Here are some Chiefs who are trending up (and down) as we go into Week 9 against Carolina.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Last week, the rookie couldn’t get much going on the ground, but he’s still among the league leaders in rushing. Defenders can’t bring him down — or keep him down for long — so we expect him to bounce back. He could come on strong this week against a Panthers defense that has struggled to stop the run. The rookie could put on a show.
Mecole Hardman: Against the New York Jets, he finally got a larger role on offense. He was able to show off more of his route tree, getting some work done in the intermediate routes. The Chiefs are determined to develop Hardman — and he has shown himself to be more than capable of hitting home runs when he gets loose. He’ll have a shot this week against a young Panthers defense that can be beaten.
Tyrann Mathieu: The Landlord is having a tremendous year — and his presences is felt throughout the team. He should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year — especially if he’s able to make a few more game-changing plays. We think he might have a good shot to do that on Sunday.
Others trending in the right direction: Tershawn Wharton, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, Byron Pringle
Ben Niemann: This week’s matchup against Christian McCaffrey is going to be a challenge for the entire defense — particularly the linebackers. Niemann is the one the Chiefs like to put in coverage against running backs — but unfortunately, it rarely works out well. It’s been said that in the second half of the season, rookies are no longer rookies — so perhaps Willie Gay Jr.’s role will continue to grow and evolve. We’d like to see that happen this week. Against the Panthers, he might fare better than Niemann.
Mitchell Schwartz: The iron man who has been at the pinnacle of his position group for years is having a frustrating 2020 season. He’ll miss this week’s game, watching the re-made Chiefs offensive line try to continue its recent success. They haven’t been perfect without Schwartz, but if they continue to play well overall — and run the ball as consistently as they have — the future of one of our favorite Chiefs may be called into question. Due to salary cap constraints next season, the team will have to make hard decisions to make — and they may have to save some money on the offensive line.
The Chiefs’ pass rush: The team has been getting less pressure on the quarterback than we’d like — or at least not converting pressures into sacks. They’re getting better in most other regards — including forcing turnovers — but we’d like to see more drive-ending sacks. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Taco Charlton, Michael Danna and Frank Clark are all doing some good work, but need to finish. This week, they’ll play a quarterback who likes to get the ball out quickly — and has the offensive weapons to make it a long day if the pass rush can’t get home.
Others trending in the wrong direction: Austin Reiter, Darwin Thompson, Nick Keizer
Value (sleeper) pick
L’Jarius Sneed: It appears the standout rookie could be returning from injured reserve this week. But it’s not clear if he’ll be coming back as a starter, or will instead be behind Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland. It’s easy to forget just how good Sneed was to start the season; for a team short on corners, his two interceptions and three pass breakups in the first three weeks were very impactful. When he returns, the Chiefs will have some depth — but also some decisions to make. But either way, getting Sneed back for the second half of the season could be a huge boost.
Note: given his low rookie salary — and his ability as an early starter — Sneed now ranks as the best value on the Chiefs roster.