With all of the pressure off in Week 17, the Kansas City Chiefs face a division opponent with an impressive rookie quarterback. We’ll see more of the backups and young players hoping to make their case for a larger role for next season.
Could any of them impress enough to get on the field for the playoffs? Here are some trending Chiefs going into the regular-season finale:
- Martinas Rankin: Rankin is listed as the backup to Mike Remmers, and Remmers won’t play this week. Rankin is one of the forgotten men on the Chiefs this season, as he recovers from a knee injury that ended his 2019 season. He had shown enough promise that he could be part of the solution to the offensive line issues plaguing the Chiefs this season. He’ll be protecting a more conventional quarterback this week in Chad Henne while facing a fierce pass rush. If he can hold his own, Rankin could earn a role for 2021 — or perhaps even for the playoffs this season.
- Deandre Baker: The Chiefs have been calling up Baker from the practice squad over the last couple of weeks, but he’s yet to see any real action. That could change against the Chargers, giving the former first-round pick a real opportunity to show he’s on track to resurrect his career. Assuming he’s active and performs well, the Chiefs could have him back at least for the next year. Given his talent and the team’s track record for reclamation projects, don’t bet against Baker.
- Willie Gay Jr.: The rookie has been growing into his role, and saw increased snaps last week after Ben Niemann’s injury. Niemann won’t play this week either, so we should see plenty of No. 50 running around against a talented Chargers offense. Gay needs the reps — to continue developing the mental aspects of his game. He’s one of the few that we’ll see this week who could also be impact players in the playoffs.
Other bulls to watch this week: Stefan Wisniewski, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
- Khalen Saunders: Perpetually inactive this season, Saunders has been passed over by Tershawn Wharton. He should get some run this week, but it’s hard to imagine that his arrow is pointing up after being a rotational player last year and not seeing the field this season. At best, he could make a case to replace Mike Pennel as depth behind Wharton, Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi for 2021 with a good performance.
- Mitchell Schwartz: There’s starting to be some real concern among Chiefs fans about the health and long-term prospects of their stud right tackle. The backups haven’t fared tremendously well, but the struggles of the line as a whole could lead to some significant moves in 2021. If the Chiefs like what they see in Martinas Rankin this week, and with incoming contributors like Lucas Niang and a full draft class, they could see an opportunity to save money by letting Schwartz go.
- Chad Henne: Coming into this game, after having not started in the NFL since 2014, Henne will find himself in a tough spot. Playing with mostly backups, including the offensive line and receivers against a Chargers team on a three-game win streak, it will be difficult for Henne and the Chiefs offense to keep pace.
Other bears to watch this week: Darwin Thompson, Deon Yelder, Antonio Hamilton