As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to open the 2022 regular season by going on the road to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, it’s time to think about some bold predictions for the coming season. We asked the Arrowhead Pride staff to reach deep down to come up with their boldest for 2022.
Jody Fortson will lead the team in touchdowns
You asked for bold? Well... here you go! With Kansas City due to make regular visits to the red zone this season, I can see Fortson becoming one of Mahomes’ favorite targets. Back shoulder, jump balls, shovel passes? You name it, Jody will catch it. I’m going to say he’ll have nine touchdowns in 2022.
— Tom Childs
Skyy Moore and Isiah Pacheco will each score a return touchdown
Usually, Kansas City special teams coordinator Dave Toub only gets credit for fielding a good unit when it scores touchdowns on kickoff or punt returns. With two talented rookie returners (and a bunch of new faces on special teams — all of whom will be motivated to make some noise) we should expect 2022 to be one of those seasons.
That’s the bold part of the prediction. Here’s the rest: even if Moore and Pacheco don’t get return touchdowns in 2022, Kansas City’s special teams will continue to be one of the reasons the team wins games. During the nine seasons Toub has been the coordinator, his units have allowed just one kick return touchdown. That’s fewer than any other team. Meanwhile, his units have scored 14 return touchdowns — which also leads the league. But that differential of 13 is in a class by itself. The next-best team — the Baltimore Ravens — has scored just seven more touchdowns than it has allowed.
This is why Toub is allowed a measure of influence over a few back-end-of-the-roster decisions: because it makes a difference.
— John Dixon
Nick Bolton will earn All-Pro honors
Heading into the season, the Kansas City linebacker group is an obvious strength. But I don’t think this has been recognized nationally. That will change by the end of the season, when second-year linebacker Nick Bolton ends the season as one of the NFL’s leading tacklers, earning recognition as a first or second-team All-Pro. At Bolton’s position, the All-Pro team has spots available for the taking — and Bolton’s usage on all three downs this season will help him make enough plays to garner that kind of respect.
— Ron Kopp Jr.
The Chiefs’ defense will get at least 45 sacks
It’s no secret that last season’s Kansas City pass rush was as underwhelming as ordering ribs from Famous Dave’s. The unit ranked 29th in the league in sacks, bringing down the quarterback a paltry 31 times over 17 regular-season games. If you’re anything like me, you still have nightmares of Joe Burrow escaping Chris Jones’ clutches in the AFC Championship.
But all of that is in the past. It’s time to start anew.
With the Jones edge rusher experiment now in the rearview — and with a newly dedicated (and slimmed down) Frank Clark — the Chiefs’ old guard is primed for a revival. With the addition of Carlos Dunlap and Too Fast Too Furious George Karlaftis, Kansas City finally has the makings of a pass-rushing unit that could finish in the league’s top third.
I know it seems like a big leap — but in 2021, 45 sacks would have barely cracked the NFL’s top 10. If we want the Lombardi Trophy back in Kansas City, we need this prediction to come true.
— Rocky Magaña
Trent McDuffie will be named Defensive Rookie of the Year
Even after training camp and preseason, the player Kansas City traded up to select at 21st overall has had less buzz than the one they took at 30th. While I expect George Karlaftis to turn in a great season, I think people are sleeping on McDuffie. The ingredients are in place for the former Washington Husky to turn in a great season.
Kansas City also invested heavily in safeties. In 2019, it was great safety play that allowed the Chiefs to look formidable with Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward manning the outside. A first-round talent like McDuffie will take that advantage to a new level. While there is legitimate concern about the rookie’s height and length, expect Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to find McDuffie’s best chances for success. If he plays to his ability, he will have a great chance to win postseason honors because of how often he will be playing in nationally-televised games against some of the best receivers in football.
— Jared Sapp
The Los Angeles Chargers will win the AFC West, but the Chiefs will win the AFC
Heading into this season, you can make a strong case that the Chargers have fewer questions surrounding their team than the Chiefs do. Offensively, Los Angeles checks every box: a star quarterback, a solid one-two punch at wide receiver and one of the NFL’s best pass-catching running backs. Meanwhile, Kansas City is beginning the post-Tyreek Hill era of Patrick Mahomes’ career. It remains to be seen exactly how the team will go about maintaining its status as a top-3 offense.
A year ago, it was the Chargers’ defense that held them back. If that’s still true in 2022, it won’t be because they didn’t try to fix it. They spent big money on star cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day — and then gave up second and sixth-round draft picks for former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. The Chiefs didn’t have that kind of money to spend on defense. In 2022, the unit will rely upon a group of unproven players stepping into more significant roles.
The Chargers have yet to prove that they get to sit at the adults’ table — but in a year where the Chiefs are recalibrating, they’re doing all the right things. I think that Los Angeles hits the ground running, while Kansas City experiences the early growing pains that come with roster turnover. As many have predicted, that will give the Chargers the opportunity to their first AFC West title since 2009. But in the postseason, the Chiefs will win the conference.
— Nick Schwerdt
Patrick Mahomes will return to his MVP form
Of course, the Tyreek Hill-sized void in the Kansas City offense would be a red flag for most teams — but most teams don’t have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
We got a small taste of the Chiefs’ revamped offense in the preseason, in which we saw Patrick Mahomes go 3-for-3 on touchdown drives. Even after losing notable faces, the offensive depth on this team is better than it was last year. That depth was showcased during the preseason as Mahomes spread the ball around.
With a rejuvenated head coach Andy Reid — and an annoyed Mahomes — I’m happy to place my MVP bet on No. 15 returning to something similar to his 2018 form.
— Stephen Serda
Clyde Edwards-Helaire will surpass 1,500 total yards
I’ve heard all of the reasons this won’t happen: Edwards-Helaire gets hurt too much (missing four games per season on average), he’s got competition, he wasn’t worth the first-round pick, he’s not explosive enough — and so on. These arguments, however, are missing the forest for the trees. I have been an Edwards-Helaire fan since before he was drafted — and I won’t argue that things have gone according to plan. But there are plenty of reasons to believe that this is the year for him:
1. Andy Reid’s running backs tend to break out later in their careers. LeSean McCoy had 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns in his third season. Brian Westbrook didn’t really break out until Year 5. It may seem like it’s been longer, but this will still just be Edwards-Helaire’s third season.
2. The offensive line is primed to be the strength of this Kansas City team. Even with question marks at right tackle, Edwards-Helaire will have road-graders in front of him. The running game should be more effective than it has been in recent years.
3. There is no question that Edwards-Helaire is No. 1 on the depth chart. For all the excitement over Isiah Pacheco (and the perceived competition from Jerick McKinnon and Ronald Jones), the Chiefs continue to treat Edwards-Helaire as the clear-cut lead back. This season, he’ll have every opportunity to prove he’s the guy.
4. Edwards-Helaire has been better than you might think. Re-watching his film from last season, I was more impressed than I expected to be. He’s a productive back who needs to have higher volume — and to be more involved in the passing game. I believe he’ll have both this season — and I believe he’ll deliver.
— Matt Stagner
The Chiefs will have five 800-yard receivers
If we later look back and say that the Chiefs’ 2022 offense was a championship-quality unit, it will be because they did such a good job of keeping defenses guessing. This year, Mahomes hasn’t just talked about spreading the ball around to different playmakers. In the preseason, he’s done it. If that trend carries into the regular season, the offensive efficiency might be better than anything we’ve seen since 2018 — when Mahomes won the NFL’s MVP award after a 50-touchdown season.
So I expect Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a yet-to-be-determined fifth pass-catching target to eclipse 800 receiving yardsin the regular season. None of these players will be among the league’s top-10 receivers, but the offense will be better for it as a whole. And Mahomes himself will once again pass for over 5,000 yards.
— Bryan Stewart
Justin Reid will make the Pro Bowl
With fresh air within the Kansas City secondary, I believe this will lead the former Houston Texans safety to have a Pro Bowl season. With Tyrann Mathieu gone, Reid is filling big shoes — and going into this season, I think his potential for production is greater than Mathieu’s. This great offseason addition should pay off tremendously.
I also think that on special teams, Reid will get a shot at an extra point.
— Kramer Sansone