After a spectacular 2018 where Andy Reid’s wonderfully entertaining offence was driven by the brilliant Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs fell to a heartbreaking overtime loss in the AFC Championship game to perennial winners New England.
Can they get over the line this year? In what will be the 50th anniversary of their last Super Bowl triumph, the Chiefs will undoubtedly have high hopes that they can lay claim to the Lamar Hunt trophy (fittingly named after their founder) and return to the biggest stage of them all in Miami.
While the offence was superb last year, the defence was porous and was a big reason as to why they could not defeat the Brady and Belichick-led machine from Foxboro.
The team ranked 31st in total defence and also ranked second to last in pass defence, the specific area that the unit struggled with the most. Their pass rush was excellent, leading the league in QB pressures, but the secondary was repeatedly torched.
The team lost five games in total last season and in doing so conceded 40.2 points per game in those five losses, an atrocious number that eventually nullified an offence that performed like a rocket all year long. This resulted in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton being relieved of his duties just two days after losing to the Patriots.
His replacement is Steve Spagnuolo, who has immediately wrung the changes by switching to a 4-3 system and overhauling the roster. Pass rusher Dee Ford has been traded to the 49ers and fan favourites Justin Houston and Eric Berry have both been released. Frank Clark comes in via a trade with the Seahawks and replaces Ford at defensive end.
Tyrann Mathieu is a marquee free agent splash, getting a whopping $42m contract over three years. Although questions linger over his ability to play pass coverage, Mathieu is a strong tackler who can make big plays all over the field. This is highlighted by the fact that he played safety, corner (both outside and in the slot) and linebacker for the Texans last year. Rookie Juan Thornhill has earned rave reviews in camp and the preseason games, so expect him to see a lot of time at safety too now that Berry has gone. Corner could well be a problem position for the Chiefs again though. Bashaud Breeland struggled with the Packers last season but is slated to start alongside second year, undrafted free agent Charvarius Ward. Kendall Fuller will man the slot and Morris Claiborne has been signed to provide depth, although he will miss the first four games through suspension.
The offence was nothing short of monstrous in Patrick Mahomes’ first year as a starter. The young gunslinger racked up over 5,000 yards passing and led the league with a whopping 50TDs.
Travis Kelce has established himself as one of the premier tight ends in the game and, in the absence of Rob Gronkowski, will now look to make the number one spot his own. With Kareem Hunt now out of the picture the Chiefs will look to Damien Williams to be the number one back at Arrowhead.
Williams enjoyed a tremendous postseason, but it is yet to be seen whether or not he is durable enough to stay the course of a 16 game season.
The passing game will likely be strong enough to take some weight off Williams’ shoulders though.
Tyreek Hill inexplicably avoided a suspension for yet another off the field incident involving domestic violence, so he remains as one of the most explosive wideout weapons in the league at the disposal of the most explosive quarterback. He leads a talented wide receiver corps alongside Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and rookie Mecole Hardman. Hardman boasts incredible speed but is still raw when it comes to route running, but if he shows development through the season he could add serious juice to an offence that already seems rocket powered.
The Chiefs season could yet again hinge on their defence and whether or not the new players successfully mesh in Spagnuolos system.
Even just a solid defence to go along with a transcendent offence could make the Chiefs the most complete team in the league. After his incredible debut year as a starter, pressure will be on Mahomes to reproduce against defensive coordinators that have had a full offseason to study his tape and look for new ways to stop him. If he does that, expect this Chiefs team to be there at the business end of it this year.