Once again, we got some help from Tom Childs of Arrowhead Pride to preview this year’s second matchup with the Chiefs. Unlike their week three tilt, this one is in primetime and means a heck of a lot more for either team.
So what’s different about this Chiefs team compared to several months ago? How did they turn around their misfortunes so quickly? We get into that and more with Tom.
Let’s get right into it.
1.) After a rough start to the season, the Chiefs have really turned it around. Is there anything that you can point to and say, “That’s what fixed the season”?
The funny thing about bad teams is that it is normally a number of things that are the reason why they struggle. The 2021 Chiefs of weeks 1-8 were no different. They couldn’t do anything on offense without shooting themselves in the foot - the defense was... well... the defense - and the coaching was way below the standard that we are used to. What made the Chiefs different from a lot of bad teams is that their mishaps came from mental mistakes, not a lack of talent. They were always going to right their wrongs from early on. It was just a matter of when not if?
It’s tough to point to a game that fixed the season because the Chiefs have produced so few complete performances. The defense jolted into life against the Giants and have been very good ever since, while the offence has just shown us flashes of brilliance throughout but have largely struggled. The team desperately need a complete performance against a team not named the Raiders. Where and when better than on prime time in a game that will effectively decide the fate of the AFC West crown.
2.) Comparatively, this is one of Mahomes’ worst seasons in terms of turnovers. What’s been different with him this season? Are there any other factors playing into his regression this year?
It would be unfair to put it all on Mahomes’ shoulders. Yes, he hasn’t played to his ridiculously high standards but he is still been playing at a fairly decent level - certainly well enough to put up more points than the Chiefs have been.
I saw a stat recently that no pass catchers have cost their team more points with drops than Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Again, these two are held to similar standards as Mahomes, so any drop from that will give the illusion that they have been ordinary — when it hasn’t been the case.
The games before the Raiders were a perfect example of this. Too many times did drops by Mahomes’ receivers cost the Chiefs. It looked like things were looking up against the Raiders. Perhaps that game was the beginning of the return of the Chiefs offense that Chiefs fans - and neutrals - love.
3.) Has there been any breakout performances this season for the Chiefs that you may not have seen coming? What players have surpassed expectations the most this year?
I guess I have to point to the last six games, more specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Anyone that claims that they saw the defensive turnaround coming is a flat out liar. Yeah, you could have made an argument that there was enough talent on the Chiefs defense for them to become an average unit - but to an elite group? No way. We always knew that the defensive line had guys that on their day could wreak havoc, yet it has been the secondary that have really stepped up. Guys like Rashard Fenton and Charvarius Ward have taken their game to another level. Fenton in particular has been a very pleasant surprise. Despite the lack of investment in the cornerback room, Brett Veach continues to find players that cost very little but produce a lot.
4.) How different is this version of the Chiefs compared to the group that lost at home to the Chargers in week three? What can Chargers fans expect in round two?
Night and day. First of all, the turnovers that plagued the Chiefs offense that day and so many more have finally stopped. The Chiefs simply couldn’t carry on giving up the ball as much as they were and expected to reach their ultimate goal of winning another Super Bowl. Chargers fans will notice the patience that Mahomes and Reid show these days as the big play attempts are way down from September. This is partly because of the cover 2 shell that most teams have played against KC, preventing the big-play, but also a realization by the Chiefs that good things come to those who wait.
5.) Go ahead and give us a final score prediction along with several lines on how you see this game shaking out.
I was a lot more confident Tuesday morning before the news about Chris Jones broke. Without him, the Chiefs defense certainly loses a notable weapon against the pass, but with Jarran Reed, Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram (you know that guy, don’t you?), there should be enough juice left on the d-line for the Chiefs to give some grief to Justin Herbert. Offensively, I am a lot less confident but the signs are there that the Chiefs are getting there.
The Chiefs have been in these huge regular season, playoff-type games a number of times and they know what’s required, so I basically have this game as a pick’em but I’m going for experience over youth. Chiefs 23 Chargers 20