8-3 · AFC West leader
The case for: No other team in this bracket knows more about winning at this time of year than the reigning Super Bowl champion. The Chiefs also have the best player in the league in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, someone who’s always shown a knack for finding a way to win. The difference now is that Kansas City’s defense is the major strength of this team. That unit has been elite since Week 1 and it’s created problems for some of the league’s top offenses (including Miami and Philadelphia). It used to be normal to think the Chiefs only needed an average defense to win a championship. Now they have a great one.
The case against: The offense showed improvement in Sunday’s 31-17 win over the Raiders — when it finally broke its streak of three straight games without scoring in the second half — but this unit remains hard to trust these days. And it’s not just about the wide receivers dropping too many passes — the offensive line has been shakier this year and there are too many drive-stalling penalties and soul-crushing turnovers. There were more encouraging signs from rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice on Sunday, but this unit also is relying too much on tight end Travis Kelce and running back Isiah Pacheco. Others need to step up.
Confidence scale (1-10): EIGHT. This is all about recency bias. The Chiefs have hosted the last five AFC Championship Games and been the top seed in three of those seasons (2018, 2020, 2022). They have a habit of gaining steam at this time of year, even though upcoming games against Green Bay and Buffalo suddenly look more daunting.
Week 12 result: Beat Raiders 31-17
Chances of being the 1-seed, per FPI: 42.2%
As is often the case for the Chiefs, the Raiders served as an opportunity to get right after a difficult loss. During Andy Reid’s time in Kansas City, Kansas City has gone 18-3 against its division rivals, including a 6-1 record in games against the Raiders after a defeat. Sunday’s win was basically a typical matchup between these two teams, as the Chiefs have won the average contest between these two games by a score of 33-19. It wasn’t a breeze — Las Vegas went up 14-0 early in the second quarter — but the Chiefs scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions to take control.
I talked earlier this season about the Chiefs’ defense and how it has thrived. While the Eagles gave Kansas City trouble last week in what ended up as a narrow Philly victory, the defense continues to be the cornerstone. The Chiefs rank fifth in the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per play allowed, ensconced between the 49ers in fourth and the Jets in sixth. They rank fourth in points allowed per drive. Josh Jacobs might have gotten them for a long touchdown run Sunday, but the Chiefs are very, very good on defense.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3), AFC West leaders: They continue to be well positioned to play a sixth consecutive AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. None of the teams left on K.C.’s schedule currently has a winning record. Furthermore, wins over Jacksonville and Miami earlier this season give K.C. a valuable tiebreaker should those clubs wind up deadlocked. Remaining schedule: at Packers, vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers.
4. The Chiefs’ defense held the opposition under 25 total points for the 11th consecutive game.
After falling behind by 14 points on Sunday, the Chiefs’ defense went on to hold Las Vegas to only 137 yards of offense and seven first downs. One major factor behind that defensive resurgence was the Chiefs’ ability to handle the Raiders’ running game, which gained only 30 yards on 11 attempts following Las Vegas’ first three possessions.
Kansas City remains the only team in the NFL to hold the opposition under 25 total points in every game this season, marking the first time since 2013 that a team began a season with 11 consecutive games of that nature. The Carolina Panthers, who began the 2013 campaign with 12 such games, were the last team to do so. It’s the longest such streak to start a season for Kansas City since 1991.
From winning a second Super Bowl to Saturday Night Live to Taylor Swift mania, it keeps coming up Travis Kelce in 2023.
Kelce added some history to his calendar on Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs star reached 11,000 career receiving yards, becoming the fourth and fastest tight end to do so.
Kelce’s 27-yard catch in the second quarter of the Chiefs’ 31-17 win over the Las Vegas Raiders put him past the milestone mark. He did it in his 154th game, making him the fastest in NFL chronicle to hit 11K. Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez was the previous standard bearer at 191 games.
Kelce needed just 15 yards to hit 11,000 coming into the game, which he finished with six receptions for 91 yards and 11,076 for his career.
Kelce, the first and only Chiefs player with 11,000 yards receiving, was already fourth all time in receiving yards among tight ends and one of four TEs with 10,000 yards. He’s edged closer to Antonio Gates (11,841 yards), who he can realistically surpass in 2024. Jason Witten is No. 2 all time at 13,036 yards and Gonzalez is atop the list at 15,127 yards.
Rashee Rice Has Clearly Established Himself as Chiefs’ No. 2 Pass-Catcher
Following a Monday Night Football loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, critics put the Kansas City Chiefs’ receiving group under a microscope. After 11 weeks, Kansas City’s wideouts led the league with 26 drops. Last Monday, Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
In Sunday’s 31-17 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, rookie second-rounder Rashee Rice led the Chiefs in catches (eight), receiving yards (107) and scored a touchdown.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Rice ranked second on the team across most pass-catching categories, but he had a modest stretch over the past few weeks, catching 10 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown in his last three outings before Sunday.
Against the Raiders, Rice had a breakout performance that should put the rest of the league on notice and garner quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ trust. If Travis Kelce has a quiet outing, look for Rice to move the chains on key drives.
Around the NFL
Woof, this Bears offense. Look, you can be a fan of defense and also acknowledge the Bears’ offense hurt your eyes Monday night. Both can be true, and it’s not an indictment of how you enjoy the game. What was offensive, however, was offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s approach to this game. He wasn’t exactly driving on the smoothest track, not with this notoriously leaky offensive line failing to protect Justin Fields against the many different blitzes devised by Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores. And logically, when an offensive line can’t stop the overwhelming tide of an opposing pass rush, the next step for a play-caller is to dial up screens. But Getsy called for screens as if he owned a screen warehouse and his company was liquidating its stock before closing for good. Tunnels, bubbles, slips, you name it, Getsy called them all, and only a few picked up more than a few yards. It made for a difficult watch, and an even more frustrating result for Bears fans, who watched Chicago shut down Minnesota defensively and pick off Josh Dobbs three times, and do almost nothing with said takeaways. If Getsy and Fields hadn’t teamed up to piece together a game-winning drive, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Bears made a change at OC in the days or weeks ahead. The only problem: Would it even be possible for a replacement to make it any better? The roster says no, which stinks for those of us who still believe in Fields.
Reich’s tenure at Carolina ended with an NFL-worst 1-10 record — including an 0-6 mark on the road. He also becomes the first NFL head coach since the 1970 merger to be fired in back-to-back seasons after last year’s dismissal from the Indianapolis Colts.
“I met with Coach Reich this morning and informed him that he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said in a statement. “I want to thank Frank for his dedication and service, and we wish him well.”
Special teams coach Chris Tabor has been appointed as interim head coach, while offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will assume playcalling duties with help from senior assistant Jim Caldwell.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Things flipped on their head in the second half. The defense woke up from its Thanksgiving slumber and shut down the Raiders for the remainder of the contest, allowing just three points in the second half.
When asked about the Chiefs’ defensive turnaround after the game, All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones said that the team wasn’t paying attention to detail in the first half and were making unforced mistakes.
“We made some MEs — mental errors, missed tackles — which cost us some big yardage,” explained Jones after the game. “We were able to make adjustments, hone in on our job and eliminate mental errors, and wrap them up when we got them.”
Midway through the fourth quarter and trailing by 11 points, Las Vegas elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from its 19-yard line. The Raiders attempted to hand the ball off to running back Josh Jacobs, but Jones was ready for it and swallowed Jacobs up in the backfield for a loss of two yards and the turnover on downs.
A tweet to make you think
All 124 teams in pro sports, sorted by highest win percentage since 2019.— Extra StatMuse (@extrastatmuse) November 21, 2023
Where do your teams stand? pic.twitter.com/LYaS6X74ii