2021 record: 12-5 · Lost in AFC Championship Game
This one’s not too complicated: As long as Patrick Mahomes is lining up behind center in Kansas City, the Chiefs are going to be near (or at) the top of this list. The proof is in the pudding, as K.C. has made it to at least the AFC title game in all four of Mahomes’ seasons as the starter, winning a pair of conference crowns and a Super Bowl along the way. Shoot, Mahomes was well on his way to starting in a third straight Super Bowl, but then the Chiefs blew an 18-point lead to the Bengals.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce remain among the very best players at their respective positions. I still haven’t given up on a breakthrough season from running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire — the guy doesn’t turn 23 until April. Andy Reid is a Hall of Fame coach, while defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo gets the most out of his unit. Chris Jones has established himself as one of the most devastating game-wreckers this side of Aaron Donald.
But again, it all comes back to No. 15. He’s present in Kansas City, so the Chiefs get prime real estate on this list.
FAVORITES: Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl odds: +650
Wright’s thoughts: ”‘Oh Nick, you’re such a homer.’ Look at literally every sportsbook in America. Call ‘em up and say ‘Hi Ms. Sportsbook, who’s your favorite for the NFL,’ and they’re going to say the Chiefs. They’re the favorites. They have the best player. They’re not losing their offensive coordinator. The only big contributor on the roster who I’m concerned might not be back is Tyrann Mathieu. But even if you lose Mathieu, you’re probably also losing Daniel Sorensen, so that might be a wash. Like you lose one great player and you lose the worst player in the league, so now it’s about a push even at the safety position. They’re obviously the favorites.”
Jalen Pitre S
Pitre is everywhere on film thanks to quality quicks and instincts. The Chiefs have to get better at safety, especially if Tyrann Mathieu leaves in free agency.
Chiefs sign JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Chiefs just barely struck out on signing Smith-Schuster last offseason, but they could get him cheaper this offseason after the wideout missed much of 2021 with a shoulder injury. It would make sense for Smith-Schuster to accept a prove-it deal after consecutive mediocre seasons and likely go elsewhere to a better quarterback situation. The Chiefs would be a terrific fit.
Thompson was waived at the onset of the 2021 NFL season during 53-man roster cuts. Instead of re-signing with the Chiefs’ practice squad, Thompson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. He spent the entire 2021 NFL season in Tampa Bay, but he made his return to Kansas City during the 2021 postseason when the team was dealing with injuries to Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams.
When Thompson was elevated to the 53-man roster ahead of the wild-card game against the Steelers he was made inactive. Williams tried to gut through his injury and play, but he only ended up playing a few snaps during the game.
ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler made a list of “best team fits” for some of the NFL’s top free agents this offseason, and says the best fit for Ward is the Minnesota Vikings.
“The Vikings must address the corner spot opposite Cameron Dantzler, and a new regime will want a new outlook for the position,” Fowler wrote on February 15. “Ward’s ability to battle in-man coverage will make him an attractive option for several teams.”
Around the NFL
THE DALLAS COWBOYS paid a confidential settlement of $2.4 million after four members of their iconic cheerleading squad accused a senior team executive of voyeurism in their locker room as they undressed during a 2015 event at AT&T Stadium, according to documents obtained by ESPN and people with knowledge of the situation.
Each of the women received $399,523.27 after the incident. One of the cheerleaders alleged that she clearly saw Richard Dalrymple, the Cowboys’ longtime senior vice president for public relations and communications, standing behind a partial wall in their locker room with his iPhone extended toward them while they were changing their clothes, according to several people with knowledge of the events and letters later sent by attorneys for the cheerleaders to the team. Dalrymple gained entry to the back door of the cheerleaders’ locked dressing room by using a security key card.
Dalrymple also was accused by a lifelong Cowboys fan of taking “upskirt” photos of Charlotte Jones Anderson, a team senior vice president and the daughter of team owner Jerry Jones, in the Cowboys’ war room during the 2015 NFL draft, according to documents obtained by ESPN and interviews. The fan signed an affidavit that he was watching a livestream of the war room on the team’s website when he said he saw the alleged incident.
On a makeshift stage in front of the L.A. Coliseum, with the Olympic torch lit and thousands of fans gathered in anticipation, McVay gestured to Aaron Donald just as the Rams defensive tackle was wrapping up a short speech.
“Aaron — Sean McVay just tapped me on the shoulder,” emcee J.B. Long announced. “He wanted to know if you were interested in running it back.”
Then McVay began a not-so-subtle chant.
Run it back! Run it back! Run it back!
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
But Edwards-Helaire said that head coach Andy Reid ensures the team never gets too high or too low.
“The intensity and everything we did week in and week out never slowed down,” said the running back. “The way coach Reid runs his practices, it never felt like we were at the top of the food chain, and nobody else was going to mess with us. It always felt like we were going to chase something else that was greater, and honestly, it was the Super Bowl, and trying to conquer that was like the main goal, so having that focus kind of kept us pushing throughout that entire time.”
Later, Edwards-Helaire was asked about the Chiefs’ ability to often score at will. He explained that much of their success comes from not thinking — and leaning into the offense’s out-of-structure opportunities.
“I don’t know really the comparison, but it’s kind of like teaching a kid not to touch a hot skillet,” said Edwards-Helaire. “Those times, man we were on fire, but... sometimes it’s just not football-oriented. We just go out and we just having fun and before we know it, we blink our eye and we’re up 35 points because we just giving the ball to our playmakers, and it may have not been the play that was designed. It may have been something that was broken down and we figured out a a way to score, and then we’re up 35 points just because of the athletes and the guys on the field.”
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)
The Raiders made a surprise trip to the postseason for the first time in five years, an incredible accomplishment under interim coach Rich Bisaccia --- who was not retained. In comes Josh McDaniels as head coach and Patrick Graham at defensive coordinator, meaning the Raiders have to install a new offensive and defensive scheme for 2022.
The Raiders could have run it back with Bisaccia and retained Gus Bradley at defensive coordinator, but they decided to think long term. Graham runs a much different defense than Bradley, so expect roster turnover on that side of the ball. Las Vegas will also need to add wide receivers and reshape the interior of the defensive line this offseason as a result of the new scheme (and have $20,537,443 in available cap space to improve those areas).
Then there’s the matter of the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t going anywhere and the Los Angeles Chargers will only get better with Justin Herbert heading into Year 3. What if the Denver Broncos add a superstar quarterback with their talented roster?
A tweet to make you think
Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy are reportedly meeting to discuss his future with the #Chiefs. If this goes the way it has in the past–barring a significant change in the staff we might not hear much from the Chiefs. #APEditorsShow@pgsween | @Arrowheadphones pic.twitter.com/U8iKQoBVhQ— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) February 16, 2022