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Chiefs have the AFC’s best range of projected outcomes for 2021

Just about any way you figure it, Kansas City is the AFC’s team to beat.

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Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus analyst Ben Linsey published an article detailing their best and worst-case projections for all AFC teams in 2021. After running thousands of projections, Linsey gave the 10th and 90th percentile expectations for each team — meaning that 80% of the simulations had given a season result between the two outcomes.

This also means that these projections aren’t the final word, because 20% of the projected outcomes for each team were outside of the best and worst records Linsey listed. Still... the Kansas City Chiefs had the AFC’s top range of success.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

10th percentile outcome: 9-8

How they get there: The top-heaviness of Kansas City’s roster rears its head. An injury to Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones or Tyrann Mathieu leaves the Chiefs scrambling for solutions. Can anyone step up as a legitimate receiving threat behind Kelce and Hill? Will Frank Clark look closer to the player Kansas City traded for two offseasons ago, or will Jones continue to carry a heavy load along that defensive line? Did the Chiefs do enough at cornerback after Bashaud Breeland walked in free agency? Unfortunately, there’s a real possibility that all of those answers are no.

90th percentile outcome: 14-3

How they get there: An improved offensive line elevates what was already one of the best offenses in the NFL. According to PFF’s wins above replacement metric, Mahomes has been the most valuable quarterback in the NFL over the past three seasons by more than a full win. Kelce comfortably ranks first at the tight end position, and Hill comes in at fourth among wide receivers. Those three are better than ever in 2021.

L’Jarius Sneed, Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton reward the Chiefs’ confidence in them with solid seasons on defense.


Takeaways

As I’ve said previously, I’m not as convinced as some observers that injuries to players like Kelce, Hill, Jones or Mathieu would necessarily have an enormous impact on the team’s fortunes; I don’t think the Chiefs are quite as top-heavy as some people believe. But it’s also true that should Mahomes miss a significant amount of time, that will have a big impact; as Linsey notes, the Kansas City quarterback is head and shoulders above any other.

So it’s not unreasonable to think the Chiefs could fall to 9-8 if Mahomes and one or two of the team’s other stars become unavailable. But here’s the thing: under PFF’s projections, no other AFC team has a best-case record better than Kansas City’s — and the Chiefs are the only team in the conference whose worst-case record is above 0.500.

Linsey’s article once again demonstrates what we already knew: the Chiefs will be the AFC’s team to beat this season. Like any other NFL team, injuries to multiple key players could stand in their way — but long as Mahomes remains upright, Kansas City should control its own destiny.