The Kansas City Chiefs seem to be a team that is back on track after its 31-17 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 12. The offense looks like it’s coming into focus — and we’re seeing some development in the young players. Heading into Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers on “Sunday Night Football,” the team is facing what should be a winnable matchup — but it’s far from a given.
Here are a few Chiefs who may be trending in Week 13.
EDGE George Karlaftis: After logging another sack to help close out the game against the Raiders, Furious George now leads the team in sacks (8), pressures (25) and hurries (13). He also has a forced fumble, three batted passes and five tackles-for-loss. He’s not only exceeding the expectations of his pre-draft evaluations but also becoming the most consistent player on Kansas City’s very good defensive front. The Packers don’t give up a lot of sacks on their quarterback Jordan Love — and they have a pair of running backs that can beat undisciplined linemen with screens and cutbacks. Karlaftis will have his work cut out for him — but there shouldn’t be much doubt that he’ll deliver.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: We’ve now seen what a balanced Chiefs offense can do — and it’s clear that Pacheco is a centerpiece of the unit when it’s at its best. In Las Vegas, Pacheco amassed nearly 100 total yards, while also getting more involved in the passing game. The Green Bay defense has allowed some big games to running backs in recent weeks, so the opportunities should be there for Pacheco on Sunday night.
EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, tackle Wayna Morris and cornerback Ekow Boye-Doe: This is the time of year when the development of rookies begins to be evident. Anudike-Uzomah was Kansas City’s first-round draft pick. While he hasn’t yet played many snaps (or made much of an impact), there have been a few glimpses of what’s to come — and the coaches maintain their positive outlook about him. Briefly filling in for left tackle Donovan Smith against the Raiders, Morris saw some of his first game action — and received rave reviews. Boye-Doe was activated from the practice squad earlier this week. On Sunday night, he’ll have a chance to impact the game as a gunner on special teams. While we may get impatient (and have unrealistic expectations) for a rookie’s development, we need to remember that the team is a perennial contender — and is already quite young. So it shouldn’t be surprising that it often takes some time for young players to become contributors. As underutilized players start to make small steps, it feels like we’re starting to see a bullish trend on 2022’s rookie class.
Others now trending in the right direction: wide receiver Rashee Rice, tight ends Travis Kelce and Noah Gray, cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed, placekicker Harrison Butker and linebacker Drue Tranquill.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney: It’s not really fair to hold an injury against a player; football is a violent sport where it’s very difficult to stay on the field from week to week. But when a player struggles to stay healthy as often as Toney has, it’s hard to see how his stock will rise. Toney didn’t play in Las Vegas — and then watched Rice take over the No. 1 wide receiver job that many thought could be Toney’s in 2023. Furthermore, the Kansas City offense seemed to get back on track without the help of Toney, Mecole Hardman (also injured) or Justyn Ross, who continues to be on the commissioner’s Exempt List. For now, that should stay the same — but Toney could still find a supporting role in the playoff run.
Tight end Blake Bell: Over the past four games, the team’s third tight end has averaged less than 10 snaps per game — and hasn’t had a receiving target since October. The Chiefs aren’t able to thrive in their multiple tight end sets the way they once could. This has led some to suggest the team should sign recently-released veteran Zach Ertz. Whether that’s in the cards or not, it’s now difficult to see a bullish case for Bell.
Wide receiver Justin Watson: The veteran wideout may continue to get lots of snaps. He might continue to catch a touchdown here and there. But Watson (like Marquez Valdes-Scantling) continues to be an inefficient receiving target. Against the Raiders, Watson (with three targets and one catch) was the only player Mahomes targeted who caught fewer than 80% of the balls thrown to him. (In fact, Watson hasn’t caught 80% of his targets in any game this season). Kansas City needs to keep the offense on track for the stretch run, so watch to see if Watson’s usage starts to slip.
Others now trending in the wrong direction: running back Jerick McKinnon, defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton, safety Mike Edwards and cornerback Joshua Williams.
Value (Sleeper) pick: Wide receiver Skyy Moore
The Chiefs’ wide receiver group just might be coming into focus. Rice has officially arrived, posting his first 100-yard game and leading the team in targets in Las Vegas; he should continue to lead the way. So now — with Rice, Kelce and Pacheco as the focus of the offense — Moore might be under a little less pressure, allowing him to settle into a role that fits his skill set. He’s probably never going to be a deep threat — or a player who can make contested catches. But Moore can make plays on slants, screens and other short-to-intermediate routes. He can be the guy who will benefit from attention being focused on Kelce and Rice, getting 3-5 catches per game. It worked against the Raiders last Sunday, when Moore caught all three of his targets for 34 yards and made some guys (including a former Chiefs All-Pro) miss in space. It might be that under the radar is exactly the right place for Moore to operate.