Also, I feel like I should point out the fact that the Browns haven’t won an opener since 2004. That’s 0-15-1 over the past 16 years. (To put this in perspective, every other NFL team has won at least FIVE openers in that span). In light of this information, I feel like it’s in my best interest to keep pick against the Browns in every opener they play in for the rest of time or until their streak ends, whichever comes first.
Speaking of streaks, the Chiefs also have one of their own. Not only have they won six straight openers, but they’ve averaged 37.4 points in their past five openers. I would predict them to score 37.4 points, but I’m told that’s not mathematically possible in the NFL, so I’ll go with 37.
The pick: Chiefs 37-27 over Browns
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.
12.4 - Kansas City Chiefs
PROJECTED AFC WEST CHAMPIONS
FanDuel over/under: 12.5
After an offseason rebuild of the offensive line, Patrick Mahomes forecasts to pace the league in passing yards, earning at least 5,000 yards in 58.7 percent of regular-season simulations. In my models, generally speaking, 58 percent has historically been a great benchmark.
Kansas City Chiefs, 12.5 wins
There’s not much to say here other than the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and are very, very good. K.C. has won at least 12 games in each of the three seasons since handing the reins over to Mahomes, making two trips to the Super Bowl. They have an .822 regular-season winning percentage (37-8) when Mahomes starts during that span. That winning percentage would equate to 13.9 wins over a 17-game schedule.
Prediction: Over (-110)
DE Mike Danna
A fifth-round pick last season, Danna didn’t see the field much in 2020. He played just over 30% of the snaps on defense last season, but he’s someone who could have a key rotational role this year. Chris Jones’ move from defensive tackle to defensive end, ensured that Danna wouldn’t be a starter. However, as Jones transitions to his new position, and in the event Frank Clark becomes unavailable, Danna could become a major contributor. He looked great in the preseason, improving his performances in each of the team’s three exhibition games.
Kansas City’s decision to cut standout defensive end Tim Ward last week was a clear sign of confidence in Danna. He has been listed as Frank Clark’s backup for the entirety of the preseason, despite being out-produced by Ward. He was praised by coaches throughout training camp for being instinctive, athletic, and a student of the game. Their faith in his development could bear fruit if the need for a spot starter arises at his position.
Mahomes needs 4,000 passing yards to join Manning (four seasons) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 4,000 passing yards in four of their first five seasons.
Can become the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 15,000 career passing yards in 50 or fewer games. Mahomes has 14,152 passing yards in 46 career games.
If Mahomes throws for 35 touchdown passes, he becomes the first quarterback with at least 35 touchdown passes in three of his first five seasons in NFL history.
Mahomes needs four games with at least 300 passing yards to surpass Kurt Warner (29 games) for the most such games by a quarterback in his first five seasons in NFL history. Mahomes has 26 career games with at least 300 passing yards.
If Mahomes throws 55 TD passes, he’ll pass Dan Marino for the most through a player’s first five seasons in NFL history. He needs just 25 to pass Manning for second most.
10. Chad Henne
Like Wolford, Henne is elevated by his situation. Henne on his own might be out of the league by now. But this is Henne’s fourth season in Kansas City, where he works with one of the all-time great offensive minds. Andy Reid coaxed Matt Moore to two solid performances in 2019, helping the Chiefs to a bye while Henne was injured, and got just enough from Henne in the Chiefs’ dire divisional-round spot to keep the 2020 team on course for the Super Bowl. The former Dolphins second-round pick is 18-36 as a starter and obviously marks a steep downgrade from Patrick Mahomes. But Reid-Henne could likely steal some wins if necessary.
7. Arrowhead Stadium – Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs weren’t exactly perennial competitors, but they still had a loyal fanbase by their side through thick and thin. Now, they have the best quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes, and also one of the greatest NFL stadia to watch games in.
With enough space to shelter 76,400 people, Arrowhead Stadium will get loud. Also, it never ceases to amaze that this stadium dates all the way back to 1972, yet it seems like one of the most modern venues in the league. Its design was clearly ahead of time, and its tailgating makes it quite comfortable for the visitors.
Week 17 (Sun., Jan. 2): Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Conway Prediction: Chiefs win, 33-13
As long as Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback in Kansas City, I’ll have a hard time picking against him.
Goldsmith Prediction: Chiefs win, 30-20
In another matchup against a top quarterback, Burrow will have possibly his biggest stage of the season to show where he’ll stand in quarterback rankings heading into the 2022 season.
Patrick Mahomes: Sometimes we get swept up in a fit of hyperbole, waxing lyrical and ascribing other-worldly qualities to athletes when they pull off great plays. With Mahomes, there’s no hype too great. He’s simply the most gifted quarterback the NFL has ever seen. No ifs, not buts. It’s his world, and we’re all damn lucky to live in it.
Around the NFL
The club listed the receiver as a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice due to a quad injury. Godwin wasn’t on the injury report Monday.
It’s unclear whether it’s an issue the 25-year-old wideout could play through. We’ll have a better indication after his participation level Wednesday when the game status report is announced.
The Buccaneers have depth at wideout, including rookie Jaelon Darden and Tyler Johnson behind its top quartet, but it would be a big blow to the Super Bowl champs if Godwin cannot play in the opener.
The different jersey numbers will help out the defense, according to Brady, one year after the league saw the most scoring in its history.
“So one guy has got a 6, one guy has 11, one guy has got a 9,” Brady said of the Cowboys defense. “And they change every play when you break your routes and get to your spot. It’s going to be a very challenging thing. It’s a good advantage for the defense, which that’s what it is.
“It would be like saying, ‘What if I let the offensive linemen wear 82 and No. 9?’ They wouldn’t know who was eligible. Well that’s not fair. You’ll get your tail kicked. At least identify who the D-line, the linebackers and the safeties are. You’re going to have a lot of matchups where guys are blocking the wrong guys. I don’t know why that should be.”
Even at 44, this is just another obstacle Brady has to figure out in his 22nd season.
“He was a really good mentor to me,” Jones said on sports radio WEEI’s “Merloni and Fauria” program. “I know we’ll stay in touch. Ever since I came here, he knew I was here to help him and he was here to help me, so I never felt like we were butting heads or anything like that.
“Obviously Cam is a great guy, a great player, and hopefully he lands somewhere. I definitely learned a lot from him and I’m excited to keep learning from Brian [Hoyer] and everyone in the quarterback room.”
“I remain optimistic that something’s going to get done from a deal perspective. That aside, I’m expecting him to work tomorrow. I’m proceeding with the assumption that he’s going to work tomorrow,” coach Mike Tomlin said at his Tuesday press conference. “That’s the approach I’m taking. He’s missed some time due to obvious reasons, but like I’ve also mentioned, over the course of this team development process, I focus very little on those that aren’t working, for whatever reason that they’re not working. ... I’m proceeding with the assumption that he’s working tomorrow and that he gets to add his talents to that (OLB) collection, and the development of that collection, and hopefully it culminates in quality play not only this weekend from that group, but obviously over the course of the 2021 season.”
Watt is entering the final year on his rookie contract, and is set to earn a little more than $10 million in 2021. He’s outplayed that deal by a long shot, having earned two All-Pro nods and having led the NFL in sacks in 2020 with 15. The Steelers can be tough negotiators, however, and that’s resulted in something of a preseason stalemate between player and club.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
When we look at the raw athletic data, we find two very similar players in their physical makeup.
Fountain carries just a little more weight— but despite the few extra pounds, Fountain still posted a 42 1⁄2 vertical jump at his pro day in 2018. That’s higher than Justin Jefferson, DK Metcalf, JaMarr Chase, AJ Brown, Julio Jones and Devante Adams.
Fountain also posted a broad jump of 134 inches to match his vertical. Of the players listed above, only Julio Jones bested him at 135 inches.
On paper, in the red zone, there is not a wide receiver who is more equipped to go up and get a 50-50 ball than Fountain.
If, and it’s a big if — Mac Jones works out, then the Patriots could be a force in the AFC.
Mike Tomlin buys the Steelers at least seven wins — they will be in the playoff mix.
15. Miami Dolphins
Tua certainly won’t have any excuses this season; his wide receiver room is stacked.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Hard Knocks was boring.