“There’s definitely a little red alert. The Chiefs got to come to the realization of who they are: they are a defensive football team right now,” said NBC Sports’ Chris Simms on December 26. “Stop looking to regain some magic from the 2017 or 2018 team – or 2019. None of that’s happening. The league has caught on to this offense.”
Many times, particularly with good and great teams, struggles simply stem from costly mistakes. While I’ve outlined how and why blame deserves to be spread around, the mistakes for Kansas City this season have come in some enormous, game-altering moments, like the MVS drop in the end zone against the Eagles, and of course Toney’s offsides penalty against the Bills.
The Chiefs currently have the league’s worst turnover differential at -10. It was -3 at the end of the 2022 regular season.
What isn’t so simple to discern is whether or not costly mistakes — turnovers and penalties — are genuinely a characteristic of a team or just fluke plays occuring at inopportune times.
If it’s the former, that’s a massive, lurking issue. If it’s the latter, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s not just one guy,” Kelce said on his “New Heights” podcast with his brother Jason. “It’s not just me playing like dog s—. It’s not just us not being able to get the run game going. It’s not just us not being on the same page, passing-wise. Everybody’s in this f—ing thing together. Everybody at some point isn’t being accountable.”
The two-time Super Bowl champion was visibly frustrated on the sideline during the second quarter of the Chiefs’ 20-14 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Day. Following a third-down incompletion, Kelce used his right hand to slam his helmet.
4) Chiefs are not a Super Bowl team
Speaking of bad vibes, Kansas City’s suddenly churning ‘em out at a prolific rate. Maybe the most telling symbol of my lack of confidence in this 9-6 team right now: I never — not for one moment on Monday — thought the Chiefs would erase a second-half deficit and beat the Raiders. It was Patrick Mahomes (the reigning MVP) and the Chiefs (the reigning Super Bowl champions) playing a division rival at Arrowhead Stadium (one of the league’s most hostile venues for away teams), and yet ... Once Las Vegas went into the half with a two-score lead, the game felt over. And it was. How far the mighty have fallen.
Andy Reid’s offense remains stuck in the mud, with the Chiefs ranking outside of the top 10 in scoring. Mahomes can’t consistently find his receivers, and when he does, they drop the ball at an alarming rate. It’s wild to see, and the frustration is clearly growing on the Kansas City sideline.
Mahomes overcame the loss of Tyreek Hill in as impressive a manner as possible — earning his second Super Bowl ring — but now it feels like the chickens are coming home to roost.
The Chiefs have issues on offense, which they have to get fixed in the next two weeks before the playoffs. The Bengals are still alive, but barely. The Cincinnati defense had issues with Mason Rudolph at times last week, so maybe this will be a game to get Patrick Mahomes going. I think the Chiefs win, but the Bengals keep it close.
Pick: Chiefs 26, Bengals 23
The 2024 modern-era player finalists with their positions, years and teams, as announced on NFL Network:
Willie Anderson, OT — 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens
Jahri Evans, OL — 2006-2016 New Orleans Saints, 2017 Green Bay Packers
Antonio Gates, TE — 2003-2018 San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers
Rodney Harrison, DB — 1994-2002 San Diego Chargers, 2003-2008 New England Patriots
Around the NFL
“The decision to suspend a player is never easy and not one we take lightly. Unfortunately, Jaire’s actions prior to the game in Carolina led us to take this step,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a statement. “As an organization, we have an expectation that everyone puts the team first. While we are disappointed, we had a good conversation with Jaire this morning and fully expect him to learn from this as we move forward together. We look forward to welcoming him back next week as he is a valued member of this team and will continue to be in the future.”
The North Carolina native wasn’t announced as a game captain but crashed the pregame coin toss on Sunday and nearly cost the Packers a possession. After calling tails and winning the flip, Alexander said the Packers wanted to be on defense. Referee Alex Kemp made Alexander clarify his meaning that the Packers chose to defer. Had the clarification not occurred, Carolina could have received the ball to start both halves.
Broncos coach Sean Payton informed the team Wednesday morning that Jarrett Stidham will start Sunday with Wilson serving as the backup.
“I understand all the speculation and everything that surrounds a move like that,” Payton said. “I can tell you — look, we’re desperately trying to win.”
The quarterback change helps increase the Broncos’ financial flexibility this upcoming offseason, as Wilson will make an additional $37 million in guaranteed money if he can’t pass a physical by early March. An injury to Wilson in either of Denver’s last two games of the season could trigger that guarantee.
Smith, 28, who’s best known for a six-year run with the Cowboys, is expected to begin on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, according to CBS Sports HQ Senior NFL Insider Josina Anderson. He’ll be eligible for game-day promotions in each of the Steelers’ final two regular season games — Week 17 at the Seahawks, and Week 18 at the Ravens — as well as any potential postseason games.
The Steelers have been in the market for LB help for weeks, with veteran starters Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb both on injured reserve. Starter Elandon Roberts is also battling an injury of his own, with journeyman Blake Martinez subsequently pressed into the lineup. And that’s not accounting for injuries at other levels of the defense, including to star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Mahomes was involved in both disastrous giveaways. Somehow, he was on the receiving end of a botched handoff — and on his next play, threw the interception that flipped the game on its head.
While they were the biggest, they were just two of many miscues on Monday. The quarterback wore the blame on Wednesday.
“You have to be critical with yourself,” proclaimed Mahomes in his press conference. “You have to be true to what’s on the film — and what’s happening. A lot of people would make excuses. That’s why they don’t take that next step or become better because of it. When you look at the film — and you made a lot of mistakes that you can’t make in this league if you want to have success — you have to learn from them and get better from them.
“If you look at it and try to make an excuse for why something happened — or it’s not your fault because this [thing] happened — that’s when stuff snowballs. If you look at the film and say, ‘I have to be better here. I have to get better footwork. I have to work the pocket better and get the ball out of my hands when I need to,’ then you can be better the next week.”