Score: 142 pts
Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes — Rank: 1 (One game: 1 | 2021 prod.: 1)
Running back: Clyde Edwards-Helaire — Rank: 16
Pass catcher: Tyreek Hill — Rank: 4
The Chiefs fall from No. 1 to No. 2, not because they aren’t as offensively powerful as they were a year ago, but because the Packers are just slightly superior in this very specific ranking exercise. We have a better idea of how Edwards-Helaire fits into their scheme, too, leading to a three-place bump among RBs following his rookie season. That alone was not enough to push KC past the Packers, but contra Ricky Bobby’s motto, second place is, in fact, worth a whole lot. It’s the theme for the Chiefs, who lost to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl — and offensively, they’re on the triplets podium, at least, with Mahomes obviously leading the way. We’d take Mahomes in a single game over anyone else, and over the entirety of a season. There’s a reason Kansas City locked him up for a decade, and having Hill — the second-best receiver in yards in 2020 — certainly doesn’t hurt.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
A wholesale offensive line remodel is the biggest question mark surrounding the Chiefs heading into the season, and the changes the team made to that group―which is now projected as LT Orlando Brown Jr., LG Joe Thuney, and a trio of rookies in OC Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, and RT Lucas Niang―could either pay huge dividends and help make the Kansas City offense unstoppable once again … or just backfire completely. I’m betting on the former, and even if there are growing pains, Patrick Mahomes covers up plenty of blemishes.
Most Touchdown Passes
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (3 votes)
Same names again here, with Mahomes and last year’s top two MVP vote-getters coming up as potential touchdown pass leaders in 2021.
Rodgers led the league with 48 touchdown strikes last year but is 37 and could potentially fall off a cliff at any time. Still, nobody else had more than 40 touchdown passes in 2020, so it’s surprising Mahomes grabbed 60 percent of the votes. He settled for 38 in a somewhat disjointed season by his standards, while Allen threw 37.
That said, Mahomes did toss a league-high 50 touchdown throws in his 2018 MVP season, and it’s clear our panel feels strongly about the highest-rated passer in NFL history putting it all back together in 2021.
Oddsmakers agree, as Mahomes is the clear fave to lead the league in this category. However, there’s no love for a 44-year-old Tom Brady, who was tied for second last year with 40 despite starting the season slowly.
Others receiving votes: Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
1. *Chiefs: 14-3
2. *Chargers: 10-7
3. Raiders: 9-8
4. Broncos: 8-9
AFC West bold prediction: Chiefs finish with the best record in the NFL, but don’t win the Super Bowl
Although this might seem like a lazy prediction, finishing with the best record in the NFL isn’t something that comes easy. Since Patrick Mahomes took over as the team’s full-time starter in 2018, the Chiefs have only finished with the NFL’s best record one time and that came last year.
When they won the Super Bowl in 2019, the Chiefs finished with the fifth-best record in the NFL, which tells you that finishing with the best record doesn’t guarantee you a Lombardi Trophy. The Chiefs will find that out the hard way this year, because I have them finishing with the NFL’s best record, but I don’t think they’re going to win the Super Bowl.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Nicholas Petit-Frere T
Petit-Frere is still growing into his body, but he excels at pass protection and makes sense in Kansas City as the team looks to revamp its offensive line.
Key additions: DE Jadeveon Clowney, CB Greg Newsome, S John Johnson, LB Anthony Walker
Key departures: DT Sheldon Richardson
After ending the N.F.L.’s longest playoff drought with a wild card win over the vaunted Steelers, the Browns aren’t settling for a victory lap in the 2021 season. General Manger Andrew Berry continued revamping the roster this off-season, with a square aim on a defense that allowed too many clock-sucking drives in 2020.
Berry brought in the top available defensive free agent in April, signing Clowney to a one-year deal to complement Myles Garrett in the pass rush, and added Johnson, perhaps the best available secondary player in free agency. Baker Mayfield, who cut down his turnovers in 2020, should benefit from having a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to target.
In an effort to continue to scale out on a global level, Pioneers leadership recognized a juxtaposition between the esports athlete and the traditional athlete. Over the past few years, NFL players have become increasingly involved in esports. JuJu Smith-Schuster playing Fortnite with Drake and Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, Kyler Murray joining FaZe clan and Richard Sherman investing in Luminosity Gaming are just a few of the examples. What the Pioneers specifically found is that both traditional and esports athletes are competing at the highest of levels, that their brand is both local and global, but perhaps most importantly that they both are interested in gaming on some level.
“We all are fans, of course, of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Royals, Sporting KC and KCWoSo,” Josey said. “So we pay attention to those kinds of things and you realize that, of course, they’re all gaming. So we should just connect to them, first and foremost for the ‘my city’ type of deal.”
It was upon this realization, that they first connected with Chiefs RG Andrew Wylie — who at the time had already begun to broadcast video games on the Twitch streaming platform.
“The proof was when we had a conversation with (Andrew) Wylie and he was all in,” Josey explained. “He was like, ‘Oh, I love what you guys are doing, we do pay attention, we do play (Call of Duty) Warzone and I also like to rip packs and that’s pretty cool.’”
Around the NFL
The star running back suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 last season. Despite the tear occurring nearly a year before the 2021 season kicks off, there had been questions about whether Barkley would be fully healthy to begin the campaign.
Both the Giants and Barkley have been cautious. Most players declare themselves ready to play, usually boasting they’re in the best shape of their lives post-injury. However, Barkley has tread cautiously, suggesting multiple times in the lead-up to training camp and preseason that he wasn’t sure when he’d be fully cleared.
Monday’s news, however, confirms that Watson will remain on the roster but not play. Given his standing trade request and lingering legal issues, there was some thought that the Texans could decide to tell Watson they planned to play him, and if he refused, fine or suspend the QB. In the end, the club will forgo that option.
With no end in sight in Watson’s legal situation, the NFL continues to investigate the case. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported last week that there is no indication the NFL plans to put Watson on the Commissioner’s Exempt list as of now as the legal process unfolds.
In the meantime, the Texans will ride the veteran Taylor, who has started 47 career games, bringing experience to the position.
AFC West – Rashawn Slater
I didn’t want to list a bunch of rookies in this exercise, but I am making an exception for the Chargers new left tackle. It’s going to take an awful lot for anyone to dethrone the Chiefs in this division. But Justin Herbert just might have the generational talent to close the gap if incubated and protected adequately. Slater is a mountain of a young man, my man Brian Baldinger has been gushing to me about him, and at some point the Chargers have to put a decent line together, right? Securing the blind side would be huge, and that is what I anticipate Slater providing. He can be an engine for the pass game and the run game. Give Herbert close to enough time and points can come in a hurry. Going against the likes of Joey Bosa in practice everyday has to help. I expect an immediate impact and upgrade at this spot, that will help settle down a line that the front office has been trying to sort out for quite a while now.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Over/Under: 39.5 passing touchdowns by Patrick Mahomes
As much as I believe Mahomes will have an incredible, MVP-level season, I think two factors will keep him from reaching 40 passing touchdowns: an improved run game in the red zone and the success of the Chiefs’ defense.
I am confident that the team’s ability to convert by running in short-yardage situations will lead to more rushing touchdowns from the running back unit. I also believe the defense will stifle opponents enough to where the passing offense won’t need to be at the volume it takes to throw 40 touchdowns.
While the improved offensive line will help the run game, it’s important to acknowledge that it will possibly give Mahomes the most time and the best pockets he’s had in his career.
That means more opportunities for big passing plays, which can quickly turn into touchdowns with receivers like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman. I think he finishes around 45 passing touchdowns in 2021.
A tweet to make you think
5 from @Chiefs— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 6, 2021
1) Rookie Trey Smith is a name to watch. He's played like the Top 50-ish pick his '19 tape showed. A key: He's practicing again full-time after a medication prevented that in '20.
2) L'Jarius Sneed = burgeoning ⭐️ at CB. Freak athlete has taken a big step.