Grading the match
A - Texans
Bieniemy’s Current Job
Offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Bieniemy, 51, was a running back at Colorado and for nine years in the NFL. He coached running backs in Kansas City before being promoted in 2018. — Adam Teicher
Attention to detail. Players who have worked with Bieniemy talk about how detail-oriented he is and how he makes certain every player has down solid the nuances of each play. He’s an in-your-face communicator. Everybody knows exactly where they stand with Bieniemy. — Teicher
Bieniemy, 51, coordinates the league’s top-ranked offense. His fingerprints are all over superstars Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Kansas Chiefs, defending Super Bowl champs, have the NFL’s best record at 14-1, longest winning streak at 10 games, the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs and the most alluring, must-see TV appeal due in large part to Mahomes, the amazing quarterback. There’s also Kansas City’s offensive creativity demonstrated repeatedly as the wow moments pile up.
He’s been groomed by Andy Reid, one of the best coaches of this generation. Bieniemy is widely respected in NFL circles, with a reputation as an innovator and hands-on leader to go with the results.
If anyone is deserving of a shot to take over a team, it would be Bieniemy, right?
If only it were as simple as that.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers -3.5
The Chiefs are locked into the top seed in the AFC, so they will likely rest players. The Chargers have come to life the past three games and would love to end on a winning streak. I think they do. Justin Herbert wins another one.
Pick: Chargers 33, Chiefs 23
Ranking teaser options
Yes, I’m aware that Patrick Mahomes and several other key players are going to rest with Kansas City having nothing to play for. But to that I say, so what? This is still a coaching matchup of Andy Reid vs. Anthony Lynn, and if the Chargers haven’t managed a double-digit win against anyone other than the Jaguars this year, what makes you think they’ll get it done against Chiefs backups?
Occasionally, the Chiefs will finish a game with fewer points than their opponent. It’s become increasingly rare as their quarterback’s career has progressed – they’ve lost exactly once in 21 games over the past 416 days – but it does and can still happen. Yet Mahomes has never had a bad game as a professional. I mean take a look. He’s won 42 of his 51 career starts and put up 40, 51, 28, 31, 31, 13, 24, 32 and 32 points in the defeats. It’s hard to overstate how not normal this is. But the totality of Mahomes’ body of work has forced us to recalibrate our expectations of what’s possible on a football field.
The closest thing to a bad day at the office we’ve seen from the Kansas City superstar came, fascinatingly, in the biggest game of his life. For more than three quarters in this year’s Super Bowl, he was harried, hassled and hounded by the San Francisco 49ers’ historically stingy defense. With the Chiefs trailing 20-10 and less than 12 minutes remaining, he threw behind his receiver on a crossing route for his second interception of the night. At that point, Mahomes had completed 18 of 29 passes for 172 yards and no touchdowns.
The tight end position remains a wasteland
Every year, fantasy experts will try to sell you on late-round tight ends. It comes with the business. You scout these overlooked guys, see some promising traits or a lucrative situation, and become enamored. That’s why we’re writing notes in December—so you don’t fall for this again next year.
The tight end landscape has been bleak for some time, and it gets worse and worse each year. NFL teams are passing more than ever before, but they’re also sending a larger percentage of targets to wide receivers. This season, that meant that if you didn’t have Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, you were probably frustrated with your tight end spot more weeks than not.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kelce is a bona fide first-round pick in 2021. This year, he’s recorded 1,416 yards through 15 games. The next closest tight end is Waller, at 1,079 yards, and then T.J. Hockenson, who has 698. Essentially, Kelce has had double the production of this year’s third-best tight end. That’s a league-winning gap in production.
2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
2020 stats: 4,740 passing yards, 38 TDs, 6 interceptions (plus 308 rushing yards and 2 rushing TDs) in 15 games
First-place votes: 3 of 9 | Odds to win MVP: +210
While Mahomes has been terrific in quarterbacking the Chiefs to a 14-1 record, there aren’t too many categories where the reigning Super Bowl champ has Rodgers beat. Simply put, the Packers quarterback has outplayed Mahomes down the stretch, and a down week for the Chiefs QB against the Falcons coupled with the fact that Rodgers exploded on Sunday Night Football may be the nail in the coffin. Mahomes’ three interceptions against Miami in Week 14 don’t help his case either. Neither does his career-low 5.4 yards per attempt vs. the Saints.
Mahomes would need to dominate in the Chiefs’ regular-season finale against the Chargers to possibly win back the top spot, but it looks like coach Andy Reid is leaning toward getting his starters some rest before eyeing a repeat run at a title next month. Of course, none of this is to say the 25-year-old isn’t tremendous, awesome or whatever other adjective one could use to describe his play in 2020. Mahomes leads the NFL in passing yards and has routinely pulled off wild, head-scratching, miracle plays that leave the rest of the league in awe of his talents. Rodgers has just been a bit better this season.
Around the NFL
The Browns have battled issues with the coronavirus since Saturday, when they had to place their entire receiving corps on the reserve/COVID-19 list as high-risk close contacts after they came into contact with another player who had tested positive. Receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge and linebackers B.J. Goodson and Jacob Phillips all missed Cleveland’s 23-16 loss to the New York Jets.
On Tuesday, the Browns added tight end Harrison Bryant and safeties Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Dalvin Cook won’t play in the Minnesota Vikings’ season finale following the death of his father.
Cook returned to Miami after his father, James, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, per a source informed of the situation.
With Cook out of COVID-19 testing protocols, he will be unavailable for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
The Rams must win Sunday or receive outside help to make the playoffs, and they’ll attempt to do so without their starting quarterback and an important receiver.
Cooper Kupp’s placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday came as a result of a positive test, meaning he’s out for L.A.’s regular-season finale against Arizona, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.
Kupp’s bid to play in all 16 games and break 1,000 receiving yards for a second straight season will end with this news, which leaves the Rams without their leading receiver as quarterback John Wolford prepares to make his first NFL start.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Imagine that your favorite team needs Week 17 of the NFL season to clinch the first seed of the postseason — and the sole bye week.
I cannot relate in the slightest.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs ensured that the AFC playoffs will run through Arrowhead Stadium with 17-14 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The game did not go even remotely how anyone had expected. The Chiefs’ offense was supposed to flex its muscles one final time before some key players sat down for a rest during the season’s final week. Instead, the offense was well below its standard, leaving a bad taste in our mouths. But defensively — with a pieced-together linebacker corps — Kansas City performed solidly, surrendering only two touchdowns.
For stretches of this game, the offense turned in a sloppy, inconsistent, disjointed performance. It lacked rhythm and didn’t respond to pressure the way it normally does, struggling to convert drives.
Some of this fell on quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the MVP candidate who rarely plays with that kind of inconsistency.