- Patrick Mahomes and co. make up the league’s most talented offense, and just an average defense can be enough to put the league on notice.
The 2019 NFL season is just weeks away, so Andy Benoit makes a few predictions for each NFL team. Today he analyzes the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished 12-4 and first in the AFC West last year.
Patrick Mahomes improves. Perhaps most incredible about Mahomes’s 2018 numbers (5,097 passing yards, 50 touchdowns)? They came despite him suffering from inaccuracy and pocket impatience on a few dropbacks each week. Some of those drawbacks might just come with him having more talent than any QB who ever played; Mahomes can pull off—and therefore attempt—tricks that others can’t. But, as the Packers have learned with Aaron Rodgers, there’s a fine line between a QB being electric and being undisciplined. Andy Reid’s scheme is immensely intricate, which helps regulate his wunderkind QB. Mahomes gradually develops into an aggressive on-schedule quarterback first and a freestyler second, giving Kansas City the best of all worlds.
Kansas City sets new RPO standards. With its staple formational diversity, misdirection designs and three-level route combinations, Reid’s offense remains football’s most schematically diverse, even before expanding its run-pass option game. The RPOs play perfectly to Mahomes’s quick and flexible release, as well as to the unique speed and athleticism of receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, around whom almost all of Kansas City’s designs center.
The defense improves (a little). Even after overhauling half the lineup, it remains a flawed unit. The biggest issues are up-and-down field-reading linebackers who can either only play in traffic (Reggie Ragland) or only play in space (Darron Lee, Dorian O’Daniel), and corners who struggle in man-to-man. But new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo at least partially camouflages these warts with disguised five-man pressures in front of two-deep match-zone coverages. The unusual combination works better some weeks than others, which the Chiefs will take, given that their offense can be counted on for 30 points a game.
The D-line ascends. Thanks to his explosive power, Chris Jones is arguably the best interior pass rusher not named Aaron Donald. Jones will fulfill expectations created by last year’s 15.5-sack season, and the men around him also bring juice. Ex-Seahawk Frank Clark is perhaps the quickest multidirectional moving D-lineman in football, and second-year pro Derrick Nnadi blossoms into an outstanding three-down inside fighter, propagating the long-awaited (though albeit, still only modest) improvements to Kansas City’s perpetually hot-and-cold run defense.
BOTTOM LINE: This offense is the NFL’s most talented AND highly schemed. Having so much as just a decent defense makes K.C. a Super Bowl contender.
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