’re really excited about that. We’re ready to move on,” Gruden said. “He’s had a lot of, obviously, time to think about things. We’re happy to have him back. I know Raiders nation is excited about that too.”
Asked whether Brown will play Monday night against the Broncos, Gruden replied, “That’s the plan. That’s the plan. Yes.”
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
As tough as the opposing defense is, the Chiefs offense has one factor that most teams cannot claim: head coach and play-caller Andy Reid.
Reid has been labeled an offensive mastermind for a reason — and giving him a full offseason to prepare for one game has been a problem for the Chiefs’ recent Week 1 opponents.
Last season, the Chiefs started on the road against a talented Los Angeles Chargers defense. In quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ second career start, the offense had 31 points on the board before the third quarter ended. In 2017, Reid orchestrated an embarrassment of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots by putting up 42 points — the most ever given up by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick — on the night they hung their championship banner.
The Chiefs released an official statement from general manager Brett Veach.
“We’re pleased we were able to reach an agreement with Tyreek to keep him in a Chiefs uniform for the foreseeable future. He understands our expectations of him as a member of this team and community. This extension is contingent upon the conditions Tyreek agreed to adhere to upon his return to the team in July. Tyreek is an elite player in this league and has played a major role in our team’s success, and we’re pleased that he’ll continue to make an impact for us.”
The team also released a statement from Hill.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue my playing career here in Kansas City. Kansas City is my home, and I appreciate the love and support from Clark Hunt, Coach Reid and Brett Veach, along with my coaches and teammates. To Chiefs Kingdom, you’re the best fans in the world.”
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