A lot of sportswriters believe that on the eve of the next regular season, the previous Super Bowl winner should — by default — be the NFL’s No. 1 team. But as we take a look at where the Kansas City Chiefs stand in our first sampling of 2021 power rankings, we learn that not every sportswriter believes this is true.
Here’s our Week 1 sampling:
Andy Reid is old school, and so it was that Patrick Mahomes was one of the few established starting quarterbacks in the league to see extended preseason action. Mahomes came out of the games healthy (phew), and the re-made offensive line passed its initial test. Mahomes wasn’t sacked once in three games, and the new group — made up of left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney, rookie center Creed Humphrey, rookie right guard Trey Smith and first-year right tackle Lucas Niang — delivered its best performance in the final tune-up against the Vikings. Said Mahomes: “I think they’ve had an amazing preseason.”
— Dan Hanzus
Person on the hot seat: WR Mecole Hardman
The Chiefs showed a lot of faith in the third-year player, declining to bring in a veteran receiver or draft one in an early round to replace Sammy Watkins. Hardman is first in line to replace Watkins and needs to justify that faith. If he doesn’t respond with a consistent season, one without all the highs and lows of the past two seasons, look for the Chiefs to acquire a receiver next year to join Tyreek Hill as a regular.
— Adam Teicher
The Chiefs start in the top spot despite losing last year’s Super Bowl. But they have been to the big game two years in a row and are the betting favorites to win it again. They will probably be the preseason No. 1 many more times in the Patrick Mahomes era.
The rebuilt offensive line should make the offense get back to scoring points in a big way with Patrick Mahomes lighting it up. There are some concerns about the defense that have to improve.
— Pete Prisco
The Chiefs’ rebuilt offensive line looked very good by the end of the preseason. If the line is one of the NFL’s 10 best, how do you stop this offense?
— Frank Schawb
With a healthy Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs always will have a floor that is close to the ceiling of the league. They have made some offensive changes with the line and a few skill players to give Mahomes a different kind of support. The defense still has enough complementary playmakers to make Kansas City a heavy favorite for three consecutive AFC crowns.
— Vinnie Iyer
USA Today: 2
Their revamped offensive line projects to have three players (rookie C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith and RT Lucas Niang) who have combined for zero NFL starts. Could be a rough beginning for a team that will see Myles Garrett, Calais Campbell and Joey Bosa in September.
— Nate Davis
The Chiefs overhauled the offensive line that, while in a depleted state, failed to safeguard Patrick Mahomes during the Super Bowl defeat to the Buccaneers. The Chiefs have reached three straight AFC title games and the past two Super Bowls, and there is no reason to believe they can’t keep their run of success going.
— Mark Maske
Six of the top nine teams are in the AFC, but I have my eye on the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills as the teams to beat there. In the NFC it should continue to be Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
— Tim Lynch
Everyone loves the Chiefs as their Super Bowl pick. It sure is hard to bet against an Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes duo that’s 44-10 together (including playoffs). Kansas City shouldn’t be considered locks to win the AFC West, though. The Chiefs weren’t as dominant as their record indicated last year. They were 6th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and 10th in Pro Football Focus’s overall grading. They were also sixth in point differential with a 9-1 record in one-score games. They’re probably due for more bad luck. Also, the offensive line might be revamped, but it could take time for that unit to fully gel.
— Brandon Lee Gowton