Kansas City won the AFC West last season but it ended abruptly with a home loss to Tennessee in the opening round of the playoffs. Let’s see how many regular-season wins are expected for the Chiefs this year.
Out with the old and in with the new as the Chiefs sent starting quarterback Alex Smith packing to D.C. and handed the offense over to their No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Patrick Mahomes. In return, Kansas City got a 2018 third-round pick, which they parlayed into moving up in the second round to nab Ole Miss defensive end Breeland Speaks, as well as cornerback Kendall Fuller. That’s not a bad haul considering they got a major salary dump when they dealt Smith and made room for their quarterback of the future. Obviously, the entire game plan revolves around the success of Mahomes but the Chiefs believe he is up to the task and ready to assume the reins.
A quick click over to the NFL odds board reveals that Kansas City is actually the second choice to win the division this season, trailing the L.A. Chargers. Let’s take a look at the prices on the Chiefs to win the AFC West, the AFC championship, and the Super Bowl.
Odds to Win AFC West: +265 (2nd)
Odds to Win AFC: +1250 (6th)
Odds to Win Super Bowl: +3300 (14th)
Now let’s look at Kansas City’s recent win/loss records as well as the projected total wins that the oddsmakers were dealing before each season started, including this one.
2018: 8½ (O-125)
2017: 9 (O-120) (10-6 record)
2016: 9½ (O-135) (12-4 record)
2015: 9 (U-125) (11-5 record)
Offense: There’s no way to sugarcoat it. If Mahomes can’t cut it then the Chiefs will be lucky to be 7-9. That is just a fact of life in today’s NFL where a quarterback is often the difference between mediocrity and superiority. But the reviews on Mahomes are positive and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be at least serviceable in his second season as a pro, and first as a starter. Kansas City has given him plenty to work with by signing Sammy Watkins, a receiver who can stretch the field and one that Mahomes has the ability of hitting unlike the dink-and-dunk passing attack of Alex Smith. Kareem Hunt is a beast in the backfield and Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the business. Let’s also not forget about Tyreek Hill, who may get more opportunities this year as defenses will be focusing on teammate Watkins.
Defense: The defense watched Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, and Marcus Peters bid adieu but the Kansas City brass went right back to work to patch those holes. Although KC could have used an offensive lineman, they instead made every pick in their draft a defensive selection. Breeland Speaks in the second round and Florida State nose tackle Derrick Nnadi in the third round will help bolster their defensive front. Kendall Fuller, whom they acquired in the Alex Smith deal, is an excellent nickel corner and is joined by an exemplary defensive back in Eric Berry, returning after a lost 2017 season due to injury. In addition, KC signed former Cowboy Anthony Hitchens to a five-year deal, and it all adds up to a very talented and stout defensive unit.
Bottom Line: I believe Patrick Mahomes will be better than good for the Chiefs this season, which means that I have to love "over" 8½ wins. That is the lowest total being hung on the Chiefs in several years and it has everything to do with the uncertainty of Mahomes pulling the trigger. The Chiefs actually upgraded on offense and defense this season so if you liked them last year then you’ll love them this year. In games within their division, I see the Chiefs sweeping both from the Broncos and splitting with the Raiders and Chargers. We have four wins right there and perhaps five if they can beat Oakland on the road. In addition, I see wins in against Cincinnati (home), Cleveland (away), Arizona (home), Baltimore (home), and Seattle (away). That’s nine wins and enough to get a winner in our NFL picks this season.