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Chiefs In trouble
Kansas City Chiefs

Are Chiefs in More Trouble Than We Think?

  • Jack McKessy
  • June 6, 2022
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With all of the big changes to both the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster and those of their divisional rivals, it may be time to pump the brakes on assuming more Chiefs dominance in 2022. They could be in more trouble than we think.

Since the start of the Patrick Mahomes era in Kansas City, football fans have been quick to immediately pencil in the Chiefs as champions of the AFC West. After his first season as a starter, Kansas City was assumed participants in the AFC Championship game. And after Mahomes and the Chiefs’ win in Super Bowl LIV, the team has consistently been among favorites to win the conference, if not the Lombardi Trophy.

That hasn’t changed going into the 2022 season. Most sportsbooks’ betting odds have the Chiefs as favorites to win their division, the second-best odds to win the AFC and somewhere in the top 3-5 in odds to win the Super Bowl.

But given some of the huge losses on their roster, just winning the AFC West is not the given end result that it used to be.

Losing wide receiver Tyreek Hill is obviously a massive change for the Chiefs’ offense and it’s a loss that—as much as it’s been discussed—still might be understated.

Hill is a top three receiver in the NFL. His skills—from speed and quickness to route-running and ability to create separation—make him one of the game’s most elite offensive playmakers. Pairing him with the NFL’s most exciting quarterback and one of its best tight ends made Kansas City’s games appointment viewing.

Hill and Mahomes could stretch the field on deep passes. They could even gain huge yardage on short passes, getting the ball in Hill’s hands before letting him create his own lane. If Hill wasn’t open, then Travis Kelce almost always was, opening up the middle of the field and taking chunk yardage. Receivers Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle thrived as secondary and tertiary options, too.

Now Hill is gone and leaves a massive part of the Chiefs’ offense hanging. There really aren’t any receivers that could replicate what Hill brings to a team, so the best hope for Kansas City is pulling a Moneyball and “re-creating him in the aggregate.”

Hardman is fast, but his speed is more straight-line and vertical, which lets him thrive almost exclusively on the outside as compared to Hill’s abilities that keep him open both outside and over the middle.

Newcomer JuJu Smith-Schuster has that inside-outside versatility and plenty of big-play potential, but his best seasons in Pittsburgh came when he wasn’t expected to be a No. 1 receiver. He originally joined the team before Hill left with the expectation he’d be a tertiary option behind Hill and Kelce, but now he’ll have to take up the mantle of Kansas City’s WR1.

The Chiefs’ other receiving corps newcomer, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, would’ve been a great addition in a vacuum. He’s big, fast and was a solid contributor for the Packers, but in the wake of losing Hill, Valdes-Scantling doesn’t bring any similar skills that would make him look worthy of replacing a generational talent out wide.

Not only is the offense in trouble after losing Hill, but the defense lost a high-impact player too with safety Tyrann Mathieu’s departure. Mathieu was a first-team All-Pro player in 2019 and 2020 and earned Pro Bowl nods each of the last two seasons.

Past his outstanding impact on the field as a strong safety, Mathieu was one of the Kansas City defense’s most vocal leaders. Even as the Chiefs’ defense, especially in the secondary, struggled for the early part of the 2021 season, we can’t underestimate how much Mathieu’s presence as a player and leader helped them pull it together later on.

Sure, the Chiefs brought safety Justin Reid in during free agency and defensive backs Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook and Joshua Williams in the draft, but Mathieu is a bigger loss than any of those guys can replace individually both as a player and a leader.

Kansas City has lost one of their most important players on each side of the ball this offseason, which leaves them in a significantly worse position to defend their AFC West title. Combine their roster’s losses with the huge acquisitions the other teams in their division made—Russell Wilson to the Broncos, Davante Adams to the Raiders and Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson to the Chargers—and the Chiefs could have a lot more trouble within the AFC West than they had in recent years.

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Jack McKessy