PROJECTED AFC WEST CHAMPIONS
FanDuel over/under: 11.5
The Chiefs return to the playoffs in 75.1 percent of my models. (Think of 65 percent as signifying an extremely strong chance.) It’s just another indicator that Patrick Mahomes and Co. are at an elite level. I should add that this projection presumes Chris Jones does return to the team in a timely fashion.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
ESPN FPI’s chances to win AFC West: 56%
Chances to make the playoffs: 77%
Projected wins: 10.6
Strength of schedule: Second hardest
What do the Chiefs do the best?
Score points. The Chiefs led the league in scoring last season and show no signs of slowing down. In fact, the offense might be improved. New offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor played well in camp and the preseason and appear to be an upgrade from last season. The Chiefs are deep with playmakers at wide receiver, and with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and Andy Reid calling the plays, the Chiefs again look potent. — Adam Teicher
Kansas City Chiefs (2022 record: 14-3)
Ceiling: 15-2, win Super Bowl
As long as the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, they’re going to be a Super Bowl contender. Mahomes keeps getting better by the year and still has Travis Kelce around as his top pass catching target. The emergence of Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, and rookie Rachee Rice will be a huge boost for Kansas City. The offensive line did lose Orlando Brown, yet they are more complete at tackle with Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith. Offense will certainly have to carry the Chiefs in the early going, as Chris Jones is holding out but will likely come back at some point.
Floor: 11-6, lose in divisional round of playoffs
The Chiefs are still a really good team, even with the question marks on defense. Jones potentially not starting the year is a concern, as the pass rush will need George Karlaftis to emerge in his absence. The secondary lost only only player, Juan Thornhill, yet outside cornerback remains a question with Jaylen Watson and L’Jarius Sneed. This defense needs Jones back if the Chiefs are going to win their third Super Bowl in five years. Kansas City will still be a final four team with Mahomes on the field.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Calen Bullock S
USC • JR • 6’3” / 190 LBS
Bullock is a long, rangy safety who is coming off a five-interception effort during the 2022 campaign. He needs to improve in run support but he covers a lot of ground from deep centerfield. In Kansas City, L’Jarius Sneed, who played safety his final year in college, and Mike Edwards are in contract years. And Justin Reid’s deal is up in ‘25.
Considering his recent absence during Saturday’s practice (turns out he was sick) the speculation mill ran wild on Sunday night.
On Monday afternoon after returning to practice, Buggs revealed that the coaching staff told him he would not play in the Thursday opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“As of right now, they told me that I was not going to play,” Buggs said. “So that’s what we got. I’m going to be straightforward with it because they were straightforward with me with that. And as of right now, I will not be playing.”
Buggs said he was not told specifically whether this was just a game plan decision for Kansas City or if this is how the team plans to operate going forward.
Most Valuable Player
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes +600
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow +750
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen +850
Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts +1100
Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert +1200
Mahomes is the reigning MVP and there’s little doubt he should top this list. However, 12 of the last 13 MVPs failed to make it back-to-back. Humans vote on this thing, and there’s a good chance the bar is higher for Mahomes than others and if it’s a close call some will side with Burrow, Allen, Hurts or whoever else emerges. It’s also worth noting a non-quarterback hasn’t won it since Adrian Peterson in 2012.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Previous Rank: No. 1
It looks like the Kansas City Chiefs will be without star DT Chris Jones for opening night against the Detroit Lions. Jones’ absence turns the Chiefs’ high-quality pass rush into a below-average group. Despite the defensive downgrade, we’re giving Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid’s football operation the benefit of the doubt. The defending champs enter the year at the top of our power rankings.
Up Next: vs. DET (TNF), at JAX, vs. CHI, at NYJ (SNF)
Around the NFL
4. Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
The Bolts have gone 19-16 in his two seasons. Not bad … maybe until you explore the deeper context. Both years ended disastrously, the Chargers missing the postseason in 2021 after some of Staley’s often-bizarre game management decisions led to their demise in a can’t-lose Week 18 game at Las Vegas – and the Raiders appeared content to play for a tie that would’ve allowed both clubs to advance. Last season, LA secured a wild card but coughed up a 27-0 second-quarter lead at Jacksonville, ultimately succumbing 31-30 to the Jaguars.
This roster is stocked with elite players, and the offense could hit a higher gear in 2023 under new coordinator Kellen Moore. Yet Staley, who built his brand on defense – the Rams surrendered the fewest points and yards in the league in 2020 under his stewardship – hasn’t been able to get his arms around the Chargers D despite having Pro Bowlers at every level. It’s not easy being stuck in the same division with the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in his prime. But when you have QB Justin Herbert entering his own prime, with a crackling supporting cast at his back, hovering around .500 likely won’t be acceptable for long – especially with the Chargers poised to be Hollywood’s leading men with the Rams bottoming out.
The visit comes after Kupp had a setback with his recovery from a hamstring injury last week.
McVay said Kupp remains day-to-day, adding that he should have more clarity on Kupp’s availability for Week 1 on Wednesday. The Rams open their season Sunday at the Seattle Seahawks.
“I think you just move forward, and you have to be able to operate with the situation and the guys we do have and if he’s able to go then that’s outstanding for us and, if not, then that’s kind of how we’ve been operating,” McVay said.
“I think the most important thing is that whenever he’s ready to take the field, whether that be this week, whether that be Week 2, whatever it is, as long as he’s able to have that return to performance, he’s feeling like the Cooper Kupp that we all know and love and he’s got some clarity on, all right, what is really going on? I think that will be a really good situation for us.”
Rudolph told Peter King of NBC Sports this past weekend that he decided to step away after 12 NFL seasons.
The 33-year-old will work as a Big Ten analyst for Peacock and co-host a Sunday night show on FOX Sports radio this fall.
“I played for so long and earned a veteran status,” Rudolph told King. “Now I’m a rookie getting as many reps as I can in the media world. This off-season is about, ‘Where do I fit in?’ The NBC job doing games on Peacock is cool. And talking about the storylines of the day in the NFL on Sunday nights will be cool, too.”
2. The Cincinnati Bengals will win the Super Bowl.
Defensively, the Bengals could endure some growing pains in 2023, given that they lost their two starting safeties, Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, in free agency. But defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has shown an ability to do more with less talented players, and he’s come up with creative game plans to slow down some of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.
This is the Bengals’ time. Aside from Patrick Mahomes, no quarterback is more reliable than Burrow. He has a great pass-catching trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd to throw to. This team is battle-tested, with playoff wins in Kansas City and Buffalo the past two seasons. They’ve been knocking on the door the past two seasons. All the pieces are in place for them to burst through this time around.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
While speaking with reporters before Monday afternoon’s practice, special teams coordinator Dave Toub revealed the team’s plan.
“Richie, right now, you’ll see him line up there and [go],” Toub revealed. “We do have other guys that can do it, obviously. We liked the way Richie came out of preseason with his decision making. He’s the experienced guy back there to help us.”
James — already manning the role of punt returner — will be building on his 47 career kickoff returns. He returned one for a touchdown during his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, a 97-yard play in the first quarter of a Week 15 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
James will officially be succeeding running back Isiah Pacheco as the team’s kickoff returner. Pacheco took 29 of the team’s 36 kickoff returns in 2022, averaging 20.6 yards per attempt. That was the lowest rate by the team’s top kickoff returner in the 10 seasons Toub has run the unit under head coach Andy Reid.
A tweet to make you think
Interesting stuff. If KC treats him like a RB, but he’s lining up out wide a ton, they’re gonna get LBs manned up out in the slot (or outside) more than situationally— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) September 4, 2023
Big opportunity for Willie & Tranquill to prove their athleticism with coverage & open-field tackling https://t.co/HsV6GJm8m8