A federal grand jury indicted an infamous Kansas City Chiefs superfan Wednesday in Kansas City, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri.
Xaviar Babudar, 29, is accused of three counts of armed bank robbery, one count of bank theft, 11 counts of money laundering and four counts of transporting stolen property across state lines. Federal prosecutors allege Babudar laundered the proceeds through casinos in the Midwest and used the funds to attend Chiefs home and away games.
Babudar, known as Chiefsaholic on social media, wore a gray wolf suit to games and often was shown on broadcasts. In a criminal complaint unsealed in July, Babudar was linked to six robberies and two attempted robberies during a nine-month stretch from March 2, 2022, in Clive, Iowa, to Dec. 16, 2022, in Bixby, Oklahoma, where he was first arrested. In total, authorities allege Babudar stole more than $800,000.
The Chiefs’ lack of pass rush stood out in their preseason opener, when they were pushed around by the Saints’ O-line. Chris Jones wasn’t on the field, but starters George Karlaftis and Charles Omenihu (suspended the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy) could use some help on the edge. It’s a hole we’ve noted all offseason. At 34, Dunlap can still get in the backfield, having netted 27 pressures and four sacks last season in K.C. Adding Dunlap or another veteran presence on the edge seems like a given heading into the season. First, though, the Chiefs need to figure out Jones’ contract to free up some cap space.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
WR: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
WR: Kadarius Toney
WR: Skyy Moore
WR: Justyn Ross
RB: Jerick McKinnon
TE: Travis Kelce
TE: Rashee Rice
TE: Richie James
It’s hard to imagine what this group, especially Kelce, would look like without Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. But the short answer is probably a lot worse. Kelce is a future Hall of Famer still in his seemingly never-ending prime. And McKinnon reeled in eight touchdown catches in his final six games of the 2022 regular season. But Kansas City’s wide receivers are a mixed bag. Toney played eight snaps in the Super Bowl but scored two touchdowns; then he got injured in training camp before the beginning of the first practice this season. Moore essentially redshirted last season with just 22 catches as a rookie. Like the Rams with Kupp, if Kelce were to go down, this group would be ugly.
CB: Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs (Round 1, No. 21)
McDuffie only played about half the regular season (plus the postseason) as a rookie because of injury, but he was very good in coverage just about the whole time he was on the field. There were scouts who believed McDuffie was better than Derek Stingley Jr. during the 2022 draft process. His size is something you have to get over, but everything else is great.
He’s explosive, plays with great eye discipline and understands route concepts and coverage. The more he plays, the better he’ll get
Kansas City Chiefs: Edge George Karlaftis
The Chiefs have been at the top of the NFL mountain ever since Patrick Mahomes became the full-time starter in 2018. Since then, Kansas City hasn’t missed an AFC title game, has been to three Super Bowls and has won two.
As long as Mahomes is healthy and Andy Reid is on the sidelines, the Chiefs will remain contenders.
However, even Kansas City knows that it takes a capable defense to win it all. Mahomes was the star of the show in 2022, but the Chiefs also finished the 2022 season 11th in yards allowed and second with 55 sacks.
With pass-rushers Carlos Dunlap (who remains unsigned) and Frank Clark gone and Chris Jones still holding out for a new contract, Kansas City desperately needs someone new to take over the sack-production duties.
Enter 2022 first-round pick George Karlaftis, who recorded six sacks and 21 quarterback pressures as a rookie. Kansas City needs him to break through as a double-digit-sack player to help offset the losses of Clark and Dunlap—and it will need to rely on him even more if Jones’ absence becomes an extended one.
If Karlaftis rises to the challenge and becomes a Pro Bowl-caliber pass-rusher this season, the Chiefs defense should again perfectly complement the offense. If he can’t, there will be more pressure on Mahomes to carry the team.
Kansas City Chiefs
Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes had high praise for Moore in his recent comments to NBC Sports’ Peter King. And with the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency (who vacates 101 regular-season targets), Moore seems primed for a bigger role in the Chiefs’ offensive scheme.
Moore is entering his second season in Andy Reid’s offense after struggling to maintain consistent playing time as a rookie. Two weeks after running a season-high 26 routes in the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals (targeted seven times for three receptions, 13 yards), Moore was relegated to just four total routes in Super Bowl LVII (though his lone reception did result in a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown).
Moore’s 1.46-second 10-yard split and 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine were indicators of his initial burst and raw speed. That translated to most of Moore’s production coming after the catch as a rookie. Of Moore’s 267 receiving yards in the regular season and postseason, 180 came after the catch (67.4 percent, a top-10 mark among wide receivers with at least 25 targets last season). If Moore’s catch rate can regress closer to the mean (Moore caught 64.3 percent of targets versus 74.0 percent expected), opportunities to create after the catch will follow.
It almost seems unfair. The defending Super Bowl champions are the only team favored in all 17 of its games this season. The Chiefs are also favored to win this year’s Super Bowl (+600), are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the highest win total (11.5) and have MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes under center. Only three of their projected spreads are by a touchdown or greater, though.
Around the NFL
Two Eagles players, receiver Tyrie Cleveland and rookie defensive lineman Moro Ojomo, were carted off the field after sustaining neck injuries in Thursday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Both players have movement in their extremities, the team announced.
“I haven’t talked to the doctors yet but it sounds like they’re moving around,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “I don’t know anything else besides that.”
There were a number of injuries for Philadelphia on the night. Cornerback Zech McPhearson was ruled out of the game after sustaining an ankle injury early in the second quarter. Rookie first-round pick Nolan Smith exited with a shoulder injury, as did receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Offensive lineman Josh Andrews, meanwhile, left with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return.
League officials are openly referring to their latest rule change, one that encourages returners to fair catch balls that are kicked inside the 25-yard line, as a short-term patch for a spike in concussions during the 2022 season. According to multiple sources, commissioner Roger Goodell and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent were part of a recent meeting with XFL officials to discuss its version of the kickoff, among other rule innovations, which has produced lower injury rates as well as a return rate of more than 90% in its two seasons. In the XFL version, all players but the kicker and returner line up 5 yards from each to reduce high-speed collisions.
“I remain optimistic that we can find creative solutions, whether it’s a version of the XFL or a reboot of this play,” Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL competition committee, told ESPN. “We can find variations that continue to evolve this play and keep this play in the game, but I think we have to be open to the idea that the answer can’t be, ‘Let’s just do it the way we’ve done it.’ That just isn’t a good answer when the data says otherwise.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Entering his 11th season with the Kansas City Chiefs, offensive line coach Andy Heck has built one of the league’s top units. With high-level, veteran talent at every position, the Chiefs are looking good up front.
But speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Heck identified several ways the unit can improve — starting with Pro Bowl center Creed Humphrey.
“Creed was a ready-made center when he came in,” noted Heck, “and that was one of the reasons he was able to step in and do such a great job from the start. He operated like a veteran.
“So now, a few years later, the things that you see [where he has] improved are just familiarity with the offense; the calls [are] much more second nature. He sees defenses — [at] which he’s always been excellent — but he’s seeing him that much better.
“Then [the] areas to improve — we’ve all got them — with Creed [include] an All-Pro center consistency. I’d say that’s one of his strengths: he’s consistent. But he can be that much more consistent — whether it’s his base in the pocket, his helps [or] getting guys off of his body so he can switch off stunts. These are all things he works on.”