The Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in unfamiliar territory following their Week 3 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. At 1-2, not only are the Chiefs looking up at the rest of the AFC West, they are under .500 for the first time since 2015, two years before Patrick Mahomes was drafted. The immediate reaction from fans has been to panic as they adjust to a new feeling of no longer having a perfect September record or being atop nearly every website’s power rankings.
But let’s all take a deep breath and calm down. The sky is not falling. The Chiefs are going to be okay. What is defined as “fine” might be dependent on your expectations for the Red and Gold. However, if your expectations are the No. 1 seed in the AFC every single season, you might often find yourself disappointed. Even Tom Brady only secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in eight of his 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.
The truth is, while Kansas City may be in unfamiliar territory, they’re still a great team. Sure, they have a few weaknesses, mainly on the defensive side of the ball. But they also have shown plenty of signs they are still the team to beat in the AFC.
Here are three reasons to remain optimistic that the Chiefs are who we thought they were at the beginning of the season:
The Offense Is Still Cooking
Yes, the defense has been questionable, but that doesn’t come as a shock. The offense was meant to be the driving force for this team, and it continues to be just that. Kansas City is built on having an offense so daunting that opposing teams are forced to overhaul their style to keep up. Through three weeks, we are seeing a seismic shift in how teams operate against the Chiefs.
Teams have finally figured out that they must accomplish three things if they want to stay with Kansas City. They should rarely blitz Mahomes, take away Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill as downfield threats, and stay aggressive on offense by not punting on fourth-and-short situations. Analytics nerds everywhere are rejoicing!
Not that it’s mattered anyways. The Chiefs’ offense ranks in the top-five in nearly every offensive metric, including points scored, yards per play, passing yards, and first downs. The Chiefs remain elite when diving deeper into the analytics, ranking second in offensive expected points added, trailing only the Los Angeles Rams.
The offense is still nearly impossible to contain. Mahomes and Co. have given Kansas City a unique advantage every week and will continue to do so moving forward. While they may have lost to the Chargers on Sunday, it was clear the Chiefs were the better team. They outgained the Chargers by nearly 100 yards, converted 33(!) first downs, and even the struggling rush attack with Clyde Edwards-Helaire was finally dynamic, averaging 6.2 yards per rush. One could even claim the only reason the Chiefs lost was because of, wait for it…
Kansas City was minus-4 in the turnover margin on Sunday, continuing a concerning trend that is keeping the offense from being truly unstoppable. The timing of these turnovers has been especially glaring. In Week 2, trailing late in the fourth quarter and only needing a field goal to win, Mahomes effortlessly moved the Chiefs into range with plenty of time to inch even closer. However, Edwards-Helaire fumbled the ball deep in Baltimore Ravens territory with just 1:25 remaining, sealing their fate.
In Week 3, Edwards-Helaire fumbled again when the Chiefs were driving early in the first quarter, deep in Chargers territory. But this time, it was Mahomes providing the late-game miscue. With the game knotted at 24, the Chiefs possessed the ball at their 27-yard line and had a chance to win the game. Everyone in Arrowhead figured their star quarterback would move the offense into position to win, as he had done countless times before. However, many were left shocked as Mahomes tossed an errant interception at midfield with under two minutes remaining.
The turnovers have been alarming, particularly with Mahomes and Edwards-Helaire. But history suggests the past two weeks are outliers, not trends, for each player. Before his two fumbles in back-to-back games, Edwards-Helaire had never put one on the turf in this NFL career. Furthermore, he only fumbled once on 439 carries during his college career at LSU. Running backs with a history of good ball security rarely become fumbling addicts later on.
As for Mahomes, his 3.0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the lowest of his career. His lowest before this year came from his first season as a starter, 4.2. That number has risen each of the past two seasons, peaking at 6.3 in 2020. The point is, Mahomes has improved on his interception rate every season until now. There is no reason to believe the All-Pro QB has suddenly become a turnover-prone starter. Mahomes is a brilliant quarterback, and fans should feel confident he will quickly return to his usual form.
Five Division Games Remain
While the standings may look bleak, with the Chiefs a full two games behind the 3-0 Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders, now is not the time to panic. Vegas has been a surprise, but can they sustain it? And Denver may be undefeated, but they have also faced an easy schedule so far.
Furthermore, the Chiefs still have five division games to go, and all odds indicate their offense will keep performing at a high level and start to limit the costly turnovers, allowing them to rack up the wins necessary to climb back into contention for the AFC West, and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the AFC. In fact, bettors firmly believe the Chiefs have never left that conversation. According to Bovada Sportsbook in Las Vegas, the Chiefs remain Super Bowl favorites at +600, despite their losing record.
Hey, if the folks in Sin City think nobody should worry about Kansas City, that should be enough for Chiefs Kingdom to breathe a sigh of relief.