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4 reasons the Chiefs are still Super Bowl contenders

Despite recent setbacks, Kansas City should still be considered a strong contender for the championship.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Following last Sunday’s 27-19 defeat to the Green Bay Packers, the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves with an 8-4 record. If the season ended today, that would give them the third seed in the AFC playoffs.

This setback has triggered concern and skepticism among many fans. Some major media outlets are questioning the Chiefs’ status as true contenders — a sentiment that might even be justified. That’s because Kansas City has struggled to deliver complete performances this season, displaying offensive shortcomings, diminished big-play capability and a propensity for uncharacteristic mistakes — particularly in the red zone.

Winning can breed complacency among a team’s fans — and when a winning organization doesn’t meet championship expectations, every flaw becomes glaringly apparent. This, however, shouldn’t mean there’s no room for optimism. In fact, there’s a compelling argument that the Chiefs continue to be strong contenders to win their fourth Super Bowl title this season.

Here are four compelling reasons why counting Kansas City out would be premature.

1. They have been here before

This isn’t the first time the Chiefs have held an 8-4 record during the Mahomes era. They were also 8-4 in 2019 — and that team claimed a Super Bowl victory against the San Francisco 49ers. Even a year ago, the team was at 9-3 — and went on to secure another Super Bowl triumph against the Philadelphia Eagles.

In both seasons — particularly in 2019 — the Chiefs had a more effective offense. But the ultimate question is whether it even matters how a team wins; what’s most important is that it does win.

Even if the Chiefs score just 21 points in each of the season’s remaining games, the goal is still to win the championship. Besides... the NFL landscape evolves rapidly, so adapting your approach can be crucial.

This leads directly to the next compelling reason Kansas City is still a contender.

2. The defense

While the Chiefs’ offense has faced challenges, their defense has stepped up in 2023. Despite a less-than-ideal showing against the Packers, we should not overlook the unit’s overall excellence. Currently ranked third in points allowed per game (17.3), fourth in yards allowed, sixth in sacks and sixth in passing yards, the Kansas City defense has been formidable.

In three out of the team’s four losses, the defense provided ample opportunities for the Chiefs to secure victories. Standout performances from players like L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie and Chris Jones — all of whom are playing at an elite level — have contributed to this defensive prowess. Nick Bolton’s return from injury should bolster the lineup even further.

Without question, this is the best defense the Chiefs have fielded since Mahomes became the starter — and might even be the best of head coach Andy Reid’s Kansas City tenure. If it can sustain this level of play, the Chiefs will be competitive against every opponent.

3. Andy Reid

When expectations aren’t met, leadership becomes a paramount consideration. With 25 years of head coaching experience, Reid stands out as the ultimate leader. He’s weathered every conceivable situation, displaying resilience and a calm demeanor. His ability to stay composed — even in the face of adversity — sets him apart from other coaches in the NFL.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes recently highlighted his coach’s steadiness.

“I think I learn from Coach Reid,” he said. “You always see him. He’s never too high; never too low. He is just focused on the task at hand: how can he get us in the best position to play the best football we can that day.”

Even this late in the season, we should trust that Reid will continue to address the offense’s uncharacteristic mistakes. Improving red zone efficiency (55.6% this season, down from 71.1% in 2022) remains a priority. While Reid’s offensive genius inspires confidence that he will find creative ways to score, it begins by addressing penalties and turnovers. It’s not unreasonable to trust that Reid will rectify these issues on the road to the Super Bowl.

4. Patrick Mahomes

Despite what some have perceived as a downturn in Mahomes’s performance this year, there’s no disputing that he remains the NFL’s premier player — and when he’s the quarterback, Kansas City always has a chance. Great players often bear the weight of high expectations. This sometimes leads to self-imposed pressure to perform at an extraordinary level. This season, we’ve seen glimpses of this in Mahomes: there have been times when he may have tried to do too much, resulting in uncharacteristic mistakes.

While Mahomes has certainly faced letdowns from his receivers, he has also acknowledged his share of bad throws and reads. Nevertheless, his ability to overcome challenges — whether they are injuries or the absence of dynamic receivers — speaks volumes about his resilience. When the game is on the line, Mahomes’ presence at the helm gives fans an undeniable sense that anything is possible.

Despite 2023’s statistical dip (by his standards, at least), Mahomes remains exceptional — particularly between the 20s. He routinely showcases his extraordinary talent by serving as a deficiency eraser. Supported by players like tight end Travis Kelce, running back Isiah Pacheco and the emerging rookie wideout Rashee Rice, Mahomes is settling in to carry the team on his shoulders for the remainder of the season.

It’s simple: as long as No. 15 is on the field, the Chiefs are contenders.

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