The Kansas City Chiefs have arrived at the regular-season finale, and the road to get there was as bumpy and unpredictable as any in recent memory. It’s another division matchup, but it clearly won’t carry the same weight as they often do. The Broncos will be shorthanded, and they aren’t playing for the postseason.
After last week’s loss, the Chiefs are likely out of the No. 1 seed but still need to win to secure the No. 2 seed. Putting a good performance together in all phases will give confidence to this team’s chances to advance.
Here are some Chiefs who could be trending heading into Denver:
Blake Bell: The “Belldozer” has quietly become a valuable piece for this offense. Last week, he converted yet another “tight end sneak” for the first down in short-yardage, moving the chains without risking injury to Patrick Mahomes. He’s also started to get a little more involved as a receiver, with three catches last week, including a 24-yard play. Even if the numbers aren’t huge, Blake Bell has been a very reliable blocker and the team's clear No. 2 tight end. With the wear and tear on Travis Kelce this season, it could be smart to give him some rest this week and continue to get guys like Bell some additional reps.
Chris Jones: Chris Jones has been unblockable for much of the season, and he’s playing some of his best football down the stretch. He’s splitting double teams and getting to the quarterback at a remarkable rate. Among NFL defensive tackles, he’s now #No. in pressure rate and No. 2 in just about every other category, per PFF. If he needed any additional motivation, Jones also has 1.25 million more reasons to take down Drew Lock this week and get to double-digit sacks on the season. Chris Jones and Sack Nation are finishing the regular season strong.
Darrel Williams: Coming off of his best career performance last week and with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out again, Darrel Williams is poised for another big game. At least for this week, there’s no debate about who the lead back is, and the game plan should feature a heavy dose of the run game. You have to appreciate how Williams has been attacking each of his touches, churning out extra yardage and making defenders miss. He’ll have the opportunity to surpass 1,000 total yards, and maybe even get to double-digit touchdowns on the season with another big game against Denver.
Others trending in the right direction this week: Joe Thuney, Melvin Ingram, Jarran Reed, Alex Okafor, Byron Pringle
Daniel Sorensen: Unfortunately, we’re here again. After the way the season started on defense, and the turnaround that happened after Daniel Sorensen was replaced in the lineup, it should have been obvious that he was at least part of the reason for the struggles. It should have been a no-brainer to keep him in a limited role where he could be most effective. Unfortunately, whether it was due to a specific matchup or a conscious coach’s decision, Sorensen’s snap count has been creeping back up, and the results on the field were unsurprising last week. Watch to see if history repeats itself against Denver.
Jerick McKinnon: Jerick McKinnon returned last week and saw only four offensive snaps. He returns to a backfield that now features three running backs who have proven they can get the job done in both the running and passing games. It’s hard to see how McKinnon could crack the lineup even with Edwards-Helaire injured. Expect Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore to continue to carry the load this week.
Mike Hughes: Few players on the Chiefs defense have been as up-and-down as Mike Hughes has this season. He’s had huge games and he’s been picked on by bigger receivers and good quarterbacks. Last week, he hardly saw the field against a Bengals offense that put up huge numbers throwing downfield. Hughes is a player that can help this team in the postseason, but his opportunities are trending down.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: Marcus Kemp, Josh Gordon, Rashad Fenton, Ben Niemann, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Value (Sleeper) Pick
Kyle Long: The Chiefs’ offensive line depth took a big hit last week when Orlando Brown missed the game, then Lucas Niang injured his knee and went on injured reserve. Mike Remmers was already injured, leaving Andrew Wylie as the only other right tackle — or is he? Kyle Long returned to the active roster a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t yet had an opportunity, but it could be coming. Whether the team wants to give him a shot at the right tackle job in place of Wylie, or they need him for depth, Long could be a very valuable piece to keep this team on track going through the postseason.