Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Opponent win total: O/U 9
The Steelers have all the talent they need to be contenders, but remember how horribly they played toward the end of the season last year? Could Ben Roethlisberger potentially do that again? I have more confidence in the Chiefs than I do the Steelers.
Prediction: Chiefs win 26-23
Projected record: 13-2
In the months since, Chiefs brass spent plenty of cash and cashed in some assets to revamp their decimated offensive line in hopes of preventing such a disaster from happening again. Their showing in each of the three exhibition wins suggests that investment was money well spent.
“I think they’ve had an amazing preseason,” Mahomes said after Friday’s win over the Vikings, per USA Today. “I haven’t got hit a lot; I don’t really think I got touched today. I think that just speaks to them and how they’ve been playing. They’ve done a great job and gotten better each and every week so I’m excited for the season.”
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Given the collapse of the offensive line in Super Bowl LV, the Kansas City Chiefs could have lost standing on this list.
But the front office had other plans.
Not content to wait on development, the Chiefs splurged on free-agent left guard Joe Thuney and traded for left tackle Orlando Brown before using a second-round pick on center Creed Humphrey.
All this in front of Patrick Mahomes, who lit it up again last year with 4,740 passing yards and 38 touchdowns against six interceptions over 15 games. Mahomes is the best non-Brady passer in the league right now, so he and the tandem of skill players on offense slip the Chiefs past Dallas in the rankings.
That offense also returns breakout candidate Clyde Edwards-Helaire at running back, arguably the best tight end in the league in Travis Kelce (he led the team in receiving and scored 11 times in 2020) and nigh-unstoppable speedster wideouts Tyreek Hill (15 touchdowns in 2020) and Mecole Hardman.
Based on that talent alone, the defense could go unmentioned. But that’d be unfair to Chris Jones, one of the best defenders in the league and owner of a 90.3 PFF grade last year. Stellar pass-rusher Frank Clark makes a relentless push, and the secondary features an established star (Tyrann Mathieu) and major riser (L’Jarius Sneed).
In most years, the Chiefs would comfortably sit at No. 1. But thanks to some great moves in Tampa Bay, that’s not the case.
Draft slot 4
Round 1 (Pick 4): The fourth overall pick is the first at which you could consider going with a wide receiver or the top tight end, Travis Kelce, but it’s still not advisable to do so, considering the presence of feature backs Henry and Ezekiel Elliott. I’d argue that if you’re not a Henry or Elliott believer, Saquon Barkley and his top-three statistical ceiling — his 20.8 career PPG is third among running backs during that three-year span, behind only McCaffrey and Kamara, and eighth best in history through three seasons — makes more sense than Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill or Kelce.
Around the NFL
An MRI confirmed Sunday that the stud running back suffered a torn ACL, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported. Dobbins is looking at least 12 months of recovery to be ready for the 2022 season, but he will miss the 2021 campaign. The running back did not suffer any MCL or PCL damage, Pelissero added.
The injury happened in the first quarter of the Ravens’ preseason finale in Washington on Saturday. Dobbins turned upfield after catching a screen pass and his left leg bent backward on the ensuing tackle. Immediately grabbing his left knee, Dobbins was helped off the field while putting no weight on his injured leg. He was then carted to the locker room after a brief sideline examination in the blue medical tent.
That could be a tipoff on the direction Belichick is leaning, and Jones — the first-round pick from Alabama (15th overall) — is preparing for however it unfolds.
“Like I always say, I’m focused on today. I think there’s a lot of stuff I can clean up. I held the ball a little too long at some points today. I’ll work on that ... but I’m here to play any role I can play, help in any way I can, and I’m going to be ready whenever my time comes,” Jones said after finishing 10-of-14 for 156 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
49ers 34, Raiders 10
The San Francisco 49ers showed off coach Kyle Shanahan’s two-quarterback system by getting rushing touchdowns from both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance in a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Shanahan rotated his two quarterbacks on the first two drives against the Raiders backups as a tune-up for the regular season when he plans to use both Garoppolo and the rookie Lance.
Snub: WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team (Unranked)
Terry McLaurin has emerged as one of the best young wideouts the league has to offer, but his peers don’t consider him in the upper echelon just yet.
While the 25-year-old only has two seasons under his belt, one has to wonder what else this rising star needs to accomplish to earn a spot on the list.
McLaurin improved on a brilliant rookie season in almost every way, upping his receptions (58 to 87), targets (93 to 134) and receiving yardage (919 to 1,118). Although he didn’t find paydirt as often—scoring just four times compared to seven in 2019—he still established himself as a playmaker for Washington.
Perhaps most notably, McLaurin accomplished all those individual accolades while having four different quarterbacks throwing him the ball in 2020.
There is still plenty of room for improvement here, but McLaurin’s latest performance was statistically better than several other wideouts who made the Top 100. For example, both Corey Davis and Jarvis Landry ended up on the list, but neither receiver eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark or reeled in anywhere close to as many receptions.
Washington is still seeking a franchise signal-caller to build around, but the club did acquire veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier in the offseason, opening the door for more production from McLaurin.
The school’s website has an empty ‘About Us’ page and looks more like a basic blog than anything you would expect from one of the top schools for teenage football talent. No posts have been made on the site since May.
It’s also unclear why the school is called Bishop Sycamore when there has never been a Bishop named Sycamore, per The Ringer’s Kevin Clark.
During the broadcast of the school’s - ‘school’? - loss to IMG, the ESPN commentators were scathing, questioning whether there were really top-level college football prospects on the roster, as Bishop Sycamore had claimed.
“Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster,” commentator Anish Shroff said on the broadcast.
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The receiver also noted that having the best quarterback in football can aid in improvement.
“Obviously, with Patrick (Mahomes) throwing you the ball, you kind of find ways to succeed.”
Although his expanded role on offense has been noted — both in team practices and in three preseason games — Kemp knows that special teams has kept him in the league to this point.
“So when I first entered the league, I knew that was probably my best chance at staying on a team — being an undrafted rookie,” Kemp replied when asked about how playing special teams had kept him on the team long enough to develop. “So I kind of took that mindset every year. This is my fifth year now — but I still come in like I’m an undrafted rookie where that’s my best chance to make the team, that’s how I’m going to help.”