The Chiefs start off with a bang.
A trio of good teams who lost to the Chiefs last season get a shot at them again early in the ’21 regular season:
• Week 1: Browns at Chiefs
• Week 2: Chiefs at Ravens
• Week 5: Bills at Chiefs (SNF)
In addition to those early-season matchups, the Chiefs will face the Steelers, Packers, Titans, and Washington Football Team—all playoff teams from a year ago. Add in Kansas City’s AFC West opponents (the Chargers took Kansas City to OT early in the year, while the Raiders beat them) and this looks like arguably the toughest slate in the league.
The Chiefs seemed to get everyone’s best shot last year; nine of their regular-season games were decided by one score or less (8-1). K.C. is a favorite to win the AFC crown again, but it certainly won’t be a cakewalk.
The Chiefs remain the AFC’s premier beast, but get no breaks out of the gate with Cleveland at home in the opener before traveling to Baltimore. Two of their next three games come against the frisky Chargers and revenge-seeking Bills. They close the season with consecutive road fights against the Bengals and Broncos after hosting Pittsburgh in Week 16. Maybe the Chiefs still roll to 14-2 (correction: 14-3), but Andy Reid’s bunch is no longer the loveable new face in the AFC: Everyone is angling to separate them into a thousand fragments en route to the throne.
2) Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
A nice AFC title game rematch in October? Yes, please!
Heading into the 2021 season, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen could be the top two candidates for league MVP. They are must-watch players on their own. Going against each other? Dreamy! Furthermore, think about all of the incredible pass-catching talent in this game. Stefon Diggs just led the NFL in catches (127) and receiving yards (1,535) during his first season in Buffalo, while Cole Beasley fell just short of his first 1,000-yard season and Gabriel Davis scored seven touchdowns as a rookie. And then there’s Kansas City, which boasts the most explosive wideout (Tyreek Hill) and tight end (Travis Kelce) in football.
The Bills know they can play better than they did this past January on Championship Sunday. It’s an early-season revenge game. And if Buffalo can knock off Kansas City — in Arrowhead Stadium — watch out!
4. Chiefs at Ravens, Sept. 19, NBC (Sunday Night Football); 8:20 p.m.
There’s not much else to say about this game other than it’s going to be good. Until the Ravens reach the Super Bowl with Lamar Jackson, it may not have the same kind of marquee panache as a Brady-Manning matchup from the mid-2000s and on. But whenever two of football’s most important players are on the field it should be considered appointment television. One might call it the Orlando Brown revenge game, but I’m more interested in whether the upgrades Steve Spagnuolo got on the defensive side of the ball will be enough to continue the Chiefs’ strong track record against Jackson. In three games against Kansas City, Jackson has a quarterback rating of 78.9, which is the second-lowest against any team with a sample size of more than two games (Pittsburgh is the lowest). He also has a 52% completion rate, which is the lowest among all teams with a sample size of more than two games.
Wins - 11.9
Kansas City Chiefs
AFC West champions
The first two weeks out of the gate (hosting the Browns in Week 1, then traveling to the Ravens in Week 2) will be a test for the Chiefs’ retooled offensive line. And the stretch from Week 5 to Week 7 (hosting the Bills, then traveling to Washington and Tennessee) will also present some challenges, But ... Patrick Mahomes. The second half of the schedule lightens up after a Week 9 meeting with the Packers, which only tracks as tough here because we’re assuming you-know-who will still be under center for Green Bay. Overall, this projected win total seems low, but it’s still the highest in the AFC and the second-highest in the NFL.
What’s your early Super Bowl pick?
Seifert: Chiefs over Buccaneers. It’s a boring repeat, but it’s an early pick. The Chiefs have crushed the offseason by overhauling their offensive line, and the Buccaneers have their entire starting lineup and all of their key coaches back from the team that caught fire in the 2020 playoffs.
Around the NFL
The NFL has assigned five prime-time games to the Green Bay Packers for the 2021 season, one of the most notable revelations in its frenzied leaguewide schedule reveal Wednesday night.
The Packers were one of 10 teams to receive maximum prime-time exposure, a list that also included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, who will play in the NFL’s Sept. 9 kickoff game at Raymond James Stadium.
But the Packers’ inclusion was significant, considering the uncertain status of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. While NFL schedule makers don’t have special insight into team operations, it’s unlikely that the Packers would be featured as prominently in the league’s initial schedule if second-year player Jordan Love had already been named their starter.
Trevor Lawrence vs. Joe Burrow
WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 30, at 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network (Week 4)
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
Trevor Lawrence dreamed of going his entire college career without a defeat. That dream was dashed when Joe Burrow’s LSU squad dismantled Clemson in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship. Lawrence didn’t throw a touchdown pass and completed less than 50 percent of his throws in a 42-25 loss he called “devastating in the moment.”
Now Lawrence gets his first shot at revenge against a Burrow-led group — this time with both leading upstart teams as No. 1 overall picks in the NFL. In a way, both young men have already won by making Jaguars vs. Bengals must-see prime-time television.
With Rodgers thus unlikely to show up to offseason workouts beginning next week, backup quarterback (and object of Rodgers’ ire) Jordan Love is the only passer on Green Bay’s roster that would be expected on hand. Given that situation, the Packers are signing former Jaguars and Rams quarterback Blake Bortles to a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Adam Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel previously noted that Bortles is likely to visit the Packers, but it appears that an agreement has already come together in advance of the visit. Silverstein also reports that a potential Bortles signing is unrelated to the situation surrounding Rodgers, citing general manager Brian Gutekunst’s desire to add a veteran to the quarterback room before the beginning of OTAs. Teams typically carry three quarterbacks into offseason activities, and the Packers only have two at the moment, though there’s been speculation that Rodgers may not be long for Green Bay.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers — Weeks 3 and 15
Speaking of perennial thrillers... here’s one that could be brewing. Every season, national NFL writers say the Chargers will contend to win the AFC West. They tend to be wrong — but it’s not as if they haven’t had a point: the Chargers routinely bring plenty of talent to their roster. Injuries — and a too-long reliance on Philip Rivers — have simply gotten in their way. But in Justin Herbert, the Chargers now have an exciting young quarterback — and a couple of new offensive linemen to help keep him upright. Depending on how new head coach Brandon Staley takes care of business, a twice-yearly edge-of-your-seat duel with Mahomes could be in the offing.
A tweet to make you think
We look forward to the challenge of the 2021 season. pic.twitter.com/pR3SAQEeU2— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 13, 2021
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