Not all opponents are created equal
There’s going to Cincinnati to face Joe Burrow and there’s playing at home against Malik Willis and a whole range of challenges in between.
The Chiefs D have come across 4 teams with a winning record. The 49ers game was probably the most complete team performance of the season 3 of the 5 sacks in that game the Chiefs had a double digit lead and knew the 49ers were probably passing. The Chargers are Chris Jones bunny, he has 4 of the 7 sacks against them over the two games.
The big concern to me is the Bills and the Bengals. Winning the Super Bowl almost certainly means beating one or both of them in the playoffs. The pass rush in both those games was less than ideal with only 1 sack in each of them. When it comes to playoff time, the pass rush needs to be significantly improved against quality opposition.
What I think has inflated the Chiefs sack numbers is that they tend to be feast or famine. They’ve had 5 games where they’ve combined for 26 of their 43 sacks, that’s 60% of the season total. Only 4 of those sacks came when the Chiefs trailed.
The Chiefs have been able to reign over the AFC West for seven consecutive seasons thanks partially to their ability to plug and play young players into their system. And that’s been no less true in 2022.
Defensively, pass rusher George Karlaftis (Round 1, No. 30 overall) and cover corners Trent McDuffie (Round 1, No. 21), Joshua Williams (Round 4, No. 135) and Jaylen Watson (Round 7, No. 243) have played like starters since Day 1. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has unleashed the newbies in an aggressive scheme that encourages defenders to play fast and free between the lines. Karlaftis, meanwhile, has flourished as a pass-rush specialist on the edge. Although his numbers are not eye-popping (3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and six passes defensed), the relentless effort from the first-year defender has keyed the Chiefs’ solid defensive showing this season (ranked No. 14 overall).
The Chiefs’ young cornerback trio has also thrived in a man-heavy scheme that leaves the defenders isolated on the perimeter. McDuffie, Williams and Watson have shown solid cover skills and playmaking ability after working through some rough patches. The improvement on the island will enable Kansas City to expand its call sheet heading into the postseason.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (-300)
In the aftermath of the Tyreek Hill trade in March, everyone speculated his absence from the Chiefs offense would spark regression in Mahomes’ previously otherworldly efficiency as a passer. While Hill, individually, was clearly irreplaceable, Kansas City’s plan was to replace Hill’s production with a collection of new receivers — JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — along with already established offensive pieces like Mecole Hardman. Most of us weren’t convinced.
And all Mahomes has done is lead a more efficient Chiefs offense than last year. At this point of the season in 2021, Kansas City’s offense had an Expected Points Added (EPA) per play of (+0.117). It’s currently (+0.188), the best in the NFL.
In EPA per play, Mahomes himself is well clear of every other qualified quarterback in the field at +0.326. From a classic statistical perspective, Mahomes has the league’s most passing yards (4,497) and has accounted for the most total touchdowns (38). Mahomes has completed 236 passes for first downs, 36 clear of Tom Brady in second place.
And Mahomes has had to do some heavy lifting for the Chiefs en route to the club’s 11-3 record because Kansas City’s defense is currently ranked 24th in defensive DVOA and 21st in EPA allowed per play. The Chiefs defense hasn’t allowed 30 points in a single contest yet but has surrendered at least 27 points five times. Yikes.
Against the odds, Mahomes has pieced together a better statistical season, in many categories, than he has ever before. That will go a long way with MVP voters, and rightfully so.
Mahomes hooked up his protectors with sets of TaylorMade golf clubs, complete with custom bags featuring their jersey numbers and a box of balls for good measure. As quarterbacks around the league look to hook up their offensive linemen with top-tier gifts, this one will be tough to top.
Clearly, Mahomes has set the bar high for gift giving.
Mahomes is no stranger to the golf course. He acquitted himself well in a quarterback-centric version of “The Match” back in June, although he and Josh Allen lost to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Despite the loss, Mahomes proved he had game, carrying his playing partner and showing off moonshot drives and a strong short game that, while maybe not rivaling his feats on the football field, were nonetheless impressive.
It’s a young man’s game now. That next generation of great quarterbacks includes Lamar Jackson, 25, and Joe Burrow, 26. Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts, both 24, are coming, too. But Mahomes and Allen are widely regarded as the standard-bearers: as competitors, as leaders of their respective franchises and as some of the top earners in the NFL.
“They’re a three-ring circus when you watch those two play,” former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, now an analyst for NFL Network, said. “Talk about fan appeal. (When) Mahomes is on TV? Come on, he’s a rock star. He and Josh Allen. Love ’em. They’re great for the league — not just their team and city — they’re good for the league. They say the right things, they work their butts off, they are great role models for kids coming up.”
Because of their impact on the game, both now and potentially in the future, Mahomes and Allen have been named The Athletic’s 2022 NFL Persons of the Year.
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
The Chiefs are winning games, but they have looked off the past few weeks. Seattle has also struggled the past few games. This is a must-win for them, but this is a tough place to play. Their defense has major issues, which will show up here as Patrick Mahomes lights them up.
Pick: Chiefs 35, Seahawks 21
Around the NFL
Why the Jets lost
I can’t imagine what New York sports radio is going to be like on Friday morning. Wilson has received an extraordinary amount of hate this season. Is a lot of it warranted? Sure. He’s inaccurate, he struggles with simple throws, he hasn’t shown much improvement and then of course his comments after the New England Patriots loss rubbed people the wrong way. Wilson was again bad on Thursday night. He missed throws, couldn’t move the chains and the only Jets points of the first half came thanks to a short field that was gifted via turnover.
Getting behind the sticks was a big problem. On New York’s second drive of the game, a false start dropped the Jets back to second-and-12. They weren’t able to recover. On the third drive of the night, Knight was dropped for a loss of seven yards, and the Jets offense followed that play up with a false start. That gave New York a second-and-21, and again, the offense was unable to recover.
Wilson deserves blame for this loss, but he is far from the only reason why New York fell to 7-8. The Jets’ identity this season has been their defense. That defense did not show up on Thursday night. Etienne rushed for 83 yards, Lawrence had his second-best rushing day on the season with 51 yards and Engram torched the Jets defensive backs. Allowing a 16-play, 96-yard touchdown drive is not something this Jets defense normally does. New York’s offense and defense performed poorly on Thursday night.
The league announced Thursday it has reached an agreement with Google to have its regular-season game package available exclusively on YouTube TV and YouTube premium channels.
While official terms of the agreement were not announced, Ken Belson and Benjamin Mullin of the New York Times reported Google previously discussed paying the NFL $2.5 billion per year, plus “additional payments based on the number of YouTube subscribers that Google is able to add” along with other performance benchmarks.
DirecTV has been the home for Sunday Ticket since 1994. The satellite company signed an eight-year pact to retain the exclusive rights to the service in October 2014, with the NFL receiving $1.5 billion annually.
Hillman had been battling a rare form of cancer called renal medullary carcinoma since August, per a Wednesday statement.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved son, brother [and] father, Ronnie K Hillman Jr.,” Wednesday’s statement read in part. “Ronnie quietly and peacefully transitioned today in the company of his family and close friends.
“We as the family, appreciate the prayers and kind words that have already been expressed. We ask that you would give us time to process our feelings as we prepare to lay our precious RJ to rest.”
Hillman was placed in hospice care according to Wednesday’s social media post.
The Broncos also released a statement Thursday morning regarding Hillman’s death.
“We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman,” the statement read. “A key contributor during the winningest four-year period in franchise history, Ronnie was part of two Super Bowl teams and led the Broncos in rushing during our Super Bowl 50 championship season. Soft-spoken with a warm smile and quiet intensity, Ronnie was drafted by the Broncos in 2012 and grew into a dynamic player and well-respected teammate. Ronnie will be fondly remembered by our organization, which extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Speaking to the media via Zoom on Thursday, defensive leader (and fellow defensive lineman) Chris Jones had some advice for Saunders.
“Stay off of Twitter, bro — forget it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I understand where [you are] coming from — but in this league, everybody’s not going to like you. Everybody’s not going to appreciate you. As long as the guys in the room understand it, as long as this team, which is the most important part... as long as they understand your value, that’s all that matters.
“That’s how social media is these days. A lot of us have platforms and those [apps] that we get on, and we interact with fans, sometimes it can turn ugly. And it can take a left turn. So for me personally, I just stay off of social media — especially during this time — especially engaging with fans who either dislike you or dislike you for a play you did this year or dislike you for a play you did last game. They’ll live with it. We’ll pick it up next game, and we can talk about it later.”