Kansas City Chiefs 2022 Season Preview and Win Total Prediction

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The Kansas City Chiefs were one half away from returning to a third-straight Super Bowl. Then, the worst half of Patrick Mahomes’s career happened, and the Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC Championship Game in overtime.

Since Andy Reid came to coach Kansas City in 2013, five teams have blown a playoff lead of 18 or more points. Reid’s Chiefs have done it three times now, but this was the first time in NFL history a team blew a lead this big at home in a championship game.

Now the Chiefs have to pick up the pieces from a massive blown opportunity, and they will do so without a major weapon in the receiving corps as Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins.

AFC West Getting Harder

With the AFC West turning into an elite division with the rise of Justin Herbert in Los Angeles and the addition of Russell Wilson in Denver, the Chiefs face their most division competition yet in the Mahomes era.

The Chargers and Broncos both have an Over/Under of 10 wins this season while the Chiefs are slightly ahead at 10.5 wins at many of the top-rated sportsbooks.

Last season was the first time Reid’s Chiefs failed to hit the Over on their preseason win total, winning 12 games against an expected 12.5.

The Notable Changes for 2022

While the Chiefs have said goodbye to several starters, some of those players are not going to be missed, including hazardous safety Daniel Sorensen, veteran rental Melvin Ingram, and the diminishing returns from defensive lineman Jarran Reed and corner Charvarius Ward.

But there are two significant losses on each side of the ball that should make the Chiefs look like a different football team this season.

Key Offensive Loss: Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill

After Tyreek Hill’s 150-yard effort against Buffalo in that exciting divisional round game, it was hard to argue for any quarterback-receiver combo having a more impressive collection of clutch plays in the last half decade than Mahomes and Hill. When the Chiefs have needed a big play in a crucial spot, Hill has usually been on the receiving end of it with his unique speed.

  • It was Hill on a fourth-down bomb against the Ravens in 2018 to key a comeback win.
  • It was Hill on a 54-yard touchdown against the Chargers in 2020.
  • Hill’s 64-yard touchdown sprint against the Bills in that aforementioned playoff game looked like it would win the game until more points were scored.

But the career-defining play for Hill was his 44-yard catch on a third-and-15 against the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, the biggest play in Kansas City history. That turned the game around and led to the Chiefs winning their only Super Bowl.

This is why it was so surprising to see the 28-year-old Hill traded to the Dolphins for five draft picks. You would have thought he’d play out a Hall of Fame resume with Mahomes or at least outlast the older Travis Kelce. While his speed will eventually decline, he’s still young enough to be that special threat that gave this offense such an advantage over the rest of the NFL.

Tyreek Hill’s Replacements

Now that special talent is gone, Kelce is going on 33, and the Chiefs are going to ask Mahomes to make ends meet without a true No.1 wide receiver. The Chiefs even lost Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson, but they were not going to fill that role either.

Instead, the Chiefs are going with some reclamation projects in JuJu Smith-Schuster from Pittsburgh and Marquez Valdes-Scantling from Green Bay.

Kelce will be the leading receiver at tight end, but these two guys are going to have to step up at wide receiver as Mecole Hardman has not shown he can be a poor man’s Tyreek Hill in three years.

Marques Valdes-Scantling

Valdes-Scantling is going to be the answer to who replaces Hill on the deep balls.

He’s not as good or fun to watch after the short catch as Hill, but he can get deep as he showed with Aaron Rodgers when he led the NFL with 20.9 yards per catch in 2020.

The problem is that Valdes-Scantling is like a deluxe version of Hardman in that he can be very frustrating with drops and mistakes. He also caught just 49.8% of his passes in Green Bay with a stud like Rodgers as his quarterback.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

The more interesting addition is Smith-Schuster, who is looking for a fresh start after five seasons with Pittsburgh. After being an impressive No. 2 receiver behind Antonio Brown his first two years, JuJu fell off in 2019 when Ben Roethlisberger was injured and Brown left. But even with Roethlisberger back in 2020, the Steelers committed malpractice in their misuse of Smith-Schuster’s talent.

They stopped running routes downfield for him even though that was part of his success in 2017-18. Instead, JuJu would often run drag routes and get popped immediately at the point of the catch. He averaged just 8.6 yards per catch in each of the last two seasons after 13.7 yards per catch in his first three years.

In the few games where Smith-Schuster was allowed to run real routes, he was still productive, such as his 157-yard playoff game against the Browns. Hopefully, the Chiefs will not repeat Pittsburgh’s mistakes and will use JuJu more like the way he started his NFL career.

Mahomes Without Hill

While the Chiefs are losing their most dynamic receiver, the good news is they have Mahomes, who can prove that he can get the job done with anyone at receiver. So far, he has not had to play much without Hill in his career. But in the 2019 season opener, Hill was injured after two short catches and 12 offensive snaps.

Hill then missed the next four games, including a tough matchup with an elite Baltimore defense. In those four games, Mahomes completed 65.6% of his passes, averaged 366.2 passing yards per game, 9.39 yards per attempt, and he had 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Those are stellar numbers that would be among Mahomes’s very best for a full season.

Last season, the Chiefs (41.8) were the only offense to average more than 40 yards per drive, and they led everyone in points per drive (2.81) despite Mahomes having the worst eight-game stretch of his career in the middle of the season. The Chiefs have led the NFL in offensive yards per drive in three of Mahomes’s first four seasons.

We may not see the Chiefs lead in that category again until they draft or trade for another dynamic talent, but this offense without Hill should still be good enough to produce and compete for a championship in 2022.

Key Defensive Loss: Safety Tyrann Mathieu

While the Chiefs did play better defense in the second half of 2021, there was still a big reliance on takeaways as the unit finished fourth in turnovers per drive (16.2%). The key contributor to that was safety Tyrann Mathieu, who led the Chiefs with 3 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. He also was second on the team with 60 solo tackles.

The Chiefs are going to need someone to step up for interceptions as Mathieu had some key ones in his time with the team. But let’s not give him much credit for the fumble recoveries, also known as the luck of the bounce.

Kansas City tied for the league lead with 14 fumble recoveries, which is more of a random outcome that is hard to repeat the following season. For example, the Chiefs had 13 fumble recoveries in 2019-20 combined.

Mathieu also did not have his best coverage season by any means in 2021. He allowed 8.0 yards per target in coverage according to Pro Football Reference. But he did only allow 52 yards in the playoffs.

Tyrann Mathieu’s Replacement

To make up for the loss, the Chiefs signed Houston safety Justin Reid to a three-year deal worth $31.5 million.

Reid made 53 starts in four seasons for the Texans, and while he allowed some big plays last year, that unit was a lost cause in Houston.

Reid has 7 interceptions in his career. He won’t be as versatile or as vocal of a leader as Mathieu, so the Chiefs may have to search elsewhere to fill that void on this side of the ball.

Kansas City’s 2022 Draft Haul

Armed with some draft capital from recent trades, the Chiefs made four selections in the top 62 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. They clearly targeted the positions they got weaker at this offseason.

First-Round Picks

Corner Trent McDuffie was the first-round pick out of Washington who certainly has a chance to start right away. The Chiefs also used a first-round pick on defensive end George Karlaftis (Purdue).

Second-Round Picks

In the second round, the Chiefs drafted wide receiver Skyy Moore out of Western Michigan. He did not play the position before college, but he had one huge year in 2021 with 95 catches for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is 5’10” like Tyreek Hill, but he is certainly not a replacement for him.

Look for Valdes-Scantling to be more of the deep threat receiver in this offense while Moore can be a possession receiver. The key for Moore will be to limit drops and mistakes as a rookie, but it is rare for anyone not drafted in the first round to significantly contribute at this position right away.

The Chiefs also drafted safety Bryan Cook (Cincinnati) in the second round. Again, that’s not a simple replacement for Mathieu in the secondary, but the Chiefs had to do something substantial at the position.

Much to Improve Yet

The fact is that since drafting Mahomes in 2017, the Chiefs have not added a ton of value in the draft. Many of their high picks have been traded to acquire veterans, but their highest-drafted picks (Breeland Speaks, Mecole Hardman, Clyde Edwards-Helaire) have not really panned out so far.

The 2021 draft class looks encouraging after a season, but the Chiefs are going to have to start hitting more draft picks to rebuild this team with Mahomes in his prime.

2022 Chiefs Prediction

While this could be a transition year for the Chiefs without Hill, there is no denying the division around them looks stronger than it has in a long time.

  • The Raiders made the playoffs last year and added Davante Adams and a new head coach (Josh McDaniels).
  • The Broncos have lost 13 games in a row to the Chiefs going back to 2015, but they now have Russell Wilson, a future Hall of Famer, at quarterback.
  • The Chargers often play Kansas City tough and were a play away from sweeping the Chiefs last season.

Excluding any games where the Chiefs rested starters for the playoffs, Kansas City has not lost multiple divisional games in a season since 2014 when it finished 3-3. Mahomes is still fantastic, but he is playing in a stacked quarterback division for the first time without his most dangerous weapon. The Chiefs should lose a couple of division games for the first time in eight years.

Looking at the Schedule

Beyond the division, the Chiefs are getting a tough road test in 2022. For one, AFC teams have nine road games and eight home games this season. The Chiefs are facing seven teams on the road that had a winning record last season, and in addition to the improvement in the division, a team like the Colts (with Matt Ryan) is expected to be tougher in 2022. The Chiefs also have to travel to:

  • Arizona
  • Tampa Bay
  • San Francisco
  • Cincinnati

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The Chiefs should still be well in the playoff mix in a deep AFC, but any talk of the next dynasty happening in Kansas City is all but off the table after the last two crushing postseason losses.

We first need to see if the Chiefs are still the class of the AFC West without Hill, and for your NFL picks, I would bet on a 10-7 season that falls short of the projected win total.

2022 Chiefs Wins: Under 10.5 Wins (+100) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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On the Last Season of “The Chiefs”: Tipped, Picked, and Puked

The Chiefs put their fans on a real rollercoaster ride in 2021 that probably ended with many of them puking.

After the devastating 31-9 loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV removed the cloak of invincibility from Mahomes, the Chiefs spent the first two months of 2021 looking like a mere mortal team at 3-4.

Terrible Defense, Turnover-Prone Offense

The defense was in shambles to start the season. The 2021 Chiefs became the fourth team in NFL history to allow more than 28 points in each of the first five games of a season. The offense was still moving the ball at historic levels, but so many self-inflicted turnovers and bad bounces plagued them.

The Chiefs did not have a “Cover 2 problem” as some suggested after Tampa Bay’s strategy in Super Bowl LV worked so well that teams copied it often in 2021. The Chiefs had a “can’t stop watching passes bounce to defenders for picks in the red zone” problem, and they even fumbled away a likely win in Baltimore after running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire lost his first career fumble.

The Chiefs had 17 giveaways in seven games after having 16 turnovers in all of 2020. 4 turnovers crushed the Chiefs in a 38-20 home loss to Buffalo, the worst home loss of Mahomes’s career. A total domination in Tennessee led to a 27-3 loss, the largest margin of defeat for Mahomes, who was now pressing to make up for the defense.

The Defensive Turnaround

Then November came and the offense got the turnovers under control as you would expect talented players to do. But the defense almost magically started playing lights out, which was harder to predict. The Chiefs allowed a league-low 16.1 points per game in the final 10 games of the regular season.

As fun as it is to say a sharp decrease in problematic safety Daniel Sorensen’s snaps aligned with this defensive turnaround, a softer schedule certainly helped with the Chiefs catching a couple of breaks. That would include a game against the Packers with inexperienced Jordan Love instead of MVP winner Aaron Rodgers, and they played the Cowboys during their offensive funk stretch.

But the defense was fueling this winning streak as Mahomes had an eight-game stretch where he only averaged a shockingly bad 6.4 yards per pass attempt, which is way down from his career average of 8.1 yards per attempt.

Could the Chiefs Stop a Good Quarterback?

In Week 15, the team faced a crucial division game on a Thursday night against the Chargers. Mahomes passed for 410 yards as Travis Kelce (191 yards) had a monster game, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime after the Chiefs won the coin toss.

The shakiness of the defense in that game against a legit quarterback (Justin Herbert), was a concern that would again be met when the team blew a 14-point lead in Cincinnati to Joe Burrow’s Bengals in Week 17.

The Playoff Run

The Chiefs rolled into the playoffs with a 12-5 record and the No. 2 seed. They steamrolled the Steelers in the wild-card round with Mahomes throwing for 5 touchdown passes. Then came the big rematch with the Bills in the divisional round, and what ensued was one of the greatest playoff games in NFL history.

There were 31 points scored after the two-minute warning, and despite falling behind with 13 seconds left, Mahomes had enough time to move the Chiefs into game-tying field goal range to force overtime. Just like in the Chargers game, the Chiefs won the coin toss and Mahomes immediately led a game-winning touchdown drive with an 8-yard toss to Kelce in a 42-36 win.

The Chiefs would host the AFC Championship Game for a fourth-straight season, another record.

The Playoff Exit

The Chiefs were favored at home in the AFC Championship Game against Cincinnati. The offense looked flawless early in building a 21-3 lead. But with five seconds to go in the first half, Mahomes and the Chiefs had a brain fart. Instead of kicking a field goal or running a very fast play, he threw a pass that had no hope of scoring, and the Chiefs came away with no points.

That seemed to set the tone for the second half as Mahomes was constantly befuddled by the Bengals, who started rushing only three defenders and made Mahomes hold the ball a long time with eight defenders in coverage. He did not adjust well to this at all after focusing so much this season on taking the easy plays.

He took bad sacks and he nearly coughed up the season in the red zone on the final drive of regulation. The Chiefs recovered Mahomes’s fumble and kicked a field goal to force overtime.

Despite winning yet another coin toss, the Chiefs did not march down for a third walk-off touchdown in overtime this season. Instead, it ended in the way the Chiefs started, 3-4 with Mahomes forcing a deep ball on third-and-10 that was tipped and ultimately intercepted. The Bengals had a short drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal as they completed the comeback win at 27-24.

Will the Chiefs’ Blown Leads Stop in 2022?

After not blowing any fourth-quarter leads in 2020, the Chiefs had three blown leads in 2021, and that does not include the playoffs where the defense nearly blew the Buffalo game and did quickly blow a 21-3 lead to the Bengals.

With a great opportunity for another championship at stake, it is hard to think of a worse loss in franchise history for the Chiefs than this one.