The Chiefs are 20-4 in the AFC West since Mahomes took over as the starter in 2018, and are 31-5 since 2016. They’ve defeated the Broncos 13 straight times (Denver’s last win in the series was in Week 2 of the 2015 season, when Peyton Manning was still the quarterback) and have won eight of their past nine games against the Raiders (and outscored the Raiders 89-23 in two games last year). Only the Chargers have proved to be remotely competitive with Kansas City, splitting their season series each of the past two seasons, and yet the Chargers still finished third in the division last year. Mahomes is, without question, King of the West.
A new TE in KC? They love their tight ends in Kansas City, and the Chiefs might have seen the emergence of another target Thursday as Matt Bushman had himself a night, hauling in two touchdown catches. Halfway through the second quarter, Bushman sprinted downfield and split the two defenders, leaving himself wide open for a pass from quarterback Shane Buechele, which he took all the way to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. And Bushman did it again on the opening drive of the second half, managing to snag the ball out of the hands of Packers safety Micah Abernathy and turn a would-be interception into a 2-yard TD reception. While Travis Kelce is the obvious No. 1 TE, the depth chart beyond him is a little more murky, as backup Blake Bell is currently out after having surgery to address a hip flexor injury. With Bell’s timetable for return unknown, tight ends like Bushman might get more touches in the meantime. The 26-year-old ended up leaving the game with a shoulder injury, but if it doesn’t end up being serious, he could have a chance to follow up this performance with snaps in the regular season. (Editor’s Note: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid announced after the game that Matt Bushman fractured his clavicle.)
FIVE MORE NFL BEACONS OF HOPE
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has spent the past seven months cobbling together a defensive line that can be more effective than what the Chiefs offered in 2021. That unit was a major reason why Kansas City ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks. It still has a disruptive presence in Pro Bowl defensive tackles Chris Jones, but now there’s more around him to be optimistic about. Defensive end Frank Clark has disappointed over the last couple of years, but he’s slimmed down and talking about playing at a higher level this fall. Rookie DE George Karlaftis has impressed in practice with his relentlessness and in preseason games with his productivity. He definitely qualifies as somebody who plays with his hair on fire. Finally, the signing of 33-year-old edge rusher Carlos Dunlap after training camp started was a sneaky-good move. He operated as a situational pass rusher in Seattle last season and still wound up with a team-high 8.5 sacks. If Dunlap can provide similar disruption in Kansas City, this pass rush will be much improved.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs (current ADP: WR32)
Smith-Schuster gives the Chiefs an added element to the offense: He’s a physical slot target who will work the dirty areas of the field. And I think he’s more dynamic after the catch than he’s given credit for. With a 111-catch season already on his career résumé, Smith-Schuster now pairs up with Patrick Mahomes in Andy Reid’s West Coast/spread system. And it was Mahomes who posted an 86.1% on-target rate to the slot last season. Smith-Schuster is a prime target in my PPR leagues, as I think he can produce as a high-ceiling flex/WR3 this season.
The Chiefs enter as the betting favorites to win the AFC West at +160. They’ve won this division for six straight seasons, however, it won’t be as easy this time around. Oddsmakers wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish 2nd (+200) or 3rd (+300). In fact, Kansas City is just +700 to finish in the basement of the division. Those are the lowest odds of any division favorite across the league to finish in last place of their division. It shows just how competitive this division will be. However, Kansas City is still a -275 favorite to occupy one of the two top spots in the division.
Bettors don’t love the Chiefs’ chances. Kansas City is getting under 11% of the bets backing them to win the AFC West. All three other teams are getting at least 27% of the bets. The Chiefs opened as -140 odds-on favorites to win the division, but those odds have come all the way up to +160.
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Reports indicated that Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald wielded and swung around at least one Bengals player’s helmet amid one of the skirmishes.
“It got a little scuffley, and so we just called it,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “We were in the last period. We got two really good days of work in. Was it worth getting the extra couple of plays? No. So we called it off. We got two good days of work in and we’ll go play on Saturday.”
Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters he was not sure what caused the fights.
“I think in some instances teams defending each other,” McVay said, per The L.A. Times. “Fortunately, my understanding is nobody got hurt and we’ll move on from it. Not going to make a bigger deal than what it is. Not going to look at pointing fingers.”
The wide receiver has played in 20 games over two NFL seasons, catching 31 passes for 490 yards combined between 2020 and 2021. His situation certainly hasn’t been helped by the Jets’ quarterback situation, which the team attempted to improve by selecting Zach Wilson in 2021, but was forced to play four games without him last year. Mims also hasn’t lived up to the expectation of a second-round pick.
New York has consistently thrown draft-pick darts at the receiver board in the last three drafts, first spending a second-round pick on Mims in 2020, then spending a second-round selection on Elijah Moore in 2021. Finally, the Jets upped the ante in 2022, using a first-round choice on Ohio State product Garrett Wilson.
Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza and two others have been accused of gang raping a 17-year-old girl last year in a lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court on Thursday.
The lawsuit, obtained by ESPN, involves allegations against Araiza and two of his former San Diego State teammates. The other men named in the complaint are Zavier Leonard, a redshirt freshman with the Aztecs, and Nowlin Ewaliko, who was a freshman last season but is no longer on the listed roster. All three are accused of rape, gender violence and false imprisonment.
The lawsuit accuses Araiza, who was 21 at the time, of having sex with the then-high school senior, who was under the age of consent in California, outside at an off-campus party held at his residence during the early hours of Oct. 17, 2021. The suit states Araiza then brought her inside a room where at least three other men were, including Leonard and Ewaliko. She was repeatedly raped for about an hour and a half until the party was shut down.
Dan Gilleon, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, told ESPN that the Bills were made aware about the allegations as recently as the end of July, when he emailed the team’s representation.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Since Mahomes was not expected to play much, it was a bit of a surprise to see him march out onto the field with the offense. But it was with no intention to snap the football; Mahomes instead gathered his unit in just the fashion Dawson would done in the 1960s: in a “choir” huddle.
“That was Clark [Hunt’s] suggestion and players completely bought into it and wanted to do it — and then we added just the little wrinkle at the end there,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid after the team’s 17-10 win.
Referee Craig Wrolstad called the delay-of-game penalty on “Kansas City, No. 16.”
“The official did an amazing job of mentioning Len,” continued Reid. “It’s a tribute to a great person, a great player and then all he did in [broadcast journalism] there. Very seldom are you a Hall of Famer in two different things. He had a wonderful life and really took advantage of every day he had on Earth here.”