2. Kansas City Chiefs
Nobody is going to doubt the Chiefs’ talent, from coach Andy Reid and his staff to Mahomes to key defensive leaders like Tyrann Mathieu. But repeating is difficult for any team. The offseason is shorter. You spend months hearing from fans how much a title meant, and that’s especially true for the Chiefs. It’s hard to recreate the same urgency after that. And the NFL is a competitive world. The difference between a championship season and disappointment is slight. Had the Patriots not lost in the final minute to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 last season, the Chiefs wouldn’t have had a bye and their playoff road would have been a lot harder. Then maybe Kansas City caught a break hosting the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship game instead of having to travel to play the Baltimore Ravens. Had the San Francisco 49ers stopped “2-3 Jet Wasp Chip” or Jimmy Garoppolo hadn’t overthrown Emmanuel Sanders, we’d be celebrating them instead. Every champion needs to catch a few breaks, and it’s hard to anticipate that happening year after year.
Kansas City Chiefs
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium
What we know: The Chiefs are planning for home games with reduced capacity, though details of their plan have not been released. The Chiefs said they would consult with the NFL, local government officials and public health experts to determine a suitable number of tickets to sell for each home game. Arrowhead is a spacious stadium with three levels, making social distancing with a reduced capacity possible, at least in the seating area. Whatever tickets the Chiefs issue will be on a single-game basis. — Adam Teicher
7 OT Yasir Durant
If any player in Kansas City has benefited from Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s decision to opt out, it’s Durant. He may have played tackle at Mizzou, but he previously played guard at junior college and was considered the top prospect when he transferred. Chiefs GM Brett Veach commented on his versatility after the draft.
“We feel (Yasir) Durant from Missouri,” Veach said. “Certainly, a local guy that we got to watch a lot. He played a bunch of tackle, but we do think that sliding him to guard might be his best position. Any time you can get a couple 6-6 guys inside there protecting Pat (Mahomes) will be beneficial.”
Kansas City Chiefs · Age 22
Year 1: 16 games | 41 targets | 26 rec. | 538 yds | 6 TDs
My projection for Hardman’s 2020 campaign: 50 catches, 800 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. These numbers may not completely jump off the page, but they’re quite high, considering the vast amount of talent on the Chiefs’ offense. Hardman should be used more in his second season, especially as a gadget player on reverses and screens.
Instead, Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones made a big play. That’s the one that sticks out in Shanahan’s mind as being the turning point in the game.
“They scored, and we had to convert the next, and on a second-and-6, they brought a SAM-MIKE corner blitz into our run, and we pulled in and threw an RPO, and Chris Jones tipped it,” said Shanahan, who remembered the distance to gain wrong. “We went to third-and-6 — we had to convert that to stay on the field to make it tough — and then we missed the third down. So it was that tipped ball on second-and-6, and then the third down that we missed, and that’s when I was like, ‘All right, the momentum has completely changed now.’
“I knew once the third-and-15 happened, alright it’s a game. We could have ended it. We had (George) Kittle uncovered, and Chris Jones made a hell of a play and tipped it. They brought the SAM-MIKE corner blitz to a 3-by-1 slot and we flooded the other way, which you can’t cover all that — Kittle was uncovered — and he just got his hands up and tipped it. And then we didn’t convert the third down, and that’s when I was like, ‘All right, now the momentum has changed.’ Because now it’s just one score, and they are moving.”
12. Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City’s defense improved significantly down the stretch, after its abysmal 2018 performance cost Patrick Mahomes and Co. a Super Bowl berth. Tyrann Mathieu was a revelation for the Chiefs last season, playing multiple roles for the Super Bowl champions. The Chiefs also stand to get promising safety Juan Thornhill back after his ACL tear. Top corner Charvarius Ward having a second season in Steve Spagnuolo’s complex scheme will benefit the unit as well. The Chiefs could use some long-term clarity here, with Bashaud Breeland profiling as temporary help.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs: $25
I don’t think this one requires much explanation. Mahomes is the best player in football, and he’s also the most exciting. That combination isn’t always a given. Quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Drew Brees have been ruthlessly efficient throughout their careers, but people aren’t tuning in to Sunday Night Football just to see what ridiculous throw they’re going to make next. Anything is on the table with Mahomes, and that’s what makes him such a thrilling poster boy for the modern NFL. If you made the mistake of going to the bathroom during a Chiefs drive, and a buddy said you missed Mahomes throwing a 50-yard touchdown with his left hand, you’d probably be inclined to believe him. Fans of every quarterback-starved franchise are watching what’s happening in Kansas City right now and dripping with jealousy. And if you don’t cheer for the Chiefs, at least you could root for Mahomes as your fantasy QB every Sunday.
Around the NFL
Asked Tuesday if he had contemplated opting out of the upcoming season, Carr was emphatic that there was too much for him to prove for that thought to have been entertained.
“I did not. I have a lot to prove to myself. I have a lot to prove to my organization. I’m going to be completely honest with you: I’m tired of being disrespected,” Carr told reporters on Tuesday. “There was no question I was going to play this year.”
The first big change here is that the regular season will only be 12 games long. Another major change here is that AFC-NFC matchups will be completely scrapped from the schedule because it doesn’t make sense to have those games during a shortened season.
With those out of the way, here’s what the rest of the regular season will look like:
Week 1 thru Week 7: Division games only. Every team will play each divisional opponent twice for a total of six games. For instance, the Chiefs will play home-and-away games with the Raiders, Broncos and Chargers over the first seven weeks of the season. Although this can be done in six weeks, there are seven weeks here for contingency purposes. Each team will get a bye week with every corresponding division taking their bye week together (For example, the AFC North and NFC North would take a bye together in Week 3 followed by the NFC/AFC East in Week 4 and so on). More importantly, the bye week could also be used to make up any games that were postponed due to coronavirus.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick is a future Hall of Famer who has been known to make his team walk on water, but 2020 might be asking too much of even one of the greatest coaches ever. I don’t subscribe to the belief Belichick can’t win games without Tom Brady any more than I believe the opposite is true, for as long as there’s a capable quarterback in New England, the wins will come. The problem is while it’s quite possible a hyper-motivated Cam Newton returns to form in 2020, it’s also possible he doesn’t and continues battling durability demons. But, assuming the latter isn’t the case, there’s also the fact eight Patriots have opted out of the season thus far over COVID-19 concerns — the most in the league by far — and that list includes playmakers like two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Roethlisberger told reporters Tuesday the elbow injury that required season-ending surgery last year wasn’t the same as what is commonly seen in the arms of baseball pitchers (which calls for a Tommy John repair). The injury, as Roethlisberger described it, involved tears of three of the five flexor tendons in his elbow, and he believes he is the first quarterback to attempt to come back from such an ailment.
He’s returning as a thinner, lighter Roethlisberger, less Big Ben and more Thin Ben. He feels young, ”if you can feel young at this age,” he said, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. And he’s coming back with an eye on championships.
“I still want to win Lombardis,” Roethlisberger said, via The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette. “And I say that with an s on the end.”
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Tanoh Kpassagnon made huge strides in 2019, becoming one of the players who helped the Chiefs defensive line hold strong.
Kpassagnon didn’t always have flashy roles where he could make highlight-level plays, but he played a big role. Showing major improvement as a run defender on the outside, he finally learned how to utilize his length — which allowed him to get on the field more often. Kpassagnon showed that as a pass rusher, the game is starting to slow down for him.
Coming off a good year, it’s hard to call him a sleeper candidate — but if he pushes for more starting reps in 2020, it shouldn’t be a surprise.
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