The Offensive Line (as a unit)
It is no secret that the Chiefs offensive line has struggled the latter half of the season. Over the last several games, Mahomes has had to run for his life seemingly more than any other stretch in his career. His overall play has suffered because of it.
He’s only been sacked 22 times this season, which puts him in the bottom half of the league, but he’s been hurried 63 times and hit 53 times which puts him top-five in both categories. He’s been blitzed 140 times this season, the most in his career.
The overall onslaught isn’t that surprising. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, one of the longest tenured Chiefs, opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns. Mitchell Schwartz, an All-Pro right tackle and arguably the Chiefs best offensive lineman, has missed every game since Week 7, and it doesn’t appear he’ll be ready for the playoffs.
The list goes on and on, but the main point is that the Chiefs are relying on some newcomers to protect their franchise quarterback. That’s not usually an ideal position to be in heading into the playoffs.
Players like Stephen Wisniewski went from unsigned in Week 13 to playing major snaps, including 98 against the New Orleans Saints. Martinas Rankin, who just recovered from a serious knee injury in 2019, will likely be expected to play major snaps going forward. Andrew Wylie, who up until this point took most of his snaps at guard, could be filling in at tackle at times during the playoffs.
In my opinion, this group’s performance will make or break the Chiefs title defense. If the offensive line gives Mahomes time, regardless of how the defense plays the Chiefs should have enough firepower to defeat the remaining teams in the AFC. If they don’t, the Chiefs can still win but their margin for error goes down significantly.