So far this season, the Kansas City Chiefs have played nearly perfect football, which has culminated in a 4-0 start to their season.
Led by their sensational second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ offense has been electric. Currently, the Chiefs share elite company with the Los Angeles Rams; they are the only two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL.
While the surging Chiefs are gaining supporters by the week, now seems like the appropriate time to consider: Are the Chiefs the favorite in the AFC?
Mahomes has added a new dimension to an already potent offense. He features impressive arm strength to zip passes into tight windows and an uncanny knack for making plays.
In the Chiefs’ latest contest against the Denver Broncos, Mahomes scrambled to evade outside linebacker Von Miller before switching the ball into his non-dominant left hand and flipping it to wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a first down.
The third-down conversion propelled the Chiefs to their go-ahead touchdown and eventual win. To put it simply, there are very few quarterbacks in the NFL who could have made that play.
The praise for the Chiefs’ offensive success does not fall solely on Mahomes’ shoulders, as he plays alongside some of the best weapons in the NFL with wide receivers Hill and Sammy Watkins, running back Kareem Hunt, and tight end Travis Kelce.
Combined with the coaching of Andy Reid, the Chiefs have averaged a whopping 36.2 points per game, which currently leads the NFL.
The offense appears to be due for a bit of regression, as Mahomes has gotten off to an unsustainably hot start with 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
Furthermore, the Chiefs’ offense has a precedent for cooling off after a scorching hot start to the season. Last year, the Chiefs started 5-0, which was highlighted by an upset win against the New England Patriots on week one. During the winning streak, the Chiefs’ offense was riding high, averaging 32.8 points per game.
The Chiefs struggled tremendously after that, averaging 19.9 points over the next seven games and winning only one of those contests. This stark difference appears to be the product of defenses finally having the time to learn and adapt to the new offensive concepts that Reid implements in the offseason. Chiefs fans should be wary of another potential slowdown this year.
Additionally, the Chiefs’ defense has gotten off to a disappointing start in 2018. The Chiefs rank 25th in points allowed per game with 28.8 and allow the most total yards per game from opposing offenses.
The defense has forced a mere three turnovers thus far, but does lead the league in third down conversion percentage, allowing opponents to convert only 23.8 percent of third downs. Given the lack of pass rush, the defense’s success on third down can be explained by either unsustainably great performances or incredible futility on first and second downs.
For the Chiefs to be successful, they will need to continue winning high-scoring contests. The Chiefs’ ability to make it to the Super Bowl also depends on how they stack up against the other contenders in the AFC.
The Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars represent the greatest threats to the Chiefs and have the potential to expose their vulnerabilities. Quietly, the Ravens have gotten off to a 3-1 start while ranking fourth in points per game and fifth in points allowed per game, thus demonstrating their ferocity on both sides of the ball.
The Patriots have been underwhelming so far, but played well last week in a 38-0 demolition of the Miami Dolphins. Furthermore, the Patriots will have Julian Edelman returning from suspension this week, which should help revitalize the offense. Moreover, the Patriots will remain a threat as long as they have both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars boast the best defense in the conference, which has allowed only four touchdowns so far this season. Additionally, Blake Bortles has improved as he manages the Jacksonville offense. This week’s showdown between the Chiefs and the Jaguars serves as a barometer to establish Kansas City’s ranking within the AFC. A Chiefs win on Sunday would validate their status as true Super Bowl contenders.