Roster hole: Defensive tackle
Here’s the thing about being a championship team: You tend to have very good depth. If you’re a veteran who no longer is going to start in the NFL, why wouldn’t you want to go sign to at least share a locker room with Patrick Mahomes and get a shot at a ring? So the Chiefs have strong depth pretty much across the board. Their biggest question might be at defensive tackle.
No, not Chris Jones, but rather next to Jones. Derrick Nnadi struggled in 17 starts last season, and behind him is Tershawn Wharton (missed most of last season with a torn ACL) and Byron Cowart (former Patriots starter who played 20% of defensive snaps for the Colts a year ago and had no hurries or sacks). Veteran run-stuffer Danny Shelton is also around but spent all of last year on the practice squad. Sixth-round rookie Keondre Coburn is also an early-down nose tackle.
Kansas City Chiefs
One good thing for the Chiefs: The Chiefs get their three biggest games at home (Eagles, Bills, Bengals), which definitely feels like an advantage for a team that went 7-1 in Kansas City last season.
One bad thing for the Chiefs: The Chiefs are going to have to survive a brutal travel schedule that runs from Week 8 thru Week 13. During that span, they’ll hit the road for four games with trips to Denver (Week 8), Germany (Week 9), Las Vegas (Week 12) and Green Bay (Week 13).
4 - Kansas City Chiefs
Strength of schedule: .512 (16th)
Bye: Week 10
Congratulations on winning Super Bowl LVII, Chiefs fans. Now buckle up for yet another gauntlet of a schedule that will put Andy Reid’s squad to the test again. Kansas City is a featured attraction, and that means six prime-time games this year, including three in the first six weeks of the season. The Lions are a challenging opening foe, but the Chiefs will have ample time to prepare for Detroit; they also get the Week 10 bye to ready themselves for their Super Bowl rematch with the Eagles. There are not many lulls in this schedule, which includes two Thursday contests and three Monday nighters. Four of the final seven games are on the road, and two of the final three home tilts come against the Bills and Bengals. If Kansas City can roll to another division crown with this slate, any remaining doubters will need to come clean and recognize the team’s generational greatness.
1. Eagles at Chiefs (Week 11)
Monday, Nov. 20 | 8:15 p.m. ET
Maybe it’s a copout, considering this is a straight-up Super Bowl rematch. But it’s genuinely hard to find two teams more suited to be back in the mix for a Lombardi Trophy. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are two of the game’s finest leaders and QBs, both immensely watchable in their respective styles. And Hurts in particular should be motivated to avenge a tight Super Bowl defeat while visiting the roaring Arrowhead Stadium ahead of Thanksgiving
1 - Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Caesars odds: +650
A savvier blogger would throw Dak Prescott atop this list, sit back as our social media team drops that dirty bomb onto Twitter and watch the world burn into a dark dream.
Mahomes, though, provides all the drama we need. He’s the origin story, the figure NFL marketers, schedule-makers and every soul in this newsroom revolve around as we head toward the 2023 campaign. If I gained anything writing last season’s QB Index, it was a newly minted, deep trust in Kansas City’s polestar to deliver. No matter what. Mahomes seems to contribute his greatest heroics when banged up, spinning spells regardless of the surrounding cast.
Realistically, Mahomes is a solid candidate to top last season’s feats — leading all passers in yards (5,250) and touchdowns (41) while throwing 12 picks — as Andy Reid continues to world-build in a post-Tyreek Hill universe.
The best quarterback on Earth will face a flock of familiar foes this season — Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts — while confronting Aaron Rodgers for the first time. It all starts, though, against Jared Goff and the frisky Lions in the NFL Kickoff Game.
Kansas City Chiefs
2022 Record: 14-3
2023 Strength of Schedule: .512
The Kansas City Chiefs have been a model of consistency rarely seen in today’s NFL. They’ve reached three Super Bowls and five AFC title games since Patrick Mahomes became the full-time starting quarterback five years ago.
With Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid at the helm, it’s hard to imagine Kansas City suddenly falling off this season.
There will be different pieces, of course. Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith are replacing Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie at tackle, while receivers Richie James and second-round pick Rashee Rice are replacing JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, the offense has dealt with turnover before and saw little to no drop-off.
And Kansas City’s defense shouldn’t see a decline, either, after replacing Frank Clark with Charles Omenihu; Juan Thornhill with Mike Edwards; and adding linebacker Drue Tranquill and rookie pass-rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
Kansas City also has a middle-of-the-road schedule. It’ll face the talented AFC East but also the underwhelming NFC North, and five of the eight 2022 playoff teams on the slate will be playing visitor—though one team will be visiting Germany.
If the Chiefs do see a big drop in wins, it will likely be because of injuries.
Around the NFL
The Browns are acquiring Za’Darius Smith via trade with the Vikings, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on Friday.
The full trade will see the Browns acquire Smith and 2025 sixth- and seventh-round draft picks in exchange for sending 2024 and 2025 fifth-round picks to the Vikings, Pelissero reported.
Smith has also reworked his contract, which guarantees him $11.75 million in 2023 and he’ll be a free agent in 2024, Pelissero and Rapoport reported.
The group agreed to pay a record $6.05 billion for the team, sources told ESPN. The previous record sale for a sports franchise had been set in August, when a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.
The deal reached by Harris’ group and the Snyders on Friday is subject to NFL approval. A source said league owners will receive an update on the sale agreement at the May 22-23 league meetings in Minneapolis, with any potential vote occurring in the coming months. Approval by at least three-quarters of the league’s owners and other customary closing conditions will be needed for the transaction to go through.
The Snyders had reached a preliminary nonexclusive agreement to sell the franchise to Harris on April 14. At the time, the deal was fully financed but had not yet been signed.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
“We looked at Cincinnati and Buffalo — obviously those are two of the biggest competitors for Kansas City in that conference — [but we] ended up saving those for a little bit later in the year,” he explained. “Both games are in December — Buffalo-Kansas City and Cincinnati-Kansas City — so hopefully, the conference title is coming down the stretch in December, [since we were] saving those games for there.”
While few Chiefs fans thought the league would even consider a divisional matchup to begin the season, North said that was also something that planners considered.
“We looked at all the division options,” he said. “There’s a fantastic quarterback in Los Angeles, there’s a new quarterback in Las Vegas [and] there’s a new coach in Denver. Any one of those would have made good options.”
In the end, however, the league picked an NFC North team that finished 9-8 (and missed the playoffs) in 2022. North pointed out that the decision was largely based on what the Lions were doing in the second half of the season.
“But we got really intrigued by the two NFC North opponents as possibilities. Chicago’s record — usually a three-win team — doesn’t warrant such a big platform. But Detroit’s record down the stretch? What was it? Eight of the last 10? The last time we all saw them, they were going into Lambeau [and] ruining the Packers’ season.
A tweet to make you think
.@Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce talked to his former teammate Alex Smith about the chemistry he has with QB @PatrickMahomes.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) May 12, 2023
#Chiefs | #ChiefsKingdom | @tkelce pic.twitter.com/6C22wue8q7