The Chiefs have some stiff competition in the upcoming season, resulting in their 2021 schedule being the 11th-toughest in the league, but which of their opponents will have the most difficult offenses to defend?
Kansas City has devoured almost every team since Patrick Mahomes has become the starting QB under center for Andy Reid back in 2018. In fact, Mahomes has won 44 of his 54 starts (83%) and is looking to go 20-0 this season to make it 64-10…but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Before Mahomes and the Chiefs can even get to the 18th, 19th, or 20th game this season they must go through some of the toughest teams in the league, a normal consequence for teams that finish first in their division (again), finish first in the conference (again), and reach the biggest game of the year (again).
So who do the Chiefs have lined up against them that could go toe-to-toe with their offensive firepower? Who can outscore the team that has finished top 6 in points per game every season since 2017 (including ’18 when they finished 1st with 35.3 ppg)?
There are very few offenses that can do such things, especially considering how much talent it takes to compete at such a level. And the bad news? The Chiefs play mostly all of them this season…
The first team that the Chiefs must play that can match Mahomes’ and his explosive offense is the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Stadium during Week 2 on Sunday Night Football.
Everyone knows that the Ravens and the Chiefs newfound “rivalry” spurs from the quarterback play between Mahomes and Lamar Jackson but over the past three seasons it has grown into one of the most anticipated games in the entire NFL, much like Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning games back in the day.
Jackson led the Ravens to their first playoff win since 2014, largely in part to the Tennessee Titans’ ill-prepared defense and startlingly poor production from their star RB Derrick “King” Henry. But before Jackson beat the Titans 20-13 in the Wild Card they put up the 7th-most points in the regular season (29.3), right behind the Chiefs at #6 (29.6).
So the Ravens could not only keep up with the Chiefs–even if they couldn’t in Week 3 when they lost 34-20–but they have since added new offensive weapons like former Chief WR Sammy Watkins to help boost their talent level and offense as a whole.
They have also let go of hankering players like their RB Mark Ingram in exchange for up-and-coming stars J.K. Dobbins (who had 805 rushing yds & 9 TDs last season) and Gus Edwards (723 yds & 6 TDs), both able to take over the RB1 responsibilities at a much cheaper cost than the former Alabama star.
While the Chiefs have added a few skill players here and there, mainly rookie Cornell Powell and free agent Jerick McKinnon, their offense is basically still the same as the previous three matchups against Jackson and the Ravens–all ending in Chiefs victories–so could this be the season Baltimore finally beats their “kryptonite”?
The next team that can put up a punch is the Buffalo Bills, who finished the 2020 regular season with the 2nd-most points (512) in the league (31.3ppg) and played the Chiefs twice last season, once in Week 6 (KC 26 – BUF 17) and again in the AFC Championship (KC 38 – BUF 24).
The Bills have not only had the weapons to contend with the Chiefs, especially since adding WR Stefon Diggs last offseason, but they were highly efficient in basically every game besides their two matchups against KC; Buffalo was first in 3rd-down percentage, 4th-down percentage, and T-1st in 1st-down percentage.
So they have what it takes to keep up with the likes of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce through the air but they also added one of the fastest NFL players ever, Matt Breida, to add to their deep running back chart alongside Zack Moss and Devin Singletary; not to mention they nabbed veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders after losing John Brown to free agency.
Josh Allen proved he was one of the best QBs in the league last year with his accuracy (69.2%) and his winning attitude (BUF won 15 total games last season) but with his deep ball abilities getting even more lethal and his knowledge of NFL defenses growing with every snap there could be a legitimate chance that Buffalo turns the narrative on Kansas City whether it be in their Week 5 matchup at Arrowhead or possibly in the playoffs.
Just two weeks after the Buffalo matchup, there is another game pitting the Chiefs against a team who finished above them in ppg (30.7) last season, the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are a huge favorite to knock the Chiefs off their throne and win the Super Bowl. According to BetMGM, the Titans’ odds to represent the AFC in the big game jumped from +2200 to +1200 after acquiring Julio Jones a few weeks ago.
So Tennessee now has 7x-Pro Bowler Jones, 2020 Offensive Player of the Year “King” Henry, standout 3rd-year WR A.J. Brown (fresh off his first Pro Bowl & 2nd 1000-yard season), and the revitalized Ryan Tannehill who has put up stellar numbers since Miami gave up on him a few years ago.
It’s clear that Tennessee is a threat – a big threat. And that threat should be in the back of coach Reid’s mind at all times during the season, especially if KC’s rush defense is as mediocre (20th overall) as it was last season.
The Green Bay Packers are the added 17th game of the season for Kansas City this season and the matchup comes in Week 9, luckily the game is at Arrowhead which is great news considering this Packers’ offense scored 31.8 ppg last season (1st in the NFL) behind 3x NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, so any advantage is helpful.
The other great news is that by Week 9, Green Bay could possibly be without Rodgers if the worst case scenario happens within the confines of the Packers’ organization and their relationship with their future Hall of Fame QB.
But at the moment Rodgers is still on the team and the matchup will be treated like he is the starter up until the moment he’s not. With that being said this offense has three good-to-great running backs (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, & AJ Dillon), all of whom can break out for 100-150 yards in one game on the ground and be able to catch the ball anywhere on the field.
And while the Packers’ WR room consists of the always-deadly Davante Adams there is plenty of unknown names that can contribute, and have done so against the Chiefs, at any point in the game like Marquez Valdes-Scantling (2020: 690 rec yds, 6 TDs) and Allen Lazard (2020: 451 yds, 3 TDs).
And if those targets all don’t scare you there is the breakout tight end, Robert Tonyan, who surprised everyone last year on his way to a double-digit TD season (12 total) and solidified his standing as Rodgers second-favorite target behind Adams.
All-in-all unless Rodgers is wearing something other than yellow and green this season there should be no reason to think that Green Bay can’t put the Chiefs on their behind, both through the air and on the ground.
Notable Mention: The Dallas Cowboys (Week 11 @ Arrowhead)
The Cowboys lost star QB, Dak Prescott, last season and essentially fell apart from then on but this season Prescott is healthy, he’s paid (6 yr/$240 million), and looking to remind people why they were one of the best offenses the season prior to last when they finished with 27.1 ppg (6th highest).
Not only is Prescott on a revenge tour of sorts but so is RB Ezekiel Elliot who is coming off the worst season of his 5-year career so far, largely due to the lack of consistent leadership (Dallas started four QBs) and the poor offensive line that he played behind which allowed the 7th-most sacks (25) last season.
Both superstars will be playing with a refurbished offensive line and a healthy assortment of talent beside them like 4x-Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper, surprise standout WR Michael Gallup, and 2nd-year star WR CeeDee Lamb. And don’t forget Elliot’s backup RB Bernard Pollard who proved he could be reliable last season even behind a shoddy offensive line.