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The Chiefs have a critical flaw — is it fixable?

Turnover differential has not been Kansas City’s friend in 2022.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs have earned the right to be graded on the "Super Bowl scale."

This means all of the analysis of their roster, play and future should be viewed through the lens of "Does this help them win a Super Bowl?" Of course, the Chiefs have had this spotlight on them for five years, so it should not be new.

When you look at the Chiefs' season thus far, it's hard to deem it anything but a wild success. They are 10-3, 4-0 in the division and trending toward the first or second seed in the playoffs. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a top MVP candidate despite the team trading away a top-three wide receiver.

However, it's necessary to look at the Chiefs in their current state and ask what is stopping them from beating teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills. The one thing that stands out in both games (and most Chiefs games, for that matter) is turnovers.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Giveaways

Under Andy Reid, the Chiefs have historically been great at mitigating costly turnovers on offense and special teams. Since head coach Andy Reid took over in Kansas City, the Chiefs have given the ball away at some of the lowest rates in the league — the team has ranked: 2nd, 4th, 2nd, 6th, 1st, 5th, 3rd, 4th, 25th and 27th in fewest giveaways each season.

A significant change has come in the last two seasons for the Chiefs, in which they have increased considerably. One of the biggest changes to that number is Mahomes' interception total which was 13 in 2021 and currently is at 11 in 2022. In 2019 and 2020, the interception numbers were lower for Mahomes. Additionally, the Chiefs are fumbling more in the last two years. The Chiefs were tied for the league lead in fumbles in 2021, and only two teams had more fumbles than the Chiefs in 2022.

The notable increase in fumbles this year can be directly correlated to the struggles of the special teams. Special teams have accounted for four of the total team fumbles lost this year, representing half of the team's total fumbles. The well-documented struggles of Skyy Moore (the punt returner) are part of why the Chiefs rank 27th in total giveaways this season.

Takeaways

The Chiefs currently are tied for 27th in the league in total interceptions with eight and are tied for 29th in the league in fumbles recovered with six.

The Chiefs are just not taking the ball away enough on defense to keep pace with the rate they are turning it over. This ultimately leads to their turnover differential being negative-5, ranking 28th in the league this season. Again, going back to the special teams taking away three or four of those completely avoidable fumbles would put them right at league average. But as the Chiefs found out in Indianapolis, those turnovers can make or break a game.

One thing that stands out when analyzing the team's defense is there is no "ball hawk" in the secondary.

Quarterbacks are not afraid to put the ball in harm's way against the Chiefs because they don't get punished when they do. During the last few years, Tyrann Mathieu was the player that kept quarterbacks honest — and before him, it was Marcus Peters. This element is really missed by the Chiefs' defense this year and is likely to be a point of focus in the offseason.

The bottom line: can the Chiefs overcome this?

Again, when analyzing the Chiefs, you must grade them on a Super Bowl scale.

In their current form on offense and defense, I don't think it's possible to win a Super Bowl with this turnover disparity. The offense either needs to increase the margin of error for this team by being so dominant (with the return of Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman?), or the defense needs to take significant steps in limiting yards and scoring to sustain this differential.

Looking at the leaders in turnover differential, many playoff teams are leading this metric. The Chiefs are surrounded by poor teams at negative-5.

If there's a glimmer of hope, it's that Patrick Mahomes does not typically throw three interceptions, and the special teams have seemed to stabilize. The Chiefs are 10-3 despite their large number of turnovers. You can look at that in a positive or negative light.

The Chiefs could be dominant if they stop turning over the ball, but at what point are they the final product? After 13 games, little is left to be written about this regular season. What evidence is there to say the Chiefs will stop turning the ball over in the playoffs against great defenses? The last game in which the Chiefs did not turn the ball over was Week 5 against the Raiders.

The Chiefs have to clean this up to be a Super Bowl team. There's still time to see improvement, and the 1-11-1 Houston Texans offer a heck of an opportunity to start.

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