The Chiefs probably won’t have home-field advantage in the 2019 NFL Playoffs, but that doesn’t mean Patrick Mahomes can’t lead them to a Super Bowl.
There can be no logical debate over whether or not the Chiefs’ 7-4 start to the regular season is a disappointment. Everyone in Kansas City expected more from Patrick Mahomes and his teammates. Despite the franchise’s sluggish start, it would be a serious mistake to rule out the possibility of the Chiefs winning the AFC.
There are, of course, quite a few reasons to be concerned. The offensive line’s inability to keep Mahomes upright is arguably at the top of the list. Kansas City’s ability to get hot and blitz the AFC in the postseason hinges on Mahomes entering the playoffs as a very healthy quarterback. Keeping him healthy is more important than any seeding issues for the Chiefs down the stretch.
The defense also isn’t well-suited to make a run to the Super Bowl. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that the Chiefs are giving up 23.3 points per game. That’s good for 19th in the NFL. The unit has looked flat-out awful under Steve Spagnuolo at times this season. However, the overall numbers do show that this group is closer to the middle of the pack than the bottom of the barrel in the NFL.
That’s crucial to remember as Kansas City approaches the playoffs. The offensive firepower available to head coach Andy Reid means he doesn’t need a stifling defense to make a Super Bowl run. A potential winning formula for the Chiefs down the stretch would be to pair an average defense with the top offense in the NFL.
If you don’t believe Mahomes can trigger that sort of attack this season then you haven’t been paying attention. Plenty of other signal callers in the league would love to endure the supposed “down” season that Mahomes is enduring at the moment. He’s still completing over 65% of his passes and has thrown for 2,808 yards in just nine games.
Most impressively, he’s managed to toss 19 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Protecting the football is crucial in the postseason and Mahomes has consistently done that this season despite playing behind what has been, at times, a porous offensive line.
Similar to the circumstances surrounding the defense, the offensive line doesn’t need to suddenly transform itself into a group of five Pro Bowlers for this team to make a playoff run. Performing like an average unit would give Mahomes more than enough time to torture opposing defenses. It’s important to note that the group has looked better as of late. If that progression continues it will bode well for Kansas City in the postseason.
If Mahomes does get time to throw, or even the ability to scramble outside and make plays, the Chiefs are going to be a tough out come playoff times. He’s still blessed with exceptional talent to work with at the skill positions. The ability of those playmakers to produce scores in one-on-one situations will put a ton of pressure on opposing defenses even when Kansas City is forced to play on the road.
Travis Kelce is one of the most dynamic tight ends in football. His ability to pressure opposing secondaries down the seam opens up a lot of options for the rest of his offense. Tyreek Hill doesn’t need that kind of help. He’s a match-up nightmare of his own on the outside. There may not be a more dangerous speedster in all of football than Hill when his body is right.
The depth of talent at receiver is also going to be crucial come playoff time. Any team that doubles Hill on a consistent basis is going to be forced into covering guys like Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman with just one defensive back. Watkins may not be the star he was projected to be coming out of Clemson, but he’s been a solid No. 2 wideout this season.
Hardman is an even bigger wild card. The rookie doesn’t always look like he’s got a total grasp of Reid’s playbook, but speed kills no matter when or where you play. Hardman’s ability to simply run away from world-class defenders gives him a chance to be a huge factor in the postseason.
The Chiefs don’t deserve to be AFC favorites given how much they’ve struggled this season. However, underachieving in the regular season doesn’t doom talented teams like this to failure. Anyone burying Mahomes and the Chiefs at this stage of the season is making a mistake.
Kansas City will still be a huge factor in the AFC Playoffs.