The early part of the 2023 schedule for the Kansas City Chiefs is looking pretty favorable. S
Sitting at 2-1 (with three very winnable games ahead), Kansas City should be ready to take care of business. Doing so will help show that they are still a contender and might be better than ever. The New York Jets should have been contenders this week, but their season changed dramatically when Aaron Rodgers ruptured his Achilles.
Still talented, the Jets aren’t to be taken lightly, so we should see some young Chiefs continue to ascend with standout performances this week. Here are a few who are trending heading into a Sunday Night game in New Jersey:
Running back Isiah Pacheco: We’ve now seen what it looks like for the Chiefs to have a balanced offense — and it’s glorious. Splitting carries evenly with Clyde Edwards-Helaire last week, Pacheco was a little more productive with 78 total yards and a touchdown. All three backs had a good afternoon against the Bears, but Pacheco is the tone-setter. When he gets going and rips off longer runs, this offense becomes more fun and less predictable. Look for the Chiefs to keep the momentum against a Jets team that gave up 157 yards on 40 carries last week against the Patriots.
EDGE George Karlaftis: “Furious George” looks like the best version of himself so far this season. Moving around well — with more advanced technique at his disposal — the second-year defensive end already has a part of three sacks on the season to go along with a bunch of quarterback pressures. He’s likely to get more opportunities with Chris Jones dominating on the inside with Jets quarterback Zach Wilson struggling. Watch to see how many plays behind the line of scrimmage Karlaftis can help create, in addition to those he finishes from other guys.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: The rookie led all wide receivers last week in targets (7), catches (5) and yards (59). He might be bucking the trend of slow starts for Andy Reid and rookie wide receivers as he becomes a more significant part of the offense each week. Rice is doing all of the little things, like blocking and special teams — in addition to showing unique skills after the catch. If the trend continues, he could be the Chiefs’ WR1 before the bye week.
Others trending in the right direction this week: cornerback Trent McDuffie, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, linebacker Leo Chenal, defensive lineman Mike Danna, linebacker Drue Tranquill, safety Mike Edwards, offensive lineman Mike Calliendo
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney: If Rashee Rice is becoming the team’s top wide receiver, Toney is giving up the job presumed to be his. Toney has been on the field plenty since returning from his latest injury, but that hasn’t resulted in production. His one catch last week lost a yard, and he was only on the field for two offensive snaps. If he doesn’t get it going against the Jets this week, Toney could be headed for a minimal and disappointing role for the foreseeable future.
Defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton: For all the success the Chiefs have had getting after the quarterback and stopping the run, it doesn’t appear that Turk Wharton has been a big part of it. He’s a talented but undersized interior rusher, but he might be currently overshadowed by Mike Danna, who is off to a fast start. In a few weeks, Charles Omenihu will return to the lineup, perhaps burying Wharton even further on the depth chart unless he shows some production soon.
Wide receiver Justyn Ross: The glow may be fading from everyone’s favorite training camp performer. Despite getting the fourth-most snaps of any receiver, he wasn’t targeted against the Bears. As the wide receiver room shakes out, someone is going to get the short end of the snaps and targets. Skyy Moore and Rashee Rice seem to be growing their share, but it may be at the expense of Ross unless something changes this week.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: linebacker Nick Bolton, cornerback Jaylen Watson
Value (Sleeper) pick: WR/KR/PR Montrell Washington
The former Bronco fifth-round pick made a positive impression in his first game with the Chiefs. Getting the call up to the 53 was clearly a thrill for Washington, who stepped on the field and was arguably the best returner the Chiefs have used all season. His 23-yard punt return was exactly the type of explosive play they hoped to get from Richie James. With James on injured reserve, the return job probably belongs to Washington for a while. The Chiefs are hitting their stride on offense and have been great on defense—if special teams, namely the return game, come around, the league is in big trouble. Washington will have a chance to shine in prime time against the Jets.