Expect The Chiefs To Continue Their Ascension In 2019
MVP Patrick Mahomes and company should be in store for a dominant season
It’s hard for some to remember the extent of greatness that coach Andy Reid pole-vaulted the Kansas City Chiefs into last season. Chiefs fans certainly remember and are aware. The feel around town is that they were vastly robbed of their first Super Bowl appearance since 1970.
They took the New England Patriots to the wire in the AFC Championship game, but ultimately lost when the coin flip determined that Tom Brady and the Patriots offense would start with the ball in overtime. The New England offense converted three 3rd & 10 situations and put the game away with a Rex Burkhead plunge into the end zone.
The Chiefs should be proud of what they accomplished, having won nine of their first 10 regular season games (12-4 overall), leading to an AFC West title. They’re on the verge of achieving something greater than what they experienced last season, but for now, let’s make sure they’re going to make it out of their own division ahead of a solid Los Angeles Chargers team that won 12 games last season, a revamped and upcoming Oakland Raiders team that has a largely upgraded offense, and a Denver Broncos team that has a new veteran quarterback.
The odds are definitely stacked in the Chiefs’ favor to capture the AFC West title again, with a multi-dimensional offensive attack that ranked fourth in passing, fourth in rushing, and third in the NFL in total yards per game last season.
Andy Reid’s experience and knowledge encouraged the growth and usage of Patrick Mahomes by sending Alex Smith away in a trade. It was a decision that some questioned at the time, but Reid couldn’t have been more right with his young prodigy. Mahomes led all quarterbacks in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).
Not everything was great last season, though. The Chiefs defense allowed the second-most yards per game. Teams were playing from behind by multiple scores often, which prompted teams to force the ball downfield in a hurry against them. This is exactly where the team set its focus on during the offseason. The front office decided to fire Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton and bring in Steve Spagnuolo.
Reid and Spagnuolo had a partnership from 1999-2006 when Reid was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Spagnuolo was a defensive backs and linebackers coach. The Chiefs will switch from their 3-4 scheme to Spagnuolo’s favored 4-3 scheme, meaning that some changes needed to happen to the roster to accommodate the scheme change. Overall, bringing the new DC in was an excellent move and should make a difference next season. In other words, there’s lots of room for improvement despite being AFC West favorites.
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The Chiefs made a number of adjustments on the defensive side of the ball. They added edge rushers Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, and Emmanuel Ogbah to round out Spagnuolo’s 4-3 scheme and added linebacker Darron Lee. These moves were necessary as the new Defensive Coordinator prefers defensive ends pass rushing versus outside linebackers. It’s a whole new concept and personnel changes needed to happen if the Chiefs were going to hire Spagnuolo. In fact, Spagnuolo may be one of the biggest additions the organization made altogether.
The star addition to this defense is safety Tyrann Mathieu. He is one of the most versatile safeties in the game. He was one of four players to align at least 20 percent of his snaps at slot cornerback, deep safety, and in the box last season. Mathieu is a unicorn, having the mental capacity to perform various duties throughout an entire game. He should spark the Chiefs secondary and defense as a whole.
Carlos Hyde was added for running back depth, but he isn’t necessarily an Andy Reid type of running back. Hyde’s lack of receiving ability should put him clearly behind Damien Williams, who coach Reid has already announced as their workhorse running back. Reid said “We’re asking him to be the full-time starter for the year. He’s earned the right to be that guy,” per Chiefs.com. Hyde is really nice to have for depth, but he is absolutely a backup.
Kareem Hunt ranked 11th in DYAR and DVOA last season. This seems attainable for Damien Williams in an offense that’s built to run the ball successfully and can create enough distraction in the passing game to keep the box free.
Defensive difference-makers Justin Houston and Dee Ford were let go. Houston was released and Ford was traded to the San Francisco 49ers as he wanted a new, lucrative contract. The Chiefs had to make a decision and it was an easy one for them.
The loss of Eric Berry was a big one for fans, but he was injured for the majority of 2018 and hardly contributed. They drafted a solid safety in the second round of the recent draft and he is expected to log tons of snaps this season. Safety Eric Murray is gone, too, but Mathieu’s new presence is a bigger deal. The majority of the departures were based off of scheme change and productivity. On paper, it appears that the Chiefs had a very nice offseason.
Latest Injuries And News
Running back Damien Williams and safety Jordan Lucas left practice this week with what are said to be minor hamstring injuries. There don’t seem to be any long-term injuries to discuss at the moment.
Tyreek Hill was carted off the field on Tuesday, but it turned out to be a bad bruise and nothing more. Things are starting off smooth in Kansas City.
A big piece of news that had Chiefs fans jumping for joy was the NFL’s decision to not suspend wide receiver Hill. Hill ranked fifth in DYAR last season at wide receiver and is arguably the most dynamic downfield wide receiver threat in the NFL.
A Peek At The Schedule
The Chiefs rank tied for fifth for the toughest schedule in 2019. Their opponent win percentage sits at .520 from last season. Kansas City will play three of their first four games on the road, but have a sweet bye during week 12. They had better win early on, because two of their last four games are on the road visiting the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears. Their battles within the division should be extra exciting with all opponents getting at least a little better during the offseason.
It’s crystal clear that the Chiefs had a solid offseason after achieving a new level of greatness last season. They’re the favorites to own their division, but it’s definitely not a given. The Los Angeles Chargers and Phillip Rivers are hungrier than ever and are poised to prove others wrong. Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders may have something to say about this as well. The competition is getting more fierce, but the Chiefs have an edge and should be crowned AFC West champions once again due to their elite offense and improved defense.
Note: All statistics were found on Football-Reference.com. DVOA stats were found on Football Outsiders. The advice above conveys the writer's view and does not represent the stance or interest of BetQL.