In a season plagued with COVID-19, major injuries, and surprising headlines, the statistics that the Chiefs have put up this season seem almost unreal both on defense and offense.
With an NFL season that has been nothing short of exasperating with all the last-minute roster changes, postponing of games, and removal of classic traditions like jersey swapping, it’s easy to see reasons why productivity may dip this season, but not for Kansas City.
Before the second matchup of the season against Denver–who will actually have a QB on the field that has taken more than one snap in practice–I felt it necessary to show people the truth about Kansas City and how they are statistically the best team in the league, no matter what a record or a sports commentator might say.
For starters, Kansas City is one of only three teams who, in week 13, can clinch a playoff berth–the other two being Pittsburgh and New Orleans–which could come in many forms:
- Chiefs win
- Chiefs tie + Ravens loss/tie (@ Dallas) + Colts loss (@ Houston)
- Chiefs tie + Raiders tie (@ NY Jets) + Ravens loss/tie + Colts tie
- Chiefs tie + Raiders tie + Dolphins loss (vs Cincinnati) + Colts loss/tie
- Chiefs tie + Raiders tie + Dolphins loss + Ravens loss/tie
- Chiefs tie + Dolphins loss + Ravens loss/tie + Colts tie
- Raiders loss + Ravens loss + Colts loss
No matter what happens this week there will most likely be a playoff berth celebration by the Chiefs in the immediate future. If, for any reason, Kansas City doesn’t clinch a playoff spot this weekend, there is still a very high chance that they will celebrate their FIFTH straight AFC West division title with a win over Denver and a Raiders loss or tie against the lowly Jets.
Winning a division five times in a row may sound easy when one has seen Reid and the Chiefs do it with such ease over the past half decade, but it is actually incredibly difficult. In fact, only three teams have done so since the beginning of this millennium–New England (’09-’19), Indianapolis (’03-’07), and Denver (’11-’15)–and now KC looks to add their name to the list.
As far as record lists go, Mahomes and Kansas City seem to be etching their names into a few every week it seems like. For instance, Mahomes’ 462-yard performance over Tampa Bay last Sunday sealed an NFL-record 399.5 passing YPG over the course of one month. And, to add insult to injury, his 359 passing yards in the first half was the most by anyone in one half in the last 40 years. Let that sink in.
Mahomes also broke the records for most passing yards (12,909) and touchdowns (106) by a QB in their first 42 starts while also breaking the plane–and the record–for highest passer rating (110.7) in the regular season after finally throwing his 1,500th pass attempt early in Sunday’s game.
But Mahomes breaks records–everybody knows this by now–it’s what he does best, and up to this point his defense has held strong, strong enough to make him 34-8 in his first 42 starts (an NFL best), but what about KC’s defense is so special this year?
Well, for starters, the Chiefs house two of the eight highest-graded rookie defenders in the NFL (according to PFF) in cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton (who was an undrafted free agent at the beginning of the season and an absolute steal by Brett Veach).
Sneed, although injured for seven games, has the lowest passer rating (28.5) when targeted among all other CBs in the league with 200+ snaps under their belt this season (according to PFF) which, if held up, would be Pro-bowl caliber numbers. Wharton is also performing at a Pro-bowl level with the 5th most QB pressures (13) by a rookie this season while also being ranked 3rd among PFF’s highest-graded defensive rookies, barely behind 2nd-overall pick Chase Young and standout safety Julian Blackmon.
On top of our exceedingly well-rounded rookies, Daniel Sorensen is having himself a career season, as he’s currently on pace to have career highs in tackles, interceptions (currently T-1st with Tyrann Mathieu at three INTs), forced fumbles, and passes deflected. Although he may not be the most consistent player on the defense, he still seems to come in clutch whenever KC needs him to (for reference look at the playoff game against Houston last season). Oh, and did I forget to mention that he already has a pick-six against Denver this season?
With KC’s defense seemingly stacked from left-to-right, sometimes all playing to their highest ability, it’s easy to overlook Bashaud Breeland, who was suspended the first four games, or Juan Thornhill who has been limited on the field majorly due to the torn ACL he suffered at the end of last season.
After returning from suspension, Breeland has also seemed to put together a Pro-bowl and career season. For starters, he’s the 4th-best CB (according to PFF) in the league when it comes to yards per coverage (0.57 yards) and has yet to allow a 100-yard receiver in a game. He’s only allowed a 59.8 passer rating to opposing QBs (3rd in the league) and has only let 48.5% of passes get past him which is 7th best by any defensive player in the NFL this season (according to PFF & PlayerProfile).
Now while the Chiefs defense may seem stacked at multiple positions, it’s easy to see when watching a game how it can sometimes wane and seem inefficient or unreliable. The pass rush has been pitiful over the past three games, and the defensive line hasn’t been able to get much of a push. If Mathieu, Sneed, Breeland and/or Sorensen is in the secondary, then it would seem our defense is still in good hands.
With all the excellence at skill positions on both sides it’s important to also realize that the Chiefs have two of the top three leaders in receiving yards in Tyreek Hill (1,021) and Travis Kelce (978) just behind Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (1,039). In fact, before Seattle’s Monday night game against the lamentable Eagles, Tyreek was #1 and Kelce was #2, respectively. By the end of Sunday’s game against Denver the Chiefs could be the fastest team to have two players reach 1,000 receiving yards in a single season (13 games).
If Kelce catches another 22 yards Sunday against Denver it will be his fifth straight 1,000 yard receiving season–an NFL record for tight-ends that could hold for some time. While he slowly, but surely, etches his name among the best tight-ends of all time, he has also earned a seat at the table of potential 2020 Offensive Players of the Year nominees.
Now onto Denver, who will be starting a QB that wasn’t a WR the day before. The Broncos, who have lost 10 straight against Kansas City, seem to be playing for nothing else but pride at this point. They’re 4-7, they have the 2nd least amount of points this season (19.0 ppg), and their frequently-dancing QB, Drew Lock, has more interceptions (11) this season than he does TDs (7) (according to ProFootballReference).
Not only does Lock not have a single win against the Chiefs in his career, he still doesn’t even have a single TD pass against the Chiefs in his two games against them (unless you count the pick-six to Dirty Dan Sorensen six weeks ago). In fact, up until their last home game (a 20-13 win over Miami) Drew Lock had just as many wins in Mile High Stadium as Mahomes did (4) which begs the question…is Drew Lock really “the guy”?
Much like Broncos QBs of the past (i.e. Cutler, Tebow, Siemian) the momentum always seems to be swinging back and forth between ‘hot seat’ talks and ‘franchise QB’ talks throughout the season. If Lock can do something he’s never been able to do before–beat Mahomes and Kansas City–he could essentially earn his starting role on through to next season.
On Sunday the Chiefs will wear their unmistakable red-on-red uniforms against Denver and, in doing so, will look to break a 5-5 record they hold when choosing to wear red-on-red.
The last time KC sported red-on-red was week 5 of last season, which also happened to be their first loss of the season, against Indianapolis and an angry Justin Houston who registered a sack and two tackles for losses against a Chiefs team that had just let him go.
The last time KC actually won a game in red-on-red was way back in week 7 of 2018 against the Cincinnati Bengals when Kareem Hunt hurdled Jessie Bates in the first quarter before scoring three TDs on the night. Before that game the most previous win in red-on-red was a comeback win against the Chargers in week 15 of 2017, scoring 20 unanswered points to end the game 30-13.
All-in-all, the Chiefs have experienced some of their roughest games when wearing red-on-red under Andy Reid. Over the ten games where KC has worn red-on-red, they have averaged 26.2 points/game while giving up 20.5 points/game to opponents. Six of the ten games have been within one score–with the Chiefs losing four of those six games by an average of 3.7 points–and all but one of the ten games coming during a night game (Denver vs. Kansas City is on Sunday, 12/7 at 7:20 PM CT).
Some of the biggest divisional heartbreaks have come during a red-on-red game, for instance the 2015 week 2 matchup between KC and Denver, when Jamaal Charles fumbled the ball with less than 30 seconds left right into Bradley Roby’s hands for the scoop and score for the win. Or the only road game where KC has worn red-on-red, week 7 of 2017, when the Chiefs defense had multiple consecutive holding calls in the last 10 seconds against the Raiders–allowing Carr to throw to Michael Crabtree for the game-winning TD with 0:00 left on the clock.
Overall Patrick Mahomes is 1-2 when wearing red-on-red in the regular season, something I’m sure he is looking forward to remedy this Sunday.
In the end, Denver is simply another matchup for Mahomes to show the NFL why he deserves his second MVP award. Denver’s defense has felt the loss of Von Miller and with all the craziness that happened last week against New Orleans, there is strong chance that Denver will come out guns blazing. If that’s the case Mahomes will have to do what Mahomes does best: ball out, claim the sweep over Denver, and go home a winner at 11-1.