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Shawn' Staturday

Shawn’s Staturday: How the Chiefs look heading into the playoffs

Even with a huge target on KC’s back after winning Super Bowl LIV, they performed at levels that no other Chiefs team has ever achieved.

2020 is over, thank God, and there are thousands of reasons why the year was terrible–the failing economy, COVID-19, political unrest–but it was also the year where the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years and truly showed they are here to stay as the best team in the league.

Instead of providing stats in anticipation of Sunday’s game, which is what “Shawn’s Staturdays” have typically revolved around, I wanted to point out some statistics that show just how good this team has become under Andy Reid and Mahomes since their first Super Bowl victory in February of 2020.

On top of the victories (only losing one game in the past 411 days) and the celebrations under red and yellow confetti, there was a dominance that began brewing at the beginning of this calendar year, a dominance that has stayed constant in Kansas City’s locker room all the way through the regular season.

With Chad Henne heading the offense against the Chargers on Sunday the Chiefs are looking to finish the season 15-1, which would make them only the 7th team to ever achieve that feat in NFL history since 16-game seasons began back in 1978.

Of the six previous teams to accomplish this record only two have ever won the Super Bowl (the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, and the historic 1985 Chicago Bears) but the other four were unable to do so, all coming extremely close except for the 2011 Packers, who lost to the Giants in the divisional round.

The good news? The Chiefs have Mahomes, who is a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs (4-1), so they have the best chance to break the curse of the 15-1 teams–much like how Mahomes broke the Madden curse and the curse of the Chiefs’ playoffs woes. If anyone can bring a 15-1 team to the promised land again, it’s Patrick Mahomes II.

The other good news? Kansas City’s defense seems to have finally found the explosiveness that catapulted them to success since the firing of Bob Sutton two years ago. In fact, last week’s three-point win over Atlanta was one of the Chiefs’ best days on defense believe it or not, even with the lack of experienced linebackers in the form of rookie LBs Willie Gay Jr., Darius Harris, and Omari Cobb.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Chris Jones had the best game of his season last week–registering 8 QB pressures, a sack, 4 QB hits & a pass defended–leading to him retaining PFF’s #1 Pass Rushing grade (93.1) leading into the final game of the season. With his leadership and dominance off the line, the rest of the defense followed suit, outperforming the offense for the first time in quite some time.

With the rising talent on defense playing to the best of their abilities during the close-game win streak that KC has strung together over the past seven weeks, and the Chiefs offense still ultimately healthy (knock on wood), Mahomes looks set up to eradicate any team that might get in their way.

With much of the team resting during the Week 17 matchup against the Chargers, it would seem that the numbers that key offensive players are going to stay where they are for the regular season. Overall the Chiefs offense has put up some staggering numbers:

  • Tyreek Hill (if he doesn’t play against LAC) will finish the season with 1,399 yards from scrimmage, with 1,276 coming through the air and 123 coming on the ground. He’s currently 7th in the NFL in receiving yards and could fall if Justin Jefferson (1,267) and Allen Robinson (1,213) have much of an impact in their respective games. If Hill is on the sideline Sunday, he will finish the season 203 receiving yards short of his 2018 season, where he tallied an absurd 1,479 yards through 16 games and will finish with 15 TDs which is already three more than he had ever had in one season.
  • Travis Kelce, who will most likely sit out Sunday’s game, will finish the best regular season by a TE of all time, racking up 1,416 receiving yards (39 yards more than the previous record) and 105 receptions on the season which would be the third most receptions by a TE in one season (he’s also 4th on that same list with 103 receptions), all while averaging 94.4 yards per game.
  • And Patrick Mahomes, who has still yet to lose by more than one score as an NFL starter, will finish the season with 4,740 yards passing (currently 1st in the NFL), 40 total TDs (T-2nd), and 6 INTs. With these stats Mahomes becomes just the fourth QB ever to throw for 4,700+ yds & 38+ TDs through just 15 games in the Super Bowl era (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees (2x), & Dan Marino)…and he’s now done it twice through just his first three seasons.

What’s even better is Mahomes was on pace to finish the season with over 5,050 passing yards and 40 TDs, which would make 2020 his 2nd season (already) with 5,000+ yds passing. He has also had 7 TDs called back (or go unchallenged) which would have propelled him past 5,000 yards already in the season, but ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are not what’s important.

These three Chiefs redefined greatness in their own ways this season, putting up consistent stats and lifting the Chiefs to the first 14-1 record in Kansas City’s history, clinching the only bye week in this year’s playoffs.

So what does this rest week mean for the remainder of the Chiefs not named Kelce, Hill or Mahomes? Well, for starters, the younger defensive backs will likely get another chance to shine like they definitely did last week. The defense will also get a chance to show what holes will need to be focused on during next year’s NFL draft.

For instance, after an entire season of fans shouting at defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to put in rookie LB Willie Gay Jr., and he finally got his opportunity and he took it, bringing in nine total tackles, including one for a loss, and forcing a fumble.

This is also a great chance for pass-catchers like WR Demarcus Robinson, who caught the game-winning TD last week, TE Nick Keizer, TE Deon Yelder, or WR Byron Pringle who had a 102-yard kick off return against Denver, to show what they are made of and try to grasp a bigger role in the Chiefs postseason offense.

This rest week, as well as next week’s bye week, are perfect for the Chiefs’ decimated offensive line to recoup and refresh. KC’s offensive line has seen its fair share of back injuries in the past three weeks with Fisher and Remmers both having issues since week 13 but their impact has been noticeable, especially against Atlanta where Mahomes was consistently being forced to throw when he wasn’t ready.

With the Chiefs locking up the #1 seed and Green Bay seemingly in control of the #1 seed as well (only needing to beat Chicago or for Seattle to lose to San Francisco) the Week 17 matchups all have serious playoff implications.

In fact, there are more playoff spots available entering Week 17 this season than there has been in the past 30 years. Obviously, this is largely in part to the expansion of the playoffs to 14 teams, but it is still statistically amazing that there are 35 different Wild Card matchup possibilities entering the final week of the season.

The Chiefs’ ability to secure the bye week has extensive advantages that many people might be aware of but are still worth mentioning. For instance, every Super Bowl since 1990 has had at least one team that had earned a bye week that season. It’s also important to remember that the Chiefs will not have to leave Kansas City again until they (hopefully) make it to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, meaningless jetlag, and more rest.

The downside to securing a bye week before Week 17? To rest, or not to rest. Over the past 10 years, there have been eight teams that have been where the Chiefs are now, many of which chose to rest starters for most, if not the entirety, of their meaningless Week 17 matchup. How did those go for the previous teams? Not so well, for the most part.

Of the eight teams only three (’19-’20 Ravens, ’18-’19 Saints, ’11-’12 Packers) rested their starters, including their QB, for the entirety of Week 17–just like how Andy Reid is handling the Chiefs game against LA–and those teams combined for 1-3 in the playoffs. Meanwhile the four teams that gave their QBs some time on the field (’10-’11 Patriots, ’14-’15 Patriots, ’16-’17 Cowboys, ’17-’18 Eagles) combined to go 6-2 and won two Super Bowls (’18 Eagles & ’15 Patriots) while the other two went 0-1 to finish their season.

The main thing to realize when looking at these upsetting stats is that Reid knows this situation well, “I’ve been down this road a couple times before and had opportunities to rest guys,” Reid said before Week 17, “I’ve done that in the past.”

And he’s right, he has been down this road before, most recently in 2017 when Reid rested starting QB Alex Smith and put in then-unknown rookie QB Patrick Mahomes, who won the Week 17 matchup against Denver, but then when the Wild Card game came about the Chiefs soured and looked rusty in their 22-21 loss to Marcus Mariota and the Titans.

Overall, the Chiefs have plenty of statistics against Coach Reid’s decision to rest, and KC’s chances at repeating as Super Bowl Champion (which has only been done seven times), but they do have something on their side that can not be equated to anything–Patrick Mahomes. And even with a 20-day lapse between Mahomes’ stepping foot on an NFL field, there is no way to properly prepare for his playoff mentality.

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