My what a difference 9 months can make. It seems like only yesterday (or January 24th of 2020) that the Chiefs were on the precipice of immortality. A business-like 38-24 throttling of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game with only Tom Brady and the wildcard Bucs standing in the way of back-to-back titles.
Did that 31-9 Super Bowl loss break this team beyond recognition or have shaky roster moves, coaching blunders and distractions led the Chiefs to this inexplicable 2-3 start?
Sunday night we saw the 3-1 Buffalo Bills roll into Arrowhead focused and hungry. Josh Allen threw for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns while outplaying former NFL and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes in his home stadium. It’s clear that the power in the AFC is shifting as teams like the Bills, Chargers, Browns, Ravens have all been drafting and preparing for a hostile takeover since 2018.
The Chiefs’ stronghold on the AFC West (five straight division titles) and the AFC itself is now on life support. Three conference losses already hang over the team’s head and the air of invincibility that has existed since Patrick Mahomes’ arrival is all but erased.
The 2021 version of the Kansas City Chiefs are unfocused, unserious, undisciplined and could even be in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
It’s a crowded AFC
Don’t look now but the AFC is loaded for bear. The Chiefs already have losses to the Ravens, Chargers and Bills, three teams that are going to be very difficult to catch in the standings. The AFC West has slowly been improving over the past four years while Kansas City has stagnated. Tight end Travis Kelce openly admitted last season that the team was disinterested during the regular season which is a reflection of a spoiled group of players that are not held accountable by the coaching staff.
This was not a great offseason for Brett Veach who clearly displayed a knee-jerk reaction towards the offensive line after the Super Bowl. He traded the first round pick for Orlando Brown who is slow and appears to be standing in concrete on most plays. Brown is not worth anything remotely close to what he will demand in the offseason, meanwhile former Chiefs LT Eric Fisher is back from injury and playing for the Colts. There was no urgency to address the receiver problem either and the trio of Hardman, Robison and Pringle are the three amigos of ineptitude.
This defense is…bad
This defense has been a perfect storm of disaster. Star defensive tackle Chris Jones was moved to defensive end in the offseason and it has gone…poorly. The front four itself has been brutal. Defensive end Frank Clark has severely underperformed his $18.5 million dollar deal and 5th round pick Mike Dana leads the team in sacks with three. Safety Daniel Sorenson continues to play meaningful snaps despite being unathletic, frequently lost and a giant liability.
The Chiefs are now 2.5 games behind the Chargers in the AFC West and residing in last place. Early calculations believe the Chiefs have a 52% chance of making the playoffs but that will require an 8-4 finish (and 9-3 is possible). You can envision a scenario where Kansas City cleans up the turnover problem on offense but where will the defensive improvement come from? Right now it seems as if 10-7 and a wildcard spot would be a pretty good result for this team and could be the ceiling.