3) Pittsburgh trades Melvin Ingram to Kansas City: This was a move that felt like pure desperation at the time. The Chiefs had a horrible defense in the first half of the season, and the Steelers weren’t happy with what Ingram was providing (one sack in six games) after he signed with that franchise this offseason (Ingram also had been talking to the Chiefs in free agency as well). So the Steelers shipped Ingram to Kansas City at the trade deadline for a sixth-round pick. No big deal, right? It turns out that move started some dominoes falling in Kansas City that have resulted in a major defensive transformation. Having Ingram at defensive end gave defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo more reasons to play Chris Jones (four sacks since Ingram arrived) at defensive tackle again, instead of keeping him on the edge. Having Jones on the interior full-time and Ingram on one end gave Frank Clark (2.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, one forced fumble since Ingram arrived) more opportunities to impact the game at the other defensive end spot, which is something he hadn’t done since 2018. Even defensive tackle Jarran Reed — a major free-agent signee who had been invisible through the first eight games of the season — began making plays (1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles since Ingram arrived). The Chiefs suddenly have a scary defense (fifth in points allowed) and a front four that keeps opposing quarterbacks up at night. The Steelers, on the other hand, have one more reminder of how this really hasn’t been their year.
Winner: The Preseason Favorites
With two weeks left in the regular season, the teams leading the races for the two 1-seeds are … the Chiefs and Packers, the same two teams that got the 1-seeds last year. At the beginning of the season, FiveThirtyEight projected the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Bills, and Packers as the four most likely teams to win the Super Bowl. FiveThirtyEight currently projects the same four teams as the most likely to win the Super Bowl, although the order is now Chiefs, Packers, Buccaneers, Bills. At least they’re playing the Super Bowl in a different place this year!
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is right when he said being 4-1 in the division isn’t going to cut it this year. The Bengals need to win at least one more game to win the AFC North and clinch a playoff berth.
“We’re 4-1 in the division right now, and we need to be better than that this year, quite frankly,” Taylor said. “We know how big of a test this Kansas City game is coming up for us this weekend. It’s far and away the biggest game of the year for us.”
Patrick Mahomes NFL MVP odds: +1200
If there’s anyone who can come out of nowhere to win this award, it’s Mahomes. It isn’t exactly out of nowhere. Mahomes was 10/1 heading into Week 16, tied with a few others for the third-best odds to win MVP behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Mahomes’ only other competition may end up being Rodgers. So let’s play out a scenario.
The Packers win both of their last two games. Rodgers is OK, doesn’t make mistakes but doesn’t light the world on fire. Green Bay is 14-3 and has the best record in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Chiefs run the able and win the AFC’s top seed. K.C. finishes the season with the Bengals and Broncos, both contenders for the playoffs. Mahomes torches both of them. The Chiefs win 10 in a row.
If this plays out, there should at least be a debate. God forbid Rodgers stumbles in the final two games. There’s a scenario in which Rodgers could sit Week 18 against the Lions if there’s nothing to play for. That could help Mahomes narrow the gap. It isn’t a bad idea to take a long shot at Mahomes winning MVP. Crazier things have happened in the world in 2021.
7. Rookie cornerback Dicaprio Bootle led the Chiefs in tackles.
Bootle, who was activated from the practice squad prior to the game, recorded the first defensive snaps of his career on Sunday and was sure to make the most of them. He tallied 27 snaps on defense and recorded a team-leading eight tackles.
The Chiefs’ big lead meant that players like Bootle, cornerback Josh Jackson (9 snaps) and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (22 snaps) each had the opportunity to amass a season-high in playing time and record valuable experience on the field.
The Browns are hoping for the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Cincinnati Bengals with the Chiefs a road favorite. Cleveland is also hoping for the Los Angeles Rams to go on the road to beat the Baltimore Ravens, a cross country game at 1 PM Eastern Standard Time.
Thankfully for the Browns, both the Chiefs and Rams have something to play for in Week 17. Kansas City holds a one-game lead on the Tennesee Titans for the top seed, and a bye, in the AFC. Los Angeles is one game back of Green Bay, and tied with two other teams, at 11-4.
The Chiefs are looking to hold on to that top spot in the AFC while the Rams look to make a push to upend the Packers for the bye in the NFC.
PL Kansas City Chiefs
11-4 · .540
Biggest needs: DB, OT, WR
Week 17 opponent: at Bengals
CG: Kansas City’s secondary could sustain heavy free agent losses, and in a division that includes Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, that’s an even more frightening prospect. Patrick Mahomes might be capable of winning shootouts, but a weak secondary would be asking for them.
Derion Kendrick DB
Kendrick is a first-round pick all day long, and he proved that again this season with Georgia after transferring from Clemson. The biggest issue for NFL teams will be off-field issues; if Kendrick has matured since his time with the Tigers, he’ll be worthy of a top 32 selection.
Around the NFL
Waddle came into Monday night with 86 catches and with his seventh catch in the first half passed the Saints’ Michael Thomas (92 receptions) for second-most by a rookie in league chronicle. Now he sits at 96 and just five away from Anquan Boldin’s all-time rookie record of 101 set in 2003 with the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s not a milestone Waddle is too concerned with, though if it comes with victories for the streaking Dolphins (8-7), who have now won seven in a row, he’s all for it.
“As far as importance, I wouldn’t say it’s like something I got my mind focused on,” Waddle said. “I’m all for it as long as it comes with some wins. It would obviously be pretty cool, cause NFL is a special league so anything in this league to have a record in is always big.”
Projected wild card matchups
(No. 1 Chiefs on bye)
No. 7 Dolphins at No. 2 Titans
No. 6 Patriots at No. 3 Bengals
No. 5 Colts at No. 4 Bills
Garoppolo did not participate in the Niners’ Monday “bonus” practice, which came after the team went its separate ways for the three days following the loss in Nashville. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance took all of the work with the starters in Monday’s session, which coach Kyle Shanahan described as a walk-through.
According to Shanahan, Garoppolo suffered the injury when Titans defensive tackle Denico Autry sacked him for a 7-yard loss with 3:56 left in the second quarter. Garoppolo finished the game but struggled with a pair of costly interceptions and missed a would-be touchdown throw to open fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the first half.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
But it’s not just the first time the Chiefs have ever done it. It’s the first time any team has dominated this division for so long.
In the late 1960s through the late 1970s — mostly under head coach John Madden — the then-Oakland Raiders won it four consecutive times, finished second in one season and then ran off a string of five straight AFC West titles.
With Peyton Manning under center in the first half of the last decade, the Denver Broncos reeled off five straight. But even when John Elway was their quarterback from 1983 through 1998, the Broncos never managed more than two in a row.
With head coach Sid Gillman and quarterback John Hadl during the AFL’s early years, the then-San Diego Chargers once won three straight. Almost 20 years later, with Don Coryell and Dan Fouts, they did it again. Two decades after that — during Philip Rivers’ first seasons with the team — the Chargers managed four straight.
The Seattle Seahawks once won four straight with Mike Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck — but that was after the team had moved to the NFC West. From its founding in 1977 until it moved to the senior conference in 2002, the franchise never even put together a string of two division championships.
A tweet to make you think
I'm told free agent CB Bashaud Breeland is signing with the #Cardinals, per league source.— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 27, 2021