Even though the past couple of cycles have been disappointing for Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, I’m hearing his name a lot as someone who will be of interest to teams looking for a head coach this offseason. We weren’t hearing his name much at this time last year, and he didn’t go for a lot of interviews after the season. But I’d be very surprised if he didn’t get at least an interview in Denver, and there are a lot of people I talk to about the coaching carousel who believe this could finally be the year Bienemy gets his shot. I’m not sure what has changed since last year — maybe the Chiefs’ ability to maintain their high level of offensive performance without Tyreek Hill — but for some reason he sounds like he’s more popular on the circuit this time around.
1 - Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 6
2022 stats: 15 games | 66.9 pct | 4,720 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 37 pass TD | 11 INT | 321 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 5 fumbles
Mahomes unearths new avenues to victory with each new outing. Operating in the blistering cold of Arrowhead, Kansas City’s polestar put the game on his back against Seattle with a late fourth-quarter dive to paydirt that buried the ‘Hawks in a 24-3 hole. Showcasing his underrated ability on the ground, Mahomes — in total control of his physical temple — planted his hand in the frozen soil to pivot himself UFO-like into the pylon. The Chiefs’ offense has been more deliberate than dominating of late, rendering Mahomes and his league-leading 41 total touchdowns vaguely underappreciated. From every possible angle, he’s MVP-worthy.
Best player: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
It’s been a great year for young quarterbacks, but let’s not overthink this one. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leads the league with 4,720 passing yards — 460 yards more than second-place Joe Burrow — and 37 touchdowns, and he’s second with a 105.1 passer rating.
The Chiefs also have a chance to pass the Bills for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which would mark the third time they’ve achieved the feat since 2018.
Mahomes put up gaudy numbers despite largely replacing MVP candidate Tyreek Hill with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — two solid players, no doubt, but a couple receivers who needed time to get up to speed with a complex offense. The Hill trade, in a weird way, might have helped Mahomes, because he’s been forced to play with more patience rather than getting into trouble by unnecessarily forcing it downfield. As a result, the Chiefs are scoring 29.2 points per game — a point more than a season ago.
Couple the overall performance with some of Mahomes’ unique highlights — the 56-yard touchdown flip to Jerick McKinnon in Week 14 against the Broncos, the spin-and-chuck to Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a 2-yard touchdown in Week 4 against the Bucs — and it’s been another brilliant season for Mahomes, who has a chance to win his second MVP.
5 - Kansas City Chiefs
12-3 · AFC No. 2 seed
Patrick Mahomes is a legend. He’s Football LeBron, an extraordinarily talented individual who consistently lifts his team while making jaws drop. And he’s currently my choice for MVP. Add in one of the greatest coaches (Andy Reid) and tight ends (Travis Kelce) in league history, and Kansas City clearly has the core of a Super Bowl champion.
Problem is, I don’t trust the rest of the team.
The receiving corps lacks sizzle and the defense lacks consistency. These are serious concerns with potential playoff games looming against the well-rounded powerhouses from Buffalo and Cincinnati.
In fact, assuming Kansas City falls short of the first-round bye, the Chiefs could be on upset alert in Round 1 against the wrong opponent. They swept the AFC West-rival Chargers during the regular season, but won each game by three points. Could a third matchup be the charm for the Justin Herbert-led Bolts?
2. (AFC West champion)
The computer thinks the Chiefs will end up with the No. 2 overall seed and a big reason the computer doesn’t have them at No. 1 is because the Chiefs lost to the Bills back in Week 6. If those two teams finish with the same record, the Bills will get the top seed thanks to that head-to-head win. Remaining schedule: Broncos, at Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs
What to know: Behind Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the top receiver in Kansas City, so he will be one to watch for in the offseason. His time in the free agency market has been intriguing in the past—his options being more limited and less fruitful than expected—so the Chiefs will likely have some time and flexibility in decide whether to re-sign him.
2022 cap space status: $3,540,414
2023 cap space status: $23,863,694
2023 free agents: Orlando Brown, LT; JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR; Carlos Dunlap, DL; Derrick Nnadi, DL; Andrew Wylie, RT; Chad Henne, QB; Ronald Jones II, RB; Brandon Williams, DL; Blake Bell, TE; Michael Burton, FB; Mecole Hardman, WR; Deon Bush, S; Geron Christian, LT; Jerick McKinnon, RB; Juan Thornhill, S; Justin Watson, WR; Khalen Saunders, DL; Darius Harris, LB; Chris Lammons, CB; Jody Fortson, TE; Tommy Townsend, P; Tershawn Wharton, DL; Shane Buechele, QB; Prince Tega Wanogho, RT; Nick Allegretti, LG; Jordan Franks, TE
Around the NFL
The Las Vegas Raiders are benching Derek Carr, the team’s starting quarterback since 2014, first-year coach Josh McDaniels said Wednesday.
Jarrett Stidham, acquired in an offseason trade from the New England Patriots, will start against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, and undrafted rookie free agent Chase Garbers will be the backup.
A source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Carr and the Raiders agreed that he will step away from the team for the remainder of the regular season so he’s not a distraction. He was the lone active Raiders player not to practice Wednesday, with the team listing his absence as “not injury related, personal.”
“The two sides talked about it and thought it was best,” the source said.
“I’m gonna lead it off real fast,” Wilson said in a Wednesday news conference before fielding any questions. “Just, I think, first of all, obviously, devastated about coach Hackett because I think he’s an amazing man, amazing teacher, amazing father, just watching him with his kids, and what he’s been able to do and how he’s taught the game for us. This season has been a season we never thought was going to happen the way it did. He was a guy that spent all of his time and all of his effort into us as players, as staff members, everybody, coaches as well. I think he’s an amazing coach, one of the brighter minds I’ve been around.”
Henry, who leads the AFC with 13 rushing touchdowns and the NFL with 319 carries and has rushed for 1,429 yards, is joined by cornerback Kristian Fulton (groin) and outside linebacker Denico Autry (biceps) as doubtful for Tennessee.
As expected, quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) is out and rookie Malik Willis will get the start, but standout defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons (ankle), offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (ankle), safety Amani Hooker (knee), outside linebacker Bud Dupree (pectoral), linebackers Zach Cunningham (elbow) and Dylan Cole (ankle) and defensive back Josh Thompson (concussion) have also been ruled out.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Mahomes believes that success is due to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid — and a decade’s worth of winning culture.
“That started before I even got here with Coach Reid and the coaches that they’ve had,” ” Mahomes explained before Wednesday’s practice. “They built this culture of, ‘This is how we’re going to work, this is how we’re going to prepare — and this is how we’re going to win.’
“I just try to embrace that as much as possible [and] show the guys who are new how we do things. In the NFL, there’s a lot of new guys every single year. If you continue to build that culture, you can continue to go out there and win football games.”
Reid, on the other hand, cited Mahomes’ continued growth as the reason the Kansas City offense hasn’t fallen off after an offseason of transition.
“He’s got a keen eye,” Reid said of his quarterback, “and he’s done it long enough now to where he’s got a good feel on where a guy needs to be — and how to get him there. He does a nice job with all that.”
A tweet to make you think
Odds to be #Broncos' next HC (via @betonline_ag):— Jaime Eisner (@JaimeEisner) December 26, 2022
Sean Payton (+400)
Dan Quinn (+500)
Jim Caldwell (+600)
Shane Steichen (+700)
DeMeco Ryans (+750)
Eric Bieniemy (+900)
Frank Reich (+900)
Kellen Moore (10/1)
Jim Harbaugh (12/1)
Leslie Frazier (16/1)
Byron Leftwich (16/1)