The Kansas City Chiefs Will Finish Last In The AFC West

Ed Zurga/ AP Photo

The Kansas City Chiefs Will Finish Last In The AFC West

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The Kansas City Chiefs Will Finish Last In The AFC West

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Ed Zurga/ AP Photo

The Kansas City Chiefs and failure are two words that are rarely mentioned together in the same sentence. Not only is there a culture of winning that has engulfed the Chiefs franchise the last few seasons, but an expectation that this success will continue. 

The Chiefs handling of this offseason was not one that replicates winning, however, as the team arguably got worse from last year to this year. Chiefs fans will be quick to dismiss that, as they feel the additions they made will offset the big losses they also endured. 

I, among a lot of other NFL fans and experts, disagree. 

Let’s address the losses first. 

There were two big losses to their roster, one on each side of the ball. The team traded away star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins for a massive haul of draft picks, including a 2022 first, second, and fourth, as well as two late-round picks in the 2023 draft. While it seems like the Chiefs got a fair return (they did), the loss of Hill runs way deeper than the surface.

 

For one, defenses have never been able to present a single-high safety look against the Chiefs. In fact, Patrick Mahomes faced (by far) the most drop-backs against two-deep coverage last season with 389. Matthew Stafford was second with 311. Doing that to Tyreek Hill is just asking Mahomes to hit Hill deep for a touchdown. That is the type of attention that Hill demands, and Tua Tagovailoa will surely be in the top five of the same statistical category this season. We know how defenses react to his pre-snap movement as another indicator of how feared he is around the league. His after-the-catch threat is arguably the scariest of all time and what really makes him a big problem.

But Hill is not only a deep threat, he’s also so much more. Mahomes and Hill only connected on four of 16 throws of 30 yards or more in 2021. In fact, of Hill’s nine receiving touchdowns in 2021, only three were longer than eight yards. 

Hill can kill defenses with screens, drag routes across the field, and way more. Hill caught 13 passes on 15 targets on routes categorized as drag routes, and you can argue he is more dangerous side-to-side than vertical. His speed and skills are unmatched by anyone in the league, and not a lot of people understand how big of a loss he is going to be for the Chiefs offense this season.

 

Next, let’s discuss the loss of Tyrann Mathieu. 

The Chiefs, according to Mathieu himself, showed little to no interest in re-signing the “Honey Badger” to a new contract. Mathieu recorded 13 interceptions in his three years with the Chiefs, which is the same amount he recorded in six seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans. He had 236 combined tackles and a 9.67 average Pro Football Reference approximate value, which was the best three-year score span of his career. 

Mathieu is a household name; one of the best safeties in the league any given year. He was the ultimate chess piece for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, as he can do it all at the safety position. He is even an effective slot defender, which adds to his crazy versatility and is crucial in today’s league. 

When defending the slot, Mathieu allowed the second-lowest quarterback rating (53.3) among all safeties with at least 99 pass coverage snaps in 2021, per Pro Football Focus. He allowed a league-low 45 pass yards and tied for a league-high three interceptions while also leading the NFL in yards per snap (0.35). Mathieu also finished second in both snaps per target (9.6) and snaps per reception (14.3).

What makes this even more impressive is Mathieu allowed the lowest passer rating among all defensive backs with at least 129 coverage snaps in the slot last year. His three interceptions only fell to second-most as well. That list includes cornerbacks, so the “Honey Badger” (when looking solely at numbers) was as good as any slot cornerback in the league, which is crucial in fielding an effective defense. 

The Chiefs signed Justin Reid after his rookie contract ended with the Texans as Mathieu’s replacement. Reid is the same type of player as Mathieu, being a jack-of-all-trades safety that can play anywhere. While the Chiefs are aiming to bring in just a younger, cheaper version of Mathieu, the falloff in production may be larger than the team is anticipating. 

The Chiefs made multiple moves trying to make up for the loss of Hill on the receiving corps, and in turn, almost rounded out the position group as a whole. The team went from a corps of a star WR1 and a bunch of WR3’s last year to two-three WR2’s this year. They signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and drafted Skyy Moore. They also still have Mecole Hardman. While this is not the route I would want to take with a receiving corps, the Chiefs are aiming on these receivers molding into what Hill used to bring them, which I am unsure they can do. 

To make matters worse for the Chiefs, they not only play in the hardest division in the league this year but subsequently have the hardest schedule out of any team this season. They play the defending champion Los Angeles Rams, the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, AND the Buffalo Bills. That doesn’t even include the six in-division games that will surely all be bloodbaths. 

The Denver Broncos finally have their quarterback for their loaded offense and even got defensive help. The Las Vegas Raiders brought in the best receiver in the league in an offense that was already above average and one of the best edge rushers in the league to pair with Maxx Crosby. The Los Angeles Chargers traded for another elite edge rusher and signed the best cornerback on the free agency market to add to a defense that was already elite. All of these teams are LOADED and got SIGNIFICANTLY better. The Chiefs… arguably got worse.

I predicted a 9-8 record for this team last week, and I’ll stick by it.

 

Anthony Ravasio is a writer for TWSN and a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He also works with Overtime doing digital content creation and more writing. In his downtime, you can find Anthony watching sports, enjoying his time with friends or family, or tracking his bets on Action (or all three at once). You can find TWSN on Twitter @TWSN___ and Instagram @twsn___. You can find Anthony on Twitter @anthonyravasio or Instagram @ravasiosports as well.

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