A realist’s guide to predicting the Kansas City Chiefs record

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16: Offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16: Offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz /

For those who see the glass as half empty and have their doubts about the Chiefs in 2018, we’ve got the right set of preseason predictions for you.

I don’t wanna be the downer. I don’t wanna be that guy. I really don’t. In fact, while I understood the arrival of the Patrick Mahomes Era would bring a lot of hype, I fully expected the general consensus for the 2018 season would be that it will be looked back on as the “Growing Pains Year” in a long and fruitful career for Mahomes.

But I guess I will be that guy; I don’t see the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs. I see them as exciting. I see them as dynamic. I see them as explosive. I also see them as a young team with a young leader who will likely spend as much time this season having fans pulling their hair out in frustration as he will having them falling in love with him all over again.

Allow me to be clear, though; my ceiling for Mahomes is likely higher than even yours. My ceiling is he has no ceiling. A Patrick Mahomes reaching his full potential isn’t the next Favre or the next Rodgers; he’s the first Mahomes and he becomes the measuring stick for everyone else. I think he’s once-in-a-lifetime special. I also think he’s 22 and has a cockiness throwing the football that only a year or two of experience against NFL defenses can harden into properly managed confidence.

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So yes, like the majority of Chiefs fans when I think of the Mahomes Era, a dynasty is peeking over the horizon. But I don’t see it starting right now, and its far from from a certainty this whole thing comes together the way the organization envisions. Mahomes is only a piece. He’s the biggest piece, but he can’t do it alone, and his existence doesn’t erase other serious issues. Offensively, he has every advantage a young QB could dream of; possibly the most dynamic and explosive core of weapons in all of the NFL, and a coaching staff headed by the single most innovative offensive mind of the last 20 years. Defensively? Yeah, that’s where last season’s questions remain unanswered.

The Chiefs defense was bad last season. I’m not going to beat a dead horse and go over the numbers. You know they were bad, I know they were bad, and the team’s almost complete rebuild on that side of the ball shows they know they were bad too. Fans tend believe it was scheme, the Chiefs seem to believe it was personnel. I’d say it was probably both, but let’s hope the Chiefs are right. Because without a defense that’s at least average we’re looking at the early 2000s all over again.

But let’s get to this season. The 2018 NFL schedule is out, which means it’s time to make win-loss predictions from way too far out to have any chance of being remotely accurate. I would hazard a guess that my offseason win-loss prediction changes at least twice before kickoff Week 1; after the draft, and after the preseason.

So at risk of spending the 2018 season being reminded how cold my takes are, here’s how I see this year panning out for Chiefs Kingdom. To preserve my own sanity, I’ll only be predicting wins and losses, not each game’s exact score.

Week 1, Sunday 9/9 – @LAC – 3:05 PM/CBS

The Chiefs come out firing in Week 1 and have the league buzzing over their already bombs-away offense being turned up to 11. A high-scoring outing is aided by a couple signature Rivers picks, including one coming back for a TD.

WIN (1-0)

Week 2, Sunday 9/16 – @PIT – Noon/CBS

The Steelers remain one of the Chiefs’ unbeatable final bosses, as Mahomes isn’t quite able to win a shootout. Despite a couple INTs, Mahomes shows promise in an early high-pressure game. The narrative that KC can’t conquer the elite remains for now.

LOSS (1-1)

Week 3, Sunday 9/23 – vsSF – Noon/FOX

Mahomes vs. Garoppolo is a promising matchup and is billed as a potential window into a future Super Bowl. But that’s the future, and this is the present, as both QBs have middling outings and the Chiefs squeak out a win in a low-scoring home opener.

WIN (2-1)

Week 4, Monday 10/1 – @DEN – 7:15 PM/ESPN MNF

Mahomes debut on national television proves fruitful against a depleted, rebuilding Denver team. While he doesn’t light up the scoreboard and set the world on fire, he guides the Chiefs to a comfortable win and shows his ability to manage a game.

WIN (3-1)

Week 5, Sunday 10/7 – vsJAX – Noon/CBS

The kid’s first encounter with a terrifying defense proves to be his first “Welcome to the NFL” moment. Multiple bad INTs undo any hope the Chiefs make it out of this game with the W.

LOSS (3-2)

Week 6, Sunday 10/14 – @NE – 7:20 PM/NBC SNF

Brady, Belichick and the Pats get revenge for last year’s opener in a game that’s a duel until late, when Mahomes’ inexperience opens the door for Brady to close it on the Chiefs.

LOSS (3-3)

Week 7, Sunday 10/21 – vsCIN – Noon/CBS

It’s the Bengals. The game will be forgettable, the Chiefs will look OK, and they’ll walk away with the win.

WIN (4-3)

Week 8, Sunday 10/30 – vsDEN – Noon/CBS

Mahomes picks apart Denver in KC and has his first top-to-bottom great game since Week 1. Denver is buried at the bottom of the division at this point, and the Chiefs shovel more dirt on them.

WIN (5-3)

Week 9, Sunday 11/4 – @CLE – Noon/CBS

Kansas City is undone in Cleveland by 2018’s shining ray of hope in our perpetually bleak reality, the Browns. They actually aren’t bad this year! In fact, they’re pretty good! And KC being good for 2-3 inexplicable losses a year propels the nation’s favorite story to another win.

LOSS (5-4)

Week 10, Sunday 11/11 – vsARI – Noon/FOX

KC gets back in the win column against the Cardinals, who are surprisingly still with Sam Bradford under center as he’s managed to make it to Week 10 unscathed. Bradford’s efficient play keeps Arizona in the game after a couple Mahomes INTs, but Pat makes up for them with a couple late bombs to seal a victory.

WIN (6-4)

Week 11, Monday 11/19 – @LAR – 7:15 PM/ESPN (Mexico City game)

Marcus Peters makes good on his deceleration that Mahomes knows how to get him the football as the Rams take care of KC in Mexico. It’s a particularly ugly game for the entire Chiefs offense, the badness compounded by the game being nationally televised.

LOSS (6-5)

Week 12 – BYE

KC enters the bye week just above .500 with a clear path to a Wild Card spot and an outside shot at the division. The Raiders and Chargers sit underneath them, but they look up at the Chargers, who have put their Week 1 woes behind them to sit somewhat comfortably atop the division.

Week 13, Sunday 12/2 – @OAK – 3:05 PM/CBS

The Andy Reid Bye Week Effect comes through as the Chiefs look more prepared and crisp on both sides of the ball than they have all year. Gruden’s attempt to turn the clock back to 1998 proves no match to Reid’s offense from 3018.

WIN (7-5)

Week 14, Sunday 12/9 – vsBAL – Noon/CBS

The Chiefs’ penchant for losing inexplicably to inferior teams bites them against the Ravens, as the defense makes Flacco look like he’s back in the 2012 playoffs and Mahomes struggles to get a rhythm.

LOSS (7-6)

Week 15, Thursday 12/13 – vsLAC – 7:20 PM/FOX-NFLN TNF

The Chargers get their revenge for Week 1 on national television, ending KC’s bid for a third-straight division crown, as Rivers’ bad INTs are replaced with Mahomes’.

LOSS (7-7)

Week 16, Sunday 12/23 – @SEA – 7:20 PM/NBC SNF

The Chiefs get a taste of their own medicine in Seattle, as the second (don’t @ me) loudest crowd in the NFL aids in a late-season win for an otherwise middling Seahawks team. Mahomes is solid despite the hostile environment, but Wilson is better.

LOSS (7-8)

Week 17, Sunday 12/30 – vsOAK – Noon/CBS

Out of playoff contention and with nothing to lose, the Chiefs go full light show and give Arrowhead a glimpse at what could be around the corner in the coming seasons. Chiefs fans end 2018 disappointed, but excited for the future, in a place most of them have never been; confident the next 10 years are going to see KC as the center of the NFL universe.

WIN (8-8)

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the Chiefs go 16-0 every year from now until 2038 and Mahomes rides off into the sunset as a 20-time Super Bowl winner. But if life teaches anything, specifically life as a Chiefs fan, it’s that expectations are best kept low so the worst-case scenario is you’re proven right and anything above that is a pleasant surprise.

Of course, this is easy to say five months from the season opener. Come August I’m sure I’ll drink the KC Kool-aid like I do every season, and suddenly this will totally be Our Year.