The Chiefs turned inward, like their safety. They topped the Chargers, healed up over the Week 12 bye and never lost again. Mahomes rounded back into MVP form, and the defense, led by Mathieu (75 tackles, two sacks, four picks and 12 pass break-ups), defensive tackle Chris Jones and edge rusher Frank Clark, sparked a late-season surge. A unit that ranked 31st in total defense in 2018 was suddenly among the most feared in the league, allowing an average of 11.7 points over the last seven weeks, sometimes winning with stout D rather than typically prolific Mahomes performances. “A lot of our wins weren’t pretty,” concedes Mathieu. “But if you took our logo off the helmet and put another team’s on, you would have said we were dominant.”
Kansas City Chiefs
Lock (100%): QB Patrick Mahomes. I addressed this in my MVP column in July. Mahomes’ résumé — a league MVP and Super Bowl MVP — is usually enough to get a player into the Hall of Fame, let alone doing it over two seasons as a starter.
Likely (70% to 99%): WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce. It might seem surprising to put Hill this high, but he has made it to four Pro Bowls and been a first-team All-Pro twice across his first four seasons. All seven players who did that and who are eligible for the Hall are in, and the list of ineligible guys includes Hill, Patrick Willis, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Peterson, Zack Martin and Aaron Donald. Everyone but Hill is either a lock or extremely likely to make it in. Hill’s game still relies on speed, so he could be more susceptible to a career shortened by injuries than most other candidates, but if he gets three more seasons with Mahomes, he’s probably in.
The Chiefs already had big expectations for Edwards-Helaire as a rookie. Now he must deliver.
In an illustration of just how important he is to the Chiefs this season, a defensive player, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, said, “Our job [on defense] is to get him ready for Week 1: show him different looks, practice hard, try to strip the ball out, playing tight coverage on him.”
Kelly will have to play-call when the downs count on Sept. 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Being a first-time play-caller is obviously — as elementary as this may sound, you’re doing everything for the first time,” Kelly told reporters on Wednesday. “Being able to put yourself in those situations with live bullets — okay, the first time that happens in Kansas City is going to be the first time that I’m doing it where it actually counts.”
3. Speaking of new additions, tailback DeAndre Washington shared his thoughts on what this opportunity with the Chiefs means to him.
“I felt like Kansas City was a great opportunity for me, even before they drafted the back, Clyde. I think he’s a great back, but you know how this game goes - it’s a long season – so, I feel like there’s [room] for everybody to eat,” Washington said. “I think Coach Reid and this offense, he’s shown plenty of times that he knows how to get his playmakers the ball and I’m looking forward to making my plays when I get the opportunity.”
4. AFC West
Let’s be real — the division is only even this high because of one team — the Super Bowl champs — and, also, one particular player: Patrick Mahomes. They have the potential to be better than a year ago, have a bright core that is pretty much all on team-friendly deals. Plenty to like, with a Hall of Fame coach, too. After that it gets murky. Once again I am looking at the Chargers roster and seeing playoffs, but they fool me more often than not. Denver can play defense but will have a heck of a time getting all those new, young pieces on offense to fit for a while. Oakland probably has a decent offense but I’ll believe that defense is even below average — and not God awful — when I see it with my own eyes. Perhaps I am listing them too high because of the Chiefs, and the division may only send KC to the playoffs, but what a team it is.
Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback
KC found a young gem when they added Charvarius Ward in 2018, but Bashaud Breeland’s play was inconsistent opposite him. After losing Kendall Fuller in the offseason, there will be even more pressure on Breeland to show. Behind Ward and Breeland, the team has second-year corner Rashad Fenton and two rookie draftees. It’s one spot that’s worrisome for the reigning champs.
Around the NFL
New Orleans: This is probably the most interesting one. The Saints paid Taysom Hill this offseason in a way that seemed to earmark him as Drew Brees’s successor and signed former first overall pick Jameis Winston to a one-year deal. And this, to me, makes a ton of sense. You’re giving yourself one option with experience in your offense, and another with a lot of game experience, all while throwing two viable darts at finding the next long-termer.
“It was (a) very tough choice but since the day I started playing the game it’s always been Faith Family Football,” Wilson posted on Twitter.
“Because of this crazy time I choose to put my family in the best situation I see fit. I will stand by my teammates & brothers to support them 100% through out this season and will be counting the days until I can join them again.”
I’d put them in, but voters love to make people wait
Calvin Johnson, wide receiver (Detroit Lions, 2007-2015)
I would vote Megatron into the Hall of Fame, but we know how this works. Hall of Fame voters are going to punish him (and vote in two other receivers) for having the audacity to retire on his own terms. Few receivers in NFL history were better than Calvin, though. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro and earned second-team honors once, too. And I still can’t believe he didn’t reach 2,000 receiving yards in 2012, when he finished with 122 receptions for a record 1,964 yards. Although that Week 17 game was against my Chicago Bears, so I was kind of happy he didn’t get it. But still. I’m just fearful he’s going to be left out of the Hall of Fame. It will be ridiculous if he’s not inducted.
Beal becomes the third Giants player to take the opt-out route, joining offensive tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver/kick returner D’Mari Scott. Under the agreement reached between the NFL and NFLPA, players had the option of opting out of the upcoming season without penalty by 4 p.m. on Thursday. The opt out is irrevocable.
The Giants already had question marks at cornerback prior to Beal’s decision. Cornerback DeAndre Baker is on the commissioner’s exempt list and faces charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm. He is unlikely to play another snap with the Giants.
The Packers aren’t usually one for splashy, let alone controversial moves, but they have a major WR need after leaving the position largely unaddressed this offseason. Now that low-risk addition Devin Funchess has opted out for the 2020 season, they’re in even more trouble, unless they actually believe guys like Jace Sternberger and Equanimeous St. Brown are about to explode overnight. Better yet: They’ve spent the last few months trying to convince Aaron Rodgers they still believe in him. Actions speak louder than words, and there’d arguably be no greater action than giving him Brown — a bona fide play-maker — for this year’s stretch run.
“I thought about it,’’ Miller said. “ ... I thought about all of my family, I took serious consideration and the things that could possibly happen. It’s not a 100% bubble like basketball, so there are always going to be holes, but I felt like the job the Broncos were doing to keep us safe was enough for me not to opt out.’’
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Week 5 and Week 11: Las Vegas Raiders
In 12 career games against the Chiefs, Derek Carr has committed 16 turnovers.
This includes four in the two 2019 matchups with Kansas City.
During the offseason, the Raiders signed former Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. If Carr is unable to make the Raiders competitive, could head coach Jon Gruden get impatient and switch to Mariota?
Week 6 at Buffalo Bills
In 2019, cornerback Tre’Davious White allowed passer rating of just 46.3.
That was the fifth-lowest passer rating allowed by any cornerback with at least 500 pass-coverage snaps last season.
White plays alongside veteran cornerback Josh Norman and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The Buffalo secondary is one of several reasons why this Thursday Night Football matchup could be among the most difficult contests on the schedule.
A tweet to make you think
Sack Nation coming for it all this year pic.twitter.com/hMNHDeUtwY— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 5, 2020
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