KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (17-3)
EXPECTATIONS: The Lombardi Trophy. That is where expectations begin and end for the Chiefs, who have won the AFC West seven consecutive seasons, hosted the past five AFC title games, reached three of the past four Super Bowls and won their second title in four seasons with a comeback win over Philadelphia in February. QB Patrick Mahomes is coming off his second league MVP award, along with a Super Bowl MVP trophy, and TE Travis Kelce, RB Isiah Pacheco and one of the best interior offensive lines in the NFL return around him. The Chiefs have new WRs in second-round pick Rashee Rice and Richie James, who replaced Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman. They also have new OTs Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith. The defense has some significant questions, though. All-Pro DT Chris Jones appears to be taking his holdout right into the regular season, DE Charles Omenihu is suspended the first six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and CB L’Jarius Sneed missed almost all of training camp with a knee injury.
NEW FACES: LT Donovan Smith, RT Jawaan Taylor, DE Charles Omenihu, LB Drue Tranquill, SS Mike Edwards, QB Blaine Gabbert, DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, WR Rashee Rice, OL Wanya Morris, WR Richie James.
KEY LOSSES: LT Orlando Brown Jr., RT Andrew Wylie, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, FS Juan Thornhill, DT Khalen Saunders, DE Frank Clark, FB Michael Burton, WR Mecole Hardman, DE Carlos Dunlap.
STRENGTHS: The Chiefs led the NFL in yards per game, passing yards per game and points per game, and Mahomes was the obvious reason why. He threw for a franchise-record 5,250 yards along with a league-leading 41 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions. The ankle that he hurt in the playoffs against Jacksonville is healed and ready to go.
WEAKNESSES: The Chiefs got 15 1/2 sacks from DT Chris Jones last season, but he held out the entire offseason program and right through training camp while trying to get a new contract; it doesn't appear that he will report any time soon. The Chiefs also cut DE Frank Clark to save salary cap space and let DE Carlos Dunlop leave in free agency, leaving second-year pro George Karlaftis and first-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah to provide pressure off the edge. Charles Omenihu was supposed to help but is suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
CAMP DEVELOPMENT: The Chiefs offense kept humming with Matt Nagy back as offensive coordinator. Eric Bieniemy left for the same job with Washington, and Nagy is back in the position after using it as a springboard to a four-year stint as the head coach in Chicago. His voice will be familiar to Mahomes and the offense shouldn't change much.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Skyy Moore. Someone has to catch all those passes from Mahomes and Moore, a second-round pick a year ago, has made tremendous strides. Kadarius Toney has struggled to stay on the field, missing most of camp with another injury, and it is difficult to predict what Rice will provide as a rookie. So while Marquez Valdes-Scantling offers the biggest upside in terms of yardage, Moore could easily pace the Chiefs in receptions this season.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 6-1. Over/under wins: 11 1/2.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
The Associated Press