So Thornhill maximizes Mathieu just as Ingram maximizes Jones, but the similarities don’t end there. The defensive front has also been boosted by the return of a healthy Frank Clark, and the defensive backfield by the return of a healthy Charvarius Ward. Ward missed weeks 3 through 6 with injury, and the Chiefs experimented with a combination of Rashad Fenton, Mike Hughes, and DeAndre Baker to replace him at outside corner. Fenton won that job eventually, but nobody played as well as Ward did. Once he came back in Week 7, supported by a truly impactful deep safety in Thornhill, his play really started to take off.
Stat to know: Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow has put together back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the second time in his career, but he has never had three straight such games. In fact, the only Raiders player in the past 20 seasons with three straight 100-yard receiving games is tight end Darren Waller (four straight from 2020 to 2021).
What to know for fantasy: Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr has completed over 70% of his passes while throwing multiple touchdowns and scoring over 18 fantasy points in each of his past three games against the Chiefs.
Betting nugget: Kansas City has covered three straight games after starting the season 2-7 ATS.
Gutierrez’s pick: Chiefs 31, Raiders 20
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 26, Raiders 20
FPI prediction: KC, 71.9% (by an average of 7.7 points)
8-4 · AFC No. 4 seed
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid would probably love to run it back against Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LVI, giving Kansas City a chance to make amends for its poor performance in last season’s title game. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ five-star playmakers are better prepared to deal with the Bucs’ zone-heavy tactics after facing two-deep coverage extensively this season. Defensively, the Chiefs seem to be peaking at the right time — they’ve allowed 17 points or fewer in each of the last five games — and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has had success against TB12 in the past. The emotional edginess from a desire to issue payback could work in Kansas City’s favor this time around. Moreover, the Chiefs’ experience with close games and low-scoring contests should serve them well against the defending champs with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.
Kansas City Chiefs: TE Travis Kelce
To be clear, Travis Kelce remains one of the league’s best tight ends. But his days of setting records for the position are in the past.
Kelce is now 32 years old and a victim of his own greatness.
In a 17-game schedule, the three-time first-team All-Pro is on pace to snag 99 passes for 1,201 yards. His current production is a slight downturn compared to the previous three seasons during which the tight end averaged 102 receptions and 1,327 receiving yards.
Basically, the argument here is that Kelce is no longer putting up historic numbers year in and year out, though he’s more than capable of staying a featured weapon in the Kansas City Chiefs offense.
And that’s OK. Tyreek Hill has assumed the mantle as the Chiefs’ leading receiver. Kelce is still a mismatch, but his usage rate should decline in the coming years as he gets older.
Current and former Chiefs players took to Twitter to share their thoughts and mourn Thomas’ passing.
Former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson wrote: “Life is really too short, DT will be truly missed. DT always had the biggest smile in the room at the Pro Bowls. RIP #DemaryiusThomas”
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu tweeted: “DT we will miss you brother!!”
Former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers shared this: “The NFL is a big fraternity. We really feel it when it one of us leave here to soon. We are leaving this earth younger and younger everyday. Enjoy everyday, only surround yourself with people that (genuinely) love you. Love on the people you love and stay out the way. R.I.P DT”
Around the NFL
The Denver Broncos will honor former wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on Sunday with a pregame moment of silence as well as a tribute to be played on the stadium’s video boards.
The Broncos, who will face the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High, will also wear decals on their helmets of Thomas’ No. 88.
Thomas was found dead Thursday in his Roswell, Georgia, home. Police indicated Thomas’ death might have resulted from a medical issue.
Former teammates said Thomas had told them he had suffered from seizures in recent months. LaTonya Bonseigneur, Thomas’ cousin, told The Associated Press early Friday that Thomas had suffered seizures for a year and that family members had spoken to him Wednesday.
Claypool’s absence affected Pittsburgh’s offense in the first half, but not to the extent later in the game. The Steelers wideout made a 9-yard catch on fourth-and-1 with 42 seconds left to extend the Steelers’ final drive — then proceeded to celebrate with a first-down celebration afterward. With no time outs and the clock ticking, the Steelers wasted 17 seconds between plays to spike the ball due to Claypool’s celebration.
“It’s not really my job. To me that goes up to Coach Tomlin. That’s what he needs to do. That’s his job as the head coach,” Roethlisberger said on addressing Claypool’s in-game issues. “As the quarterback, it’s my job to help manage what we do on the field and getting 1st downs and trying to score.
“Dealing with player issues and whatever else you want to say, that’s the coach’s job, not mine.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
1. Be the calm in the storm
The World Champion 2019 Chiefs trailed in every single postseason game they played — including Super Bowl LIV. Recalling each of their three epic comebacks evokes special memories in the hearts of every Chiefs fan. But none of it would have been possible without Reid’s leadership calming the waters.
We’ve all seen the highlights of Mahomes rallying the troops on the sidelines during these games — but one cannot forget the master who raised the young Jedi and taught him the ways of the Force.
I don’t think there is another coach in the NFL who would win those three games — not even Bill Belichick. Reid’s even-keeled leadership slows down the ride even when it feels like everything is spinning out of control, giving his players a moment to catch their breath and refocus.
It’s Raider Week. It would be easy for Reid to publicly feed into the Chiefs’ longtime rivalry with the Las Vegas Raiders — getting his players to froth at their mouths as they step onto the field on Sunday. But that’s not Reid’s style — and quite frankly, it’s not the best way to win games.
Once the initial buzz wears off, getting overhyped expends a lot of emotional energy — often leaving you drained and feeling flat. Instead, the Reid way is to step out over those white lines and simply execute your game plan. You can’t win the game with one play — but if you make enough of them, you walk away with a victory.
How do we apply this in our own lives?
Many times, life’s problems seem so big and insurmountable that it feels like we will never be able to overcome them. So this is a good reminder to take a deep breath, step back and look at our problems with clear eyes — so we can see what can be done in this moment to bring us one step closer to our goal. If the Chiefs can wipe away a 24-point deficit against the Houston Texans in nine minutes and 55 seconds, then we can get through whatever it is that we are facing.
A tweet to make you think
Red Friday!! December divisional games are the best, especially Raiders week! pic.twitter.com/We0eSbPi84— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz71) December 10, 2021