The start of the 2021 season for the Kansas City Chiefs was not that great, and just before midway, they were 3-4. However, they ended up winning the AFC west with a win-loss record of 12-5. This was the Chiefs’ sixth consecutive AFC West title. Again, Patrick Mahomes did what he usually does. He threw for 4,839 yards and 37 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. In addition, he also ran for 381 yards and rushed two touchdowns.
Overall, the Chiefs’ rushing attack was not good as both Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Darrell William struggled at times. Both running backs combined for only 1,075 yards at an average of 4.3. Derrick Gore provided much better support and ran for 256 yards on 51 attempts. Gore is still part of the Chiefs, so we expect him to play a more significant role.
Tyreek Hill caught 111 passes on 159 targets on the receiving side and received 1,239 yards through the air. Travis Kelce closely followed Hill in all aspects with 92 receptions on 134 targets and nine touchdowns. Well, in the 2022 offseason, Hill left for the Dolphins, and now the Chiefs might have to think of a new strategy to fill the gap left by Hill.
The Chiefs concluded their season in the final game of the AFC title, where they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 27-23 in overtime. Despite the Chiefs’ recent success in recent years (the Chiefs won the most games in the regular season from 2016 onwards in all of the NFL), we expect that the team will have to answer a few questions. We will discuss them in this article.
1. How Will the Chiefs Make Up for the Loss of Tyreek Hill?
Here is the short answer: Hill’s loss from the Chiefs cannot be replaced. So unless Andy Reid gets extremely lucky and finds Hill’s replacement through sheer coincidence, the Chiefs will have to adjust their offensive plays to accommodate other players. The only silver lining in ‘Chiefs vs. Hill’ current situation is that the defenses around the league had managed so successfully to contain Hill to some extent and Mahomes had to spread more to gain yards.
To make up for Hill, the Chiefs acquired two new wideouts, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marques Valdes-Scantling. Both have been previously part of a large organization, and they both understand having a connection with a prolific quarterback.
Skyy Moore and Mecole Hardman are the other options for Mahomes, but of course, with Kelce on the roster, the entire focus will be upon Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, and Kelce himself. Mahomes is a generational quarterback, and players like him don’t come often. So we believe he will make something happen from his given options. Still, we can only know how long it will take and how Mahomes will approach the situation in a few weeks.
2. Is the Rushing Attack Better Compared to Previous Seasons?
This question is also somewhat related to the first question above, which is about adjusting to the loss of the Tyreek Hill situation. Patrick Mahomes will not have Tyreek Hill to throw at for the first time in his career. So, the rushing attack of the Chiefs has to be better than last year. The Chiefs had a total rushing offense of 1,956 yards, putting them somewhere in the middle of all teams in terms of rankings.
However, the problem for the Chiefs was the struggle of both starting running backs—Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrell Williams, who started as RB1 and RB2. After Edwards-Helaire went down with an injury, Williams took over but was only marginally better than Edwards-Helaire. In 2022 Andy Reid has strengthened the offensive line, and believe it or not, most of the guys on the offensive line are better blockers for rushing attacks than pass blocking.
This could have an impact on the running back. However, we can also expect Mahomes to have more quarterback play options to take the pressure off his running backs. So, the Chiefs’ rushing mindset, which was proving to be a buffer between their run and pass play, will be better in 2022 because otherwise, with AFC West being the most competitive Division, the Chiefs might not go far.
3. Can the Chiefs Secondary Become a Top 10 Unit?
Kansas City parted ways with a few veterans that played a critical role in their 2019 Super Bowl championship run. All-Pro Tyrann Matheiu headed to his hometown to join the New Orleans Saints after spending three seasons with the organization. Mathieu’s teammate Daniel Sorensen also signed with New Orleans but will not play a role similar to what we saw in Kansas City. In addition, some have stated that the Chiefs’ safeties did not make enough plays that would have impacted the defense.
The team believes that they needed to get younger at the position after parting ways with Mathieu and signing Justin Reid. Reid is viewed as more youthful and more athletic safety compared to Mathieu. To compensate for the loss of corners, such as Charvarius Ward, the Chiefs selected Trent McDuffie out of the University of Washington. Fourth-round pick Joshua Williams is another investment that the Chiefs have high hopes for as the team attempts to get younger in the secondary. The group can potentially be a top ten unit but will likely take their bumps and bruises early.
4. Are the Chiefs Still the Team to Beat in the AFC West Despite Numerous Upgrades by Other Teams in the Division?
Well, this might be the most challenging question of today. Ever since they turned around, the Chiefs have dominated the AFC West and AFC to a large extent. Just in their Division, in the last seven years, the Chiefs have won 27 out of 30 games in the Division. The Chiefs have also won the most games by any team in the entire NFL since 2016. The combination of Mahomes and Andy Reid is compared to the Brady/Belichick combination. However, the LA Chargers have been in rebuilding mode themselves, they have a great quarterback and good options on offense, and their defense is definitely above average.
The Raiders have also been playing amazingly well, and with the inclusion of Davante Adams on the team and the loss of Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs, we will see how the passing offense changes for these two teams. The most recent blockbuster move was, of course, Russel Wilson joining the Denver Broncos. This improved the Broncos’ offense greatly, and they already had a very good defense. Currently, on paper, the Broncos are the only team in the AFC West that seems like a complete team and have viable depth at every position in their team.
So, for the Chiefs to take the AFC title would largely depend upon them taking on their division. The Chiefs have an edge over their division and other AFC teams in terms of experience. Mahomes has matured, and Andy Reid has always been an aggressive coach. Hence, although the Chiefs will face a significant amount of pressure from their division, we still believe, that, considering everything, the Chiefs are still favorites.