Following the KC Chiefs’ 29-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, beat writer Terez A. Paylor answered Twitter questions about whether Patrick Mahomes will play this week, whether the red-zone offense and inconsistent pass rush will derail the season and more.
I think so. When the Chiefs have been in similar situations in the past, coach Andy Reid has opted to rest his starters in Week 17. That means fans will finally get their first glimpse at The Kid in the regular-season finale Sunday at Denver. No one knows for sure what Reid will do –– he predictably shrugged off all those questions during Sunday’s postgame presser –– but I’d personally rest Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt on offense and Justin Houston, Marcus Peters, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Reggie Ragland and Bennie Logan on defense. At the very least. Those are all the guys who are either irreplaceable to the team or a little banged up right now. Other banged-up guys who could/should sit include Kevin Pierre-Louis, Albert Wilson, Eric Murray, Jarvis Jenkins and Eric Fisher, due to the injuries/illnesses on this week’s injury report.
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It’s the same thing it’s always been –– the offensive line. Give these guys credit, they’ve been good the last three weeks after a brutal stretch, but the inability to win in short yardage is absolutely felt in the red zone, where the field is condensed and yards are harder to come by. As long as teams can win up front against the Chiefs in “gotta have it” short-yardage situations, the Chiefs will always have to be more finesse in the red zone.
Probably. The Chiefs can save $17 million on next year’s salary cap by trading Smith, and if the offer is right –– a second-round pick could be particularly tasty –– and Mahomes has indeed developed the way coaches said he has, it could be too tempting to pass up. The Seahawks built an eventual Super Bowl winner a few years ago while loading up on free-agent talent while quarterback Russell Wilson was on a cheap rookie deal. The Chiefs could potentially do the same while selling high on Smith, and I’d be okay with that if I were a Chiefs fan, provided they do right by the man and send him to a good team with postseason hopes (i.e. not Cleveland). He’s done too much good here to be shipped to a football wasteland, in my opinion. I’d also consider keeping him if Mahomes hasn’t developed to the degree they’ve hoped, but I really doubt that’s the case, based on the things I’ve been hearing.
It’s a mix of scheme and talent. Period. Does defensive coordinator Bob Sutton send pressure as much as other teams? No. But the early-2000’s Buccaneers didn’t blitz that much either, and they still generated plenty of pressure. At the end of the day, it’s on the men up front to win their individual battles and harass the quarterback. If these guys can get back to rushing the passer the way they did in Week 2 vs. Philadelphia, the Chiefs can absolutely win a few games in the playoffs. I just don’t know if I’ve seen enough recently to think they will. I know they can, but I just don’t know if they will.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s something that can be corrected this season. Entering the game, the Chiefs ranked 24th in the league in broken-tackle percentage (11.3), according to Football Outsiders. That’s not ideal. Teams know that if they can get to the second level against the Chiefs, there’s a chance they can break a big one. Teams are limited in how much they can practice in pads during the season due to the new collective bargaining agreement, so it’s on the players to step it up individually in January.
In the playoffs, I think you’ll get something resembling the 5-0/3-0 Chiefs. Reid’s teams rarely get outschemed or outplayed in the playoffs the way they did during the 1-6 stretch this season. Plus, this team is loaded with veterans desperate for a championship run. They’ll put forth a good effort on the field. The question is whether it will be enough to win in New England or Pittsburgh in January. That’s hardly a given.
For starters, you bring Justin Houston back. Even though they stand to gain $7.9 million by releasing him, he’s played 15 games this season and is still one of the game’s most dangerous edge rushers. I’d bet that he comes back even stronger two-plus years removed from his knee injuries. Aside from that, I’d bring Dee Ford back, too. Yes, you could potentially save $8.9 million by releasing Ford, who has dealt with a back injury this season. But he’s only 26, and he’ll be very motivated to have a career year in hopes of a free-agent payday. I think he’s still got a big NFL season in him, and the Chiefs can take advantage of that. I’m also a big fan of Tanoh Kpassagnon’s enthusiasm, athleticism and desire to get better. I’d let him get lots of reps in OTAs. Inside, I’d consider signing Bennie Logan to a reasonable deal and try to get Allen Bailey to accept a two-year extension and reduce his $8 million cap number. I’d also see if Sheldon Richardson, a St. Louis native, would be interested in playing close to home. He’s had his share of issues, but Reid is good at handling big personalities, and you might be able to get him at a fair price because of those issues. Finally, I’d still draft an edge rusher and defensive tackle with two of my first three picks, in addition to a cornerback. How’s that?
I’ll follow a long answer with a short one –– no. The Chiefs looked outstanding out of the gate this season. The offense was a juggernaut and the pass rush was on point. The offensive line and pass rush remain legitimate question marks going forward.
Haha! I haven’t. But I do think Andy Reid’s Christmas surprise –– he broke down the team after the game and held his postgame huddle in a Santa outfit, complete with a beard –– was funny. NFL analyst Geoff Schwartz, a former linemen who played for Reid five years ago, mentioned that the stunt was one of the reasons players like playing for Reid. He demanding and runs a tough camp but likes to have fun and keep it loose.