The NFL’s modern-day darling, the Kansas City Chiefs, are so easy to wrap your arms around if you’re not a fan of the LA Chargers (or any AFC West team for that matter), Houston Texans or San Francisco 49ers.
A small, quirky, disadvantaged middle North America market. Top-notch ownership led by Clark Hunt. One of the most lovable personalities in the league and among professional head coaches in the all-time great Andy Reid. And a quarterback, out of the once thought too gimmicky, poor avenue to the pros in the Big 12, Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs Cinderella-like rise to the top and extremely fun playstyle have made them the league's favorite son. Well, now we’re seeing this season how the NFL truly is the “not for long” league as assuming a definite ten years of dominance with consecutive AFC and Super Bowl titles isn’t the wisest.
Now, obviously, the greatness of Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and this explosive offense of Kansas City isn’t going anywhere despite my “not for long” reminder. But, with the deficiencies of this 2021 Chiefs team along with some killer B’s of the AFC rising fast, the conference is more wide open than it’s been in years.
Offensive line woes continue for Kansas City dating back to last year's AFC title despite strong signings this offseason. The defense is a scrumptious chunk of Swiss cheese at all three levels. This side of the Seattle Seahawks they’re as bad as it gets on that side of the ball these days.
Although the offense is still explosive and can pull them out of any deficit, there’s more chinks in the armor than past years and defenses have learned to game plan against it more effectively.
Dedicate a safety to shadow speedster extraordinaire Tyreek Hill all game. And, constantly chip and give extra attention to all-time great tight end Travis Kelce. Who, is far from some decline, but 32 years of age and not getting younger. Being real physical with him can stall his intermediate prowess and therefore run-after-the-catch deadliness. Of course, you need the elite three-level defense Buffalo has, but it can be done in rare cases.
With those two held from exploding against a stout Buffalo group Sunday night, we all saw that the Chiefs can become a lot more manageable to stop with their issues upfront. The onus is all on Mahomes magic, which has forced more turnovers out of that special arm of his than we’ve been accustom to seeing.
So that brings us to who they’ve opened the door for. Including, the LA Chargers at the forefront.
A bonafide superstar quarterback in his own right in Justin Herbert. A gutsy, progressive, hungry head coach in Brandon Staley pushing all the right buttons in terms of game planning and play calling. A balanced attack on offense and defense to go around them. General Manager Tom Telesco pushing all the right buttons of late. Bolt fans finally have a legit title contender behind them.
Now, same can be said for Buffalo. But they have deeper playoff experience, the pretty sizably better defense, and the easier playoff path within their division in the east as opposed to the west. They’ll likely get home field throughout the playoffs and have a daunting Bills mafia behind them.
The Browns have an amazing roster who clearly belongs with the big boys in this discussion too. But even with an impressive showing Sunday in So-Fi, the doubt in Baker Mayfield looms too large up against the elite trio of Mahomes, Herbert, and Allen. As we saw that was the difference in the game of the year last Sunday in the Bolts 47-42 stellar win.
The now 4-1 Baltimore Ravens, another killer B, are knocking on the door of that trio of new contenders but ultimately their ceiling feels too low once again this season. The hate needs to dissipate in terms of one Lamar Jackson though, big time.
All in all, it’s over-reactionary to say the LA Chargers are clear AFC favorites. The Chiefs have been too historically amazing with this core the past three years to now slot them behind these killer B’s with Buffalo at the very top, despite the dismal defense. But, it’s a whole bunch of co-favorites to sort out now.
It’s a new day and championship picture in the National Football League. We just can’t wait to see who's ready to rise up and take it come winter.