Why NFL analysts predict Chargers over Chiefs every offseason

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 6: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to the sidelines just before the Tennessee Titans run the last play of the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 6, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 6: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to the sidelines just before the Tennessee Titans run the last play of the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 6, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images) /

There’s a simple reason why NFL analysts select the Chargers (or other teams) over the Chiefs the last few offseasons—and it’s not disrespect.

It’s easy to wring our hands in Kansas City these days over the perceived lack of respect for the Chiefs in the media each offseason. Trust me. It has nothing to do with respect.

Before Andy Reid arrived, the Chiefs weren’t just a bad team; they actually ranked as the worst franchise in the league. Scott Pioli’s inability to find a head coach nor a quarterback undid his remarkable reputation coming in from New England just four seasons prior, and his parting gift to the Chiefs was the first overall pick in the draft. Yet Pioli couldn’t even get that one right, since the 2013 class was likely the worst in the last 20 years.

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When Reid and John Dorsey assumed command in 2013, everything changed in an instant. Dorsey was decisive to nail down the most important positions on the field and invested two second round picks to solve quarterback and a first overall pick to find his left tackle. From there, a series of brilliant moves followed suit to strengthen a number of positions and complement the talent already here.

The end result was the first postseason appearance for the Chiefs in the Reid era and a second place finish in the West. The Chiefs would go on to finish second two more times before assuming first place at the end of the 2016 season. They’ve never looked back. Three consecutive West titles have set a franchise record, and they’re a Super Bowl contender with one of the league’s youngest rosters and the reigning MVP at quarterback.

In short, this dominance could (and should) go on for quite some time.

If that’s the case, however, why are NFL talking heads so quick to talk up others within the division. Specifically, why are we forced to hear about the promise of the San Diego-turned-Los Angeles Chargers every offseason despite the final standings from the year before?

It’s not as if the Chiefs replaced the Chargers atop the AFC West in 2016. That season, the Chargers were in last place in the division. In fact, the Chargers haven’t won the West since 2009—e.g. since Tyson Jackson was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Jackson had a decent career and still hasn’t played in three years. That’s how long it’s been since the Chargers were proven to be so great in the West.

Despite the lack of evidence and the concept of potential held out like a carrot on a stick in front of NFL analysts, they take the bait each and every year. This season is no different. It doesn’t matter that the Chiefs were this close to defeating the Patriots (and the officials) in the AFC Championship game. It doesn’t matter that Patrick Mahomes looks like the second coming of Dan Marino. It doesn’t matter that a dismal defense has been remade with anchors like Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark.

Somehow, the Chargers are still the de rigueur pick to win the AFC West in 2019.

Check out Will Brinson at CBS Sports who writes, ” I think the AFC West flips this season, finally.” Check out Nate Davis at USA Today who thinks the Chargers win the division with 12 games. Bleacher Report somehow thinks the Chiefs will only finish with 9 games here (while Chargers finish with 11).

This is becoming commonplace for Chiefs fans to find a startling lack of support among NFL analysts, as if they still think of Andy Reid as a questionable hire coming off of a shaky ending in Philly.

It’s not as if the Chargers aren’t talented. The opposite is true. Philip Rivers should be a Hall of Fame quarterback one day. With or without Melvin Gordon, the offense is going to be capable of keeping up with any team in the league with Rivers under center, and the development of Mike Williams and return of Hunter Henry from injury should work wonders in 2019. The defense is good to great at every level, and this team really lacks a glaring weakness.

However the team also has yet to pull it all together. They beat the Chiefs once last season but still finished behind K.C. in the final regular season standings. They also flaked in the playoffs. There’s no reason to look and think, “Oh, I’ve gotta go with the Chargers now!” In fact, you have to willingly ignore the Chiefs track record to arrive at the Chargers driveway.

But here’s the thing: they’re doing this on purpose. It’s not about disrespecting the Chiefs. It’s not about paying back Clark Hunt or Andy Reid for something they did wrong. Instead it’s about being right when and if it ever happens.

Consider this: if an NFL analyst ever said, “The Patriots are expected to compete for the AFC East title in 2019,” you’d laugh at the column and immediately close the window. Of course the Pats will compete. When do they not?

For the same reason, very few analysts will pick the Chiefs to win the AFC West. If the Bolts happen to actually win, it creates a “called it” moment for that particular writer. Suddenly they look like a genius with foresight to know Rivers and this iteration of the Bolts roster would break through.

In short, analysts go with L.A. not because they look that good but because the pick itself could make the analyst look good.

Next. Top 10 Training Camp Battles. dark

The Chargers are not without talent, and the Chiefs are not without respect. It’s just that these offseason prediction pieces are really intended to tantalize with the potential of what could happen and tee up an opportunity for NFL experts to score with a Hail Mary of their own.