The Kansas City Chiefs opened the NFL season with a 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans a week ago Thursday night. After Week 1 concluded, the Chiefs opened as 8.5 point favorites for their Week 2 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. On Monday, the Chiefs head coach updated us on the team’s injuries.
The Chiefs came out of their win against the Texans with three injuries of note — cornerback Charvarius Ward fractured his hand, defensive tackle Khalen Saunders dislocated his elbow and defensive end Alex Okafor strained his hamstring.
Reid revealed another injury on Monday.
“Austin Reiter has a little bit of a sore knee; he’s working through that,” he said. “We’ll just see how that goes for [Tuesday].”
The Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad spent Monday’s edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast discussing four Chiefs who could get increased plying time with the injuries to Ward and Saunders — including the player the Chiefs traded back into the draft to acquire.
CB BoPete Keyes
The only cornerback on the 53-man roster not active for game day last week was rookie BoPete Keyes. The seventh-round pick out of Tulane got off to a slow start in training camp due to injury but possesses the ideal length, athleticism, physicality and ball skills that Steve Spagnuolo covets in his corners. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub has mentioned Keyes as a quality vice for his unit, so if Ward is out next week, he could provide value. If the Chiefs feel he’s caught up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Keyes make his NFL debut.
Our John Dixon spent Monday ruminating over the odd things we observed in the opening week of a season played during a pandemic.
3. There seemed to be more uncertainty than usual
On Tallysight.com — a web site that keeps track of game picks made by NFL writers — just 2% picked the Jaguars to beat the Colts on Sunday, while just 7% picked the Washington Football Team to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. Both underdogs won their games. (Full disclosure: I was among those who picked the Jaguars — and my fellow AP writers Pete Sweeney and Ron Kopp Jr. were in the small group that picked Washington).
Of the 14 NFL games played so far in Week 1, four winning teams were picked by fewer than one-third of Tallysight’s 260-plus contributing writers. In comparison, only two winners of last season’s Week 1 games were picked by so few Tallysight contributors — and the biggest surprise was the Tennessee Titans’ victory over the Cleveland Browns, which had been predicted by 11% of Tallysight’s members.
Ruminations continued on Tuesday’s Arrowhead Pride Editors Show podcast, where John and editor-in-chief Pete Sweeney talked about their days-later takes from the season opener.
“After the Chiefs gave up a punter who had been with the team for 15 seasons — and we had kind of taken his excellence for granted for all that time — the Chiefs signed undrafted free agent Tommy Townsend to take his place. His first NFL punt — from his own 45-yard line — was perfect. It landed on the one-yard line and bounced straight up into the air, giving the gunners an opportunity to down it inside the five-yard line — but in this case, they didn’t. The Chiefs’ Antonio Hamilton had beaten his man down the sideline, but after the Townsend’s kick bounced, he was pushed back toward the sideline by the Texans’ DeAndre Carter and couldn’t make a play on the ball. But Townsend did everything perfectly; you just can’t ask for more.”
Tuesday is also Power Rankings Day across the league. In the AP edition of the Week 2 rankings, the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots made solid gains, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns took a hit. Nationally, the Chiefs were almost universally given the top spot — with a few exceptions.
(unchanged from 2)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire already looks like the real deal. Drafting a running back in the first round is debatable but that was the right situation for it: The Chiefs didn’t have many other needs, it was the final pick of the first round and Edwards-Helaire adds a dangerous dimension to the Chiefs’ offense. Like the offense needed more help.
— Frank Schawb
Wednesday’s first injury report listed three Chiefs who didn’t practice — and then we learned one of them would be out for a month.
Saunders, 24, dislocated his elbow in Kansas City’s opening game against the Houston Texans after playing just eight snaps. Undrafted rookie Tershawn Wharton helped fill the void left in Saunders’ absence.
A month from Wednesday would be Friday, October 16, meaning Saunders would miss games against the Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders and Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills. If all goes well and Rapoport’s report is right, Saunders could get back to practice the Monday after, as the Chiefs begin preparation for the Denver Broncos.
Across the league, it hadn’t gone without notice that Mahomes attempted only on deep pass in the win against the Texans, The Super Bowl MVP talked about it.
“[Reserve quarterbacks] Chad Henne and Matt Moore both said it was one of the best games I’ve played because I actually took the check-downs and didn’t try to force it down the field when it wasn’t there,” Mahomes revealed during his Wednesday press conference. “It’s something that I’ve learned from those veteran guys, I’ve learned from coach Reid: all of us want to go for the big shot, the touchdown pass every single time, but if defenses are going to play us back in coverage, I’m going to take the stuff underneath and let the guys make plays, find ways to score and find ways to win football games.”
The rookie cornerback’s Week 1 performance also attracted attention across the league — which Chiefs coaches said was no surprise.
“That’s the reason why we went out and got him,” Chiefs defensive backs coach Sam Madison said of the 6-foot-1 Sneed on Thursday. “He is able to run, he’s tall, he’s long and you look at our corners from last year, you know he just fit that mold — but it’s been a transformation for him. Understanding the speed of the game from college, coming to the pros and not really having any OTAs and quarterback school, he was able to pick it up very fast.”
Friday’s final injury report confirmed the worst: Charvarius Ward, Khalen Saunders and Alex Okafor would all miss the Chargers game. But the game would still be played, of course — and our Ron Kopp gave you a list of things to watch in Los Angeles.
2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s receiving game
The rookie running back had a phenomenal debut in Week 1, but all of his 138 yards came on the ground; the only target he saw was an inaccurate dump-off to the flat that fell incomplete.
There’s reason to believe he won’t be shut out of the passing game for a second straight week. In the two matchups with the Chargers in 2019, 33% of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ pass attempts were targeted to running backs. Over the full season, he targeted running backs on 22% of his throws.
Saturday’s big (albeit expected) news was that Saunders was headed for injured reserve — and that he would be replaced by practice squad defensive tackle Braxton Hoyett.
The Chiefs protected Hoyett on Tuesday, preventing other teams in the league from signing him to their rosters. Hoyett had been the first and only player the Chiefs have opted to protect under the league’s 2020 practice squad rules.
Hoyett, 24, is listed at 6 feet 2 and 302 pounds. He first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent for the Titans in 2019, but he was cut by the Tennessee at the end of training camp. Hoyett spent time on the Chiefs’ practice squad last season, and they signed him to a reserve/futures contract after the Super Bowl. The Chiefs initially cut Hoyett to get down to 80 players this offseason, but he was brought back into the fold a few weeks later.