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NFL power rankings Week 14 roundup: Chiefs draw praise for defense

After Sunday night’s big win over Denver, how did Kansas City rank?

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After the Kansas City Chiefs’ 22-9 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, most pundits didn’t see the need to move the team up in their rankings — but almost all of them are now fully on board with Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.

Here’s this week’s sampling: 5

(unchanged from 5)

This is the new normal. The Chiefs are winning every week because of their defense, not because of Patrick Mahomes and an offense that remains lost in the fog. Penalties, turnovers and a stunning dearth of big plays have come to define Andy Reid’s attack, and we’re now well past the point where you can look at Kansas City’s body of work on offense and call it a slump. This is who the 2021 Chiefs are, and one bad day at the office for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense might be all it takes to make the defending conference champions disappear in January. You don’t win Super Bowls with a broken offense — is it even possible to make a fix before the season ends?

— Dan Hanzus


(up from 6)

Player who must step up: WR Mecole Hardman

With Sammy Watkins moving on and the Chiefs in need of a second receiving threat, this was to be the season Hardman proved he could be trusted as an every-down receiver. It hasn’t happened. While Hardman is third on the team in catches, he has few big plays, registering 10.1 yards per catch and just one touchdown. If Hardman doesn’t make a move in what remains of the campaign, the Chiefs will be shopping for receiving help in the offseason.

Adam Teicher

Sports Illustrated: 7

(unchanged from 7)

Rather than writing “don’t look now,” the accurate phrase here is “please, look now.” When I put together these power rankings before heading into the glorious, diaper-changing existence that is paternity leave, the Chiefs were being written off, their defense too porous, their normally high-flying offense in a Super Bowl-hangover funk. I wrote then that I believed coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had the chops and the talent to turn things around. I heard from many on Twitter who disagreed. But… he has. Since Tennessee blew out Kansas City on Oct. 24, the Chiefs have allowed: 17 points (Giants), 7 points (Packers), 14 points (Raiders), 9 points (Cowboys) and 9 points (Broncos, last Sunday), while winning all five of those games. Example of impact: a 20-play Broncos drive that netted no points just before halftime. Or: “Dirty” Dan Sorensen’s Pick-Six in the fourth that sealed another win. In fact, the Chiefs D surrendered its first touchdown since the Raiders game against the Broncos, and after the Sorensen turnover, when the game was all but decided.

And, despite the Chiefs continued—and continually perplexing—offensive struggles, in terms of scoring offense, they’re tied for 13th (25.3 points per game), and that’s accounting for their sluggish start. Kansas City will need to bring that ranking up to make another run, but it’s worth noting that when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl two years ago, their defense played far better in the second half the season, carrying an offense that was still rounding into top form. Sound familiar? (Tyreek Hill catching the ball would help, as would fewer turnovers from Patrick Mahomes and additional cohesion from a new offensive line.)

— Greg Bishop 5

(unchanged from 5)

The offense still doesn’t look right, but the defense is playing outstanding football. There is no way we could have imagined this script for this team right now.

— Pete Prisco

Yahoo! Sports: 5

(up from 6)

The Chiefs didn’t have one play that wasn’t a pass to a running back gain more than 14 yards. Not one run, not one throw to a receiver or tight end. We can have this idea week after week (after week after week) that the Chiefs will turn into the 2018-20 Chiefs offense one of these games, but we’re 13 weeks into the season now. Wouldn’t it have happened by now?

— Frank Schwab

The Sporting News: 5

(up from 7)

The Chiefs dispatched Denver as expected on Sunday night to keep pulling away from the once-promising Raiders and Broncos. That also maintained their distance from the second-place Chargers. Andy Reid is now 20-3 after a bye and Kansas City is working back into form as the AFC team to beat, even with Patrick Mahomes not totally right.

— Vinnie Iyer

USA Today: 5

(unchanged from 5)

Coach Andy Reid is now 20-3 following bye weeks in the regular season – all the more reason for Kansas City to continue its surge toward what could be its fourth consecutive postseason initiated with a week off.

Nate Davis

The Washington Post: 4

(unchanged from 4)

It wasn’t a huge offensive performance Sunday night against the Broncos. QB Patrick Mahomes threw for a modest 184 yards, and WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce were mostly non-factors. But the defense is playing really well now and led the way in the win. The Chiefs have won five straight and are back to being a legitimate championship threat, particularly if the offense finds its form.

— Mark Maske

Bleeding Green Nation: 5

(unchanged from 5)

This Chiefs season sure has been weird, huh? Earlier in the year, their defense was ABYSMAL. Like, worst in the league. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has since settled in, allowing just 11.2 points per game in their last five. That’s the good news. The bad news is the offense is looking inconsistent. Can Patrick Mahomes and company find their groove at the right time?

— Brandon Lee Gowton

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