Kansas City Chiefs: CB L’Jarius Sneed
The Kansas City Chiefs are known mostly for an offense led by Patrick Mahomes that racks up points and yardage with relative ease. But a big part of Kansas City’s two straight AFC championships (and one Super Bowl win) is a defense that is much better than it’s given credit for.
Among Chiefs defensive backs , Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu is easily the biggest name. But as Sam Monson reported for Pro Football Focus, second-year cornerback L’Jarius Sneed played a big part in the team’s success in 2020: ”A fourth-round pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, Sneed was a real find for the Chiefs and a big reason why they were able to make it back to the Super Bowl. In a season in which rookie cornerbacks were regularly torched, Sneed allowed a passer rating of just 66.6 when targeted, including the playoffs.”
If he an maintain that sort of pre-snap effectiveness in an increased role in 2021, Sneed could easily earn his first career Pro Bowl spot.
Tier 1: 3-1
The three elite offenses with no real weaknesses.
We’re assuming Aaron Rodgers is still in Green Bay in this scenario, obviously. Losing Corey Linsley at center hurts, but the Packers have shown over the years that they can lose Pro Bowlers on the line and just keep things moving. Davante Adams and Robert Tonyan elevate an otherwise pedestrian pass-catching corps, while Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon should be electric on the ground. (And maybe Jones will finally get the lion’s share of the passing-down work, making him a more dangerous threat.)
We, uh, may have underrated Tampa’s offense a bit last year. Don’t look it up. I’m never coming close to “maybe Tom Brady is on the downslope” ever again. At least until he retires. Probably. After dramatically reshaping their offensive line this offseason (Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, Kyle Long, and Creed Humphrey now join Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Mike Remmers up front), the Chiefs retain the top spot in our rankings. Honestly, they’ll probably have it as long as Andy Reid is the coach and Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback. They’ll definitely have it as long as they have those two guys, plus Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
Browns receiver Jarvis Landry will get a chance to renew his rivalry with the Kansas City Chiefs before the highly-anticipated Sept. 12 season opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will again participate in Landry’s celebrity softball game June 12 at Classic Park Stadium in Eastlake. The Browns had their 2020 season end with a 22-17 road loss to the Chiefs in an AFC Divisional playoff.
David Njoku, Kareem Hunt, Denzel Ward, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Mack Wilson were Browns teammates Landry announced Friday as participants, along with Cavaliers guard Darius Garland and former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
“It’s bittersweet,” Landry joked on Zoom of seeing Kelce, a Cleveland Heights High School product, coming off last year’s season-ending loss to the Chiefs. “They got the best of us in the playoff game, so [cheers] to them.
Chiefs: Any repercussions following Super Bowl loss?
Kansas City doesn’t feel like one of these teams we’ve seen in recent years that takes a dip following a Super Bowl loss, but I also don’t think it should totally be ignored either. The previous two Super Bowl losers failed to reach the playoffs the following season, albeit for different reasons. The San Francisco 49ers (who the Chiefs defeated in Super Bowl LIV) were decimated by injuries and went 6-10 last season. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams (lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII) were on the outside looking in on the playoffs, sitting at 9-7 in 2019.
It does go beyond just those couple of teams, too. The Atlanta Falcons fell off a cliff after blowing a 25-point lead in Super Bowl.
Around the NFL
The “Pats Plane” was greeted upon arrival in San Salvador early Wednesday, just after midnight, by China’s top diplomat to the tiny Central American country.
The team says it had been aware of the flight but didn’t arrange it — that was done by a company that leases out the plane when the Patriots aren’t using it.
The Boeing 767 — emblazoned with the six-time Super Bowl champions’ red, white and blue logo — drew much of the local and international media attention when the cargo bay opened to offload a huge crate bearing Chinese script. Ou Jianhong, the Chinese ambassador to El Salvador, said China “would always be a friend and partner” of El Salvador.
1 - Robert Tonyan
Catch rate: 88.1%
Expected catch rate: 71.4%
Tonyan barely made the qualifications used for this exercise, finishing with 52 catches on 59 targets. That also meant his efficiency was incredible last season, posting the highest catch-rate difference among all pass catchers by a wide margin. His 16.7 percent difference was not only the best in 2020, but the second-best in the history of the Next Gen Stats era, which dates back to the start of the 2016 season. Lower totals undoubtedly contribute to a higher difference — of the top seven players in catch-rate difference since 2016, only one has exceeded 100 targets (the Saints’ Michael Thomas, who posted top-seven differences in 2018 and ‘19) — but playing a position that traditionally sees fewer targets shouldn’t diminish Tonyan’s achievements in 2020.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
The first thing you notice is that Dubin doesn’t consider the Kansas City Chiefs to be among the league’s top defenses this season.
The second thing that pops out is that the Chiefs will be playing four of Dubin’s top five defenses — and if they are able to reach the Super Bowl, could end up playing the fifth one, too.
Finally, you realize that the Chiefs will be playing one of the top 10 defenses — the Broncos — twice. In all, Kansas City will face one of the NFL’s best defenses six times — and four of those matchups will be in the first six weeks of the season.
Most of the rest of the AFC West will have similar problems. Three of Dubin’s top 10 defenses are in the AFC North and one is in the NFC East. Those are the two divisions the AFC West is playing this season, so the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers will also play those four teams — in addition to facing the Broncos twice.
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