Why Bettors Shouldn't Be Too Worried About The Chiefs

After a 4-0 start, Kansas City has looked like a different team in two-straight losses

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  • After scoring 25+ points in 25 straight games, the Kansas City Chiefs have now failed to score 25 points in consecutive weeks. 

  • After starting 4-0, they lost both of those games. 

  • Patrick Mahomes re-aggravated an ankle injury on Sunday, but Tyreek Hill made his return to action after missing four games and led the team in receptions and receiving yards. 

  • A relatively healthy Mahomes will get the Chiefs into the playoffs, but the Chiefs must improve running and stopping the run to take the next step and reach the Super Bowl.

Two Losses In A Row

In a battle between the second and third quarterbacks taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, Deshaun Watson, who was picked two slots behind Patrick Mahomes, prevailed as he threw for 280 yards and tallied three total touchdowns in Houston’s 31-24 win. Another player whom the Chiefs passed over, Carlos Hyde, accounted for 130 total yards and a touchdown. Hyde was traded to the Texans in the preseason after the Chiefs decided they didn’t have a spot for him in their crowded backfield. The Chiefs allowed 192 rushing yards while rushing for just 53 themselves. The Texans nearly ran twice as many plays as the Chiefs (83 to 47) and possessed the ball for nearly twice as long (39:48 to 20:12). However, the Chiefs defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) to keep the game close.

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Main Concerns

After starting the season with three consecutive wins, the Kansas City Chiefs had become the clear favorite to challenge the Patriots in the AFC. However, they have shown some weaknesses since then. The Chiefs needed a 13-play, 79 yard drive in the final two minutes to escape Detroit with a win in Week 4. The following week, the Chiefs lost on Sunday Night Football 19-13 against the Indianapolis Colts while Patrick Mahomes’ offense was limited to fewer than 25 points for the first time in his career. The Chiefs had scored 25 or more points in 25 consecutive games, but following this week’s loss to the Texans, the Chiefs have now scored fewer than 25 points in two consecutive games. 

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The Remedy 

Get healthy. Despite the causes for concern over the last few weeks, getting healthy will solve a lot of Kansas City’s problems. The biggest injury concern (by far) is the health of Mahomes as he appeared to re-aggravate his lingering ankle injury yesterday. One of the reigning NFL MVP’s game-changing abilities is his propensity to extend the play outside of the pocket and find his receivers down the field. Without the ability to extend plays, this Chiefs offense is very different, as we have seen over the last few weeks with his limited mobility. Furthermore, the absence of Tyreek Hill was also a major factor in the performances over the last three weeks. Hill suffered a clavicle injury in Week 1 and made his return to action yesterday against the Texans as he led all Chiefs receivers with five catches for 80 yards. His elite speed adds another dimension to this Chiefs offense, but he needs a healthy Mahomes to capitalize on this most effectively. Without these two playing at a high level, the Chiefs will not beat the Patriots come January. 

Additionally, the Chiefs need to establish the running game better going forward. The Chiefs rank 18th in the NFL with 4.0 yards per carry, but they rank 24th with 82.7 rushing yards per game. The Chiefs rushed for more yards per carry than the Texans on Sunday (4.8 to 4.7 yards per rush), but the Texans ran for 139 more yards because their backs received 41 handoffs compared to Kansas City’s 11. If Mahomes continues to play through his lingering ankle injury, having a consistent rushing attack behind him and the ability to set up play action (where he won’t heed to venture outside the pocket to find as many open receivers) will go a long way towards minimizing the damage to his ankle. The Chiefs aren’t a terrible rushing team, but they need to commit to the run. 

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While the Chiefs have not established themselves on the ground, opposing teams have. The Chiefs have allowed the second-most rushing yards per attempt (5.2) and the third-most rushing yards per game (161.8) among all NFL defenses. As a result, the Chiefs rank 30th in time of possession with just 26:41 per game, only Washington and Miami have been worse in that regard. While some Mahomes-led touchdown drives have a tendency to be quick, as a whole, being able to control the ball for a longer period of time will help KC’s defense by allowing them to get some much-needed rest.

Looking Ahead

Despite back-to-back losses, the Chiefs remain a game ahead of the Raiders in the win column for first place in the AFC West. The Kansas City offense will get a stiff test at division rival Denver next week. The Broncos shut out the Titans 16-0 on Sunday and have won back-to-back games after starting off 0-4. The Broncos recorded seven sacks and two interceptions against the Titans in an effort that sent Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota to the bench before they also overwhelmed backup Ryan Tannehill. Denver has the fourth-best passing defense in the NFL, allowing 196.0 yards per game while surrendering 111.8 rushing yards per game (18th). 

Despite Kansas City’s flaws, the Chiefs should still emerge out of the AFC West, and it is not yet time to hit the panic button. Ultimately, anything short of a Super Bowl appearance will be a disappointment. In the AFC Championship last year, the Patriots made the Chiefs one dimensional as Mahomes threw 31 times while the Chiefs had only 12 rushing attempts for 41 yards. The Patriots rushed for 176 yards in that game, including the final fifteen yards of the game when Rex Burkhead pounded up the middle for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. A relatively healthy Mahomes will get the Chiefs into the playoffs, but the Chiefs must improve running and stopping the run to take the next step and reach the Super Bowl.

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