Of course, the Kansas City Chiefs should still be considered Super Bowl contenders and favorites. To open the week, they had the best odds to win it all again this year at 2/1 odds, according to SportsBetting.ag. Having the first round bye certainly helps, with injuries being worked through. Elsewhere, the Chiefs have proved that they can win while relying on their defense this season.
If there is anything we have learned over the course of the last couple of seasons, Kansas City usually has to beat themselves before you can get by them. That showed a lot the last time we saw the starters play. Even though they did not lose to Atlanta, that game was the more discouraging in a while. With that in mind, we have noticed clear areas where there must be improvement. If the Kansas City Chiefs cannot quite make or win the Super Bowl again, these are possible reasons as to why.
- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Kadarius Toney
- This Or That: Eric Fisher Or Mitchell Schwartz?
- Staying Or Going: Chiefs 2021 Pending Free Agents
- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Darius Stills
- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Liam Eichenberg
We know how much the offensive line has struggled this season. Missing Mitchell Schwartz has been a bigger detriment week after week. Eric Fisher has struggled with powerful pass rushers throughout the season. And the interior is just so weak up front. The problem with the pressure lately, is it is not all on the offensive line’s shoulders.
Patrick Mahomes usually does well with diagnosing pre-snap and giving protection or slide orders. However, making the right reads and handling pressure not as well is just as big as the offensive line’s struggles. Furthermore, it appears that Mahomes has decreased his usage of moving defenders with his eyes. The wrong read or throw, and breaking the pocket too early at times will also need to be fixed going into the postseason.
Let’s put some statistical perspective into context here. Over the last three games that Mahomes started, no QB faced more pressure on drop backs than him. In addition, he completed just four of seventeen passes for 37 yards against the blitz in his last game. That led to a 39.6 passer rating, which was below half of his season average vs pressure. Give credit to teams like Atlanta and New Orleans for being creative with more exotic looks than what Kansas City is used to seeing. They were also unrelenting when providing blitz looks. The Chiefs have to limit that in the postseason.
Red Zone Offense
Watching the Chiefs offensive attempts in the red zone can often lead to headaches. This has been an issue for seemingly too long, given how Kansas City can stack up offensively to other teams in the NFL. They improved enough late last season and into the playoffs. But largely, we have not seen them look smooth since Mahomes’ first year as the starter in 2018.
It appeared like Andy Reid had figured out how to see improvement there in the start of the second half of the season. Increased use of creativity and misdirection were leading to touchdowns. Though, those were quickly snuffed out by opposing defenses. Teams actually held their own when being forced to chase the Kansas City Chiefs dynamic skill players laterally. And when “trick play” attempts surface, defenses have not been caught off guard quite as often.
The Chiefs finished 2020 ranked 14th in team red zone scoring percentage (touchdown scoring only). That is 10th best among 14 playoff teams. Others ahead of them ranked as follows in that category: Green Bay 1st, Tennessee 2nd, Cleveland 3rd, Seattle 4th, New Orleans 5th, Tampa Bay 7th, Pittsburgh 11th, Baltimore 12th, Buffalo 13th.
The best course of action is maybe to give the weapons more one on one opportunities. Hopefully for Kansas City, Reid will prove to be more confident in this area come playoff time. The main thing is to keep the defenses from being able to pursuit downhill as little as possible.
Kansas City boasts a top 10 scoring defense and a defensive unit in the top half of the league in total yards. Other aspects like takeaways, passing yards allowed and points allowed per average drive also look encouraging. Yet, the run defense still remains as a weakness. They have showed some improvement when needed in big games. For example, the games against Denver, Miami and New Orleans late in the year showed strong signs of life. This is not just about Kansas City having the 21st ranked run defense, in terms of total rushing yards. You also have to take the rest of rushing attacks from the AFC into account.
In Cleveland, you have to slow down not one, but two hard-nosed, physical runners in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Both combined for 1,908 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns this season. And that is with Chubb missing four games due to injury.
For the Indianapolis Colts, rookie Jonathan Taylor has averaged 123.5 rushing yards over his last six games. His season best performance occurred in the regular season finale, as Taylor rumbled for 253 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On other AFC playoff teams, the Baltimore Ravens led the league in rushing for the second consecutive season as a team. As if Derrick Henry could not have got any better in Tennessee, he set new career highs in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He led the league in rushing among players for the second consecutive season and became just the eighth player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Kansas City Chiefs articles to end the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.